RAW writer strikes again

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI in Delhi
  • Published 27.09.07
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New Delhi, Sept. 27: A belated raid meant to protect official secrets has ended up revealing more than what it had sought to conceal.

N.K. Singh, who was raided last week over his three-month-old book on the Research and Analysis Wing, has claimed that an unnamed disgruntled official in his work was the current chief of the external intelligence agency, Ashok Chaturvedi.

Addressing a media conference where former intelligence officials were present, Singh also launched a broadside against Ashok Chaturvedi, whose appointment has already stirred controversy.

Singh today said the RAW chief had remained absent from office for eight months in “an act of gross indiscipline” when he was an additional secretary.

“Mr Ashok Chaturvedi, can he bring discipline to the organisation if he does not attend office for eight months?” Singh, a former major general who served in RAW, said a day after securing anticipatory bail.

The CBI had raided Singh’s house in Gurgaon on Friday after the cabinet secretariat complained that his book, India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of RAW, had disclosed classified information.

The current RAW chief succeeded P.K. Hormis Tharakan a year ago, chosen over Ambar Sen who had superseded Ashok Chaturvedi two years ago as the RAW second-in-command.

Chaturvedi’s appointment had fuelled charges that his relative and cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi had directly intervened to restore the seniority of the spy agency official. Ashok Chaturvedi was not empanelled to be the secretary of the agency before the intervention.

Singh’s book mentions that an additional secretary vying for the special secretary’s post went on leave following supersession, but it did not name the official.

Today — almost a week after the CBI seized private diaries and his passport — Singh disclosed the name.

The Telegraph faxed a statement to Ashok Chaturvedi seeking his response but there was no reply till late tonight.

Singh later said a deputy secretary of RAW had signed the first information report against him on which the CBI acted. While writing the book, Singh said, he did not mention the name of the official or the duration of absence out of decorum.

Backing him at the forum, a former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau, M.K. Dhar, said there was a need for making intelligence agencies accountable to Parliament. The agencies now report to the cabinet secretariat.

The CBI, which had initially knocked on the door of Singh’s namesake, apparently slipped on another count, too.

The agency seized Singh’s computer but did not officially give him the “hash value”, a number that appears when a computer is booted. Cyber laws make it mandatory that the owner be told of the hash value before the computer is seized. Failure to give the hash value could invite charges of tampering.

The next hearing in the official secrets act case against Singh is on November 5.