‘Ansari was uncooperative, indifferent when in Tehran’

A former officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), R.K. Yadav, tweeted a lot when Hamid Ansari vacated the post of Vice President for his successor M. Venkaiah Naidu. Yadav’s tweets were retweeted by his followers, including many former members of the espionage organisation. Asked what his grudge against the former VP was, Yadav said, “Nothing personal, but he was the most uncooperative and indifferent ambassador in Tehran in the 1990s.”

Yadav wrote a well-researched book, Mission R&AW, in which he devoted two pages to the “worst experience” that the RAW operatives posted in Tehran had to undergo during Ansari’s posting there. In the chapter “Bizarre R&AW Incidents”, he wrote about how the wives of the mission staff were furious with Ansari for his inaction to get an RAW operative released after the operative was kidnapped by the Iranian intelligence agency. The book was published when Ansari was VP. Before being elected as the VP, Ansari was an Indian Foreign Service officer, whose postings were confined to United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Here we reproduce excerpts from Yadav’s book:

“A few months after Ansari’s posting in Tehran, a young personal assistant, Kapoor, was kidnapped from Tehran airport by Iran’s intelligence men, while he was returning from India. He was tortured and drugged for three days before thrown on a lonely city road. Ansari did not pursue this matter with Iran government, much to the discomfiture of the staff. “One R&AW officer D.B. Mathur used to procure inside information about the Kashmiris from India being imparted religious preaching at a center in Qom, near Tehran. Confidential reports were regularly sent to New Delhi, with Ansari’s knowledge; Ansari was against some of these reports. One morning, Mathur was kidnapped by the Iranian intelligence men.“Ansari sent a casual report on Mathur’s disappearance to New Delhi but did not take up the matter seriously with the Iranian government. The staff was agitated. After two days, the wives of over 30 staff members protested outside the embassy. Ansari refused to meet them. Mathur’s wife and other ladies barged into Ansari’s office and rebuked him for his inaction.

“A R&AW officer N.K. Sood from Tehran telephoned the author (Yadav) in New Delhi to inform (sic) about this. The next day, Yadav met Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the leader of opposition, who immediately spoke to Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who promised prompt action. Within a few hours, Mathur was released. Mathur was subjected to third degree torture by the Iranians to get inside information about R&AW agents which he refused to divulge. Mathur was called back to India within 72 hours.“Most of R&AW operatives felt insecure due to Ansari’s attitude. Later, a senior R&AW officer arrived from New Delhi to investigate. He indicted Ansari in his assessment report to the then R&AW Secretary. “Later, an embassy’s security officer Mohammad Umar was approached by the Iranian intelligence men to work for them. Umar refused and informed his senior, who in turn briefed Ansari. A few weeks later, Umar was kidnapped by the Iranians, badly beaten up and thrown on a secluded spot outside Tehran. Ansari again did not protest to the Iranian authorities and rather asked him to remain silent. “Ansari, with the help of R&AW station chief Venugopal, wanted to deport Umar to India on flimsy grounds. The other R&AW operatives protested. Venugopal then relented and refused to cooperate with Ansari. It would be pertinent to mention that Ansari had developed very good personal relations within the Iranian government but did not want to rake up these kidnapping issues to bring any sort of bitterness…”

Military gaushalas will be shut

On 15 August, tucked in a corner in some newspapers was a two-column advertisement carrying a notice from the Deputy Directorate General of Military Farms Quartermaster General’s Branch (Indian Army), announcing the sale of crossbred cattle (Frieswal).

It declared the intent to sell the high milk yielding crossbred cattle Frieswal from military farms spread across 37 cities on “book value” to government run institutes, farms, state governments’ animal husbandry departments, cooperative animal breeding and milk production units, etc. 

It said that the total cattle strength held is 25,227 (adult cows 14,789; heifers 8,535; calves 1,903). The high-yield variety of Frieswal is developed by cross-breeding the Holstein Friesian cow of the Netherlands with the Sahiwal of India.

These farms were started in 1889 by the British. The Ministry of Defence feels that they have outlived their utility as milk supply is no more dependent upon such projects. These farms meet 14% of about 210 million litres of annual milk supply needed by the Army.

These farms are spread over 20,000 acres of prime defence land, which is now needed for new projects like upcoming ground-based missile storage, aviation, new raisings and even housing for jawans. 

The original decision to close the military farms was taken in 2013. A union leader of the farms’ employees says that “many cattle are already roaming the streets in the absence of adequate space in gaushalas. The cattle from the Army farms will also come on the roads finally.” The decision to close all military farms has led to an agitation by their employees.

