India's forgotten spy - Agent's family fights an impossible battle
New Delhi, Dec. 29: Nabi Ahmed would have been a senior officer in the Pakistani Army now, saving the lives of Indian soldiers.
But Ahmed — agent Ravindra Kaushik to the Indian security establishment — died a miserable death last year in a Pakistani jail after a searing chapter in India’s espionage history went awry.
Kaushik had been cruising along fine on Mission Pakistan, penetrating deep and reaching the heart of the enemy establishment — the army — as a resident agent of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and doing “commendable” service as “a spy sitting in a right place in enemy land”. Till Inyat Masiha, an operative sent by RAW to contact Kaushik in September 1983, inadvertently blew the agent’s cover.
Kaushik was then captured, tortured for two years at an interrogation centre in Sialkot, dumped in Mianwali jail for another 16 and left to die. In November 2001, Kaushik succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis and heart disease.
A year after Kaushik died unsung on alien soil, his Jaipur-based family is on a mission: they want India to acknowledge and recognise the sacrifice Kaushik has made for his country.
“We don’t want money. What we want from the government is recognition of the contribution by agents as they are the real foundation of the security system,” said Kaushik’s brother, R.N. Kaushik.
“If the government can honour people in uniform, why hesitate about undercover operatives?” he asked, calling for a government policy to recognise the work intelligence agents do.
It is an appeal few governments will be able to accept. Governments rarely recognise in public secret agents – the “faceless” personnel of the security apparatus. Not only that, it is a common practice to disown spies caught in a foreign country.
Kaushik joined RAW in 1975 as a 23-year-old after graduating from Sriganganagar in Rajasthan. Trained to act as a “resident agent”, he went to Pakistan, assumed the alias of Nabi Ahmed, did his graduation in law, learnt Urdu, married there and joined the Pakistan Army. He was sentenced to death in 1985 for spying but later the punishment was reduced to life imprisonment.
Kaushik secretly wrote to his family in India, telling them of the barbarism he was subjected to. In a letter, he asked: “Kya Bharat jaise bade desh ke liye kurbani dene waalon ko yahi milta hai? (Is this the reward a person gets for sacrificing his life for India?)”
Both Kaushik’s brother and ailing 72-year-old mother Amladevi --- his father died of shock and heart failure --- have a grouse against the government: all their pleas since 1987 to secure Kaushik’s release from Pakistan custody fell on deaf ears. They wrote several letters, but got no response apart from foreign ministry despatches that “his case has been taken up with Pakistan”.
One such letter from Amladevi to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee read: “Had he not been exposed, Kaushik would have been a senior army officer of the Pakistan government by now and (continued in) the coming years (serving India secretly).”
Another one went: “The government has never bothered to rescue him, not to talk of consoling and helping his family even on humanitarian grounds.” Nor did it send medicines on time when Kaushik was dying, though “a spy sitting in the right place… saves the life of at least 20,000 soldiers of his nation”.
Amladevi had written to several other BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh, but her family has till date not got any benefit due to government servants, not even pension. All they get is a monthly allowance of Rs 500.