Then we have ‘Operation Northwoods’, which if implemented as approved by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, would have shot innocent people on American streets; sunk boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba on the high seas; launched a wave of violent terrorism in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere; and hijacked planes. Using phony evidence, all of it would have been blamed on Castro, thus giving a pretext for the United States to launch a war on Cuba with public and international backing.
The examples above are illustrative, not exhaustive. The point is that revelation of such material and documents did not create public disorders in neither United Kingdom nor United States. It did not damage America’s now healthy relations with both Vietnam and Cuba. History provides important lessons, which are to be learnt not to repeat but avoid. The Indian government should act likewise; because in the absence of authentic accounts of national security management in the past, we cannot have knowledgeable public debates on national security.
For instance, we still do not know fully the reasons for our debacle in the 1962 war with China. There is the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report, also referred to as the Henderson Brooks report, which reviewed the ‘operations’ during the war. Its authors were officers of the Indian armed forces – Lieutenant-General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier P S Bhagat. They were asked by the then defence minister Y B Chavan through the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) J N Chaudhury to prepare a report on what went wrong in 1962. Their report was presented by the COAS to Chavan in July 2, 1963. It contained a great deal of information of an operational nature, formations and deployment of the Indian Army. But its contents are not shown in spite of public demands from time to time. Even the Modi government has refused to disclose them.
There are similar reports whose contents are also disallowed to come under public scrutiny. Two reports by B S Raghavan committee, one on the allegations of intelligence failure during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 and another on intelligence failure in Mizoram are not declassified, despite the fact that on the basis of these two reports the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi decided to bifurcate the Intelligence Bureau and create the R&AW (India’s external spy agency) in September 1968.
We also do not know authentically what are there in the report of the L P Singh Committee on the misuse of intelligence agencies and the Central Bureau of Investigation during the Emergency between 1975 and 1977. L P Singh was a former Home Secretary. We have also a report by another former Home Secretary N N Vohra (now Governor of Jammu and Kashmir) on the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India. Submitted