Resham Khana will reopen

In Srinagar, it is known as “Resham Khana”. This 147-year-old silk factory, a landmark, in Rambagh has stayed closed for nearly three decades. Efforts are now being made to revive it. It was established in the 1870s in Maharaja Ranbir Singh’s era. As the state failed to retain it as a heritage site, the factory was closed in the 1980s. It was then one of the biggest employers in the Kashmir valley. A trial-run has started and the factory may be fully functional in the near future.

According to J&K Industries’ managing director, Javid Iqbal, the filature unit is expected to process 120 metric tonnes of cocoon and produce 40,000 kg of silk two years after the implementation of the project. The state government is resurrecting Kashmir’s silk industry under the “Jhelum Tavi Flood Recovery Project” funded by the World Bank. Rs 35.28 crore is to be spent on Kashmir’s silk industry, of which a major chunk will be spent on reviving Resham Khana and allied units.

Is this a Good Time to Call?

The BJP and many regional parties are working tirelessly to widen their base, wooing Dalits, OBCs, farmers, traders, women, youth and the middle class. But the Congress seems to be only waking up, half-heartedly. 

Effort is being made in Karnataka to start a chain of low-priced Indira Canteens, an idea that has been borrowed from Tamil Nadu’s late Amma, but that too when the Assembly elections are around the corner. But in poll-bound states such as Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, the Rahul brigade is yet to get into action. In some big cities, one hears occasional highly polished English speaking young Congress volunteers telephoning people and politely asking, “Is this a good time to call?” Some people disconnect the phone immediately suspecting these to be commercial calls. But a few who said “yes” were told by the callers that they were contacting “like-minded” people on behalf of an outreach programme started by the Congress. Continuing, they would say that “we are getting in touch with all those who support democracy and secularism” and then request for a “video interview”. Most of the people called disconnect the phone at this point. This strategy is clearly not working.

Rajiv assassination still shrouded in mystery

Today is late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary. His assassination in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on 21 May 1991 still leaves unanswered questions. While officially the government-appointed investigation placed the blame at the door of Vellupillai Prabhakaran, leader of Sri Lanka’s defunct terror group, the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the possible role of other foreign players has never been fully investigated. The Sunday Guardian spoke to the Bengaluru-based senior journalist, Neena Gopal, who last year wrote the well-researched book The Assassination of Rajiv. The last journalist to interview Rajiv Gandhi before he was killed, she says that “The possible role that Pakistan’s ruthless spy agency, ISI, might have played or for that matter, Israel’s Mossad or the CIA, or millionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, as the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat repeatedly alleged, has never been fully explored.” Neena suspects that an outside player might have instigated the LTTE to do the dirty job.

“Besides the LTTE, there were many foreign players who were not keen on Rajiv coming back as Prime Minister,” says Neena.

She admits “there’s no clinching proof” but adds that “in his last 45-minute interview with me, before he was killed, Rajiv did say, en route to Sriperumbudur, ‘Have you noticed, how every time a South Asian leader of any import rises to a position of power, or is about to achieve something for himself or his country, he is cut down, attacked, killed?… Look at Mrs (Indira) Gandhi, Sheikh Mujib, look at Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at Zia-ul-Haq, Bandaranaike.” Less than 10 minutes later, Rajiv was dead. Neena stood shocked five-seven feet away, miraculously surviving.“No one doubts it was the LTTE supremo who planned the assassination, but how many know the genesis of the hatred that he had for Rajiv Gandhi that may have been triggered when the LTTE chief met him at his New Delhi residence on 29 July 1987, days before the Indian leader went public over the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) in Sri Lanka,” laments Neena. Rajiv had tried to placate Prabhakaran by presenting him with his own bulletproof jacket, but he held back from giving Prabhakaran the assurance that he would be anointed the leader of the Sri Lankan Tamils. That was the moment that the Tiger leader first realised that Rajiv was never going to help him get what he wanted, Tamil Eelam, a separate state independent of Sri Lanka. The plot to kill Rajiv had been devised by Prabhakaran within months of his forced return to Jaffna when his Tamil militia came up against Indian soldiers who had been tasked to disarm them. She says the order to kill Rajiv, which was picked up by Indian radio operators, was quietly buried, with some saying that the files on the radio chatter even disappeared from the records. “A red flag,” points out Neena, “was available in Prabhakaran’s first interview to the Sri Lankan paper Sunday Times in April 1990 as the IPKF was withdrawing.” “The LTTE are not against the Indian people or the Indian government but they are against the former administrator of India.” In other words, Rajiv Gandhi. Tragically, says Neena, neither the IB nor RAW acted on this warning shot.

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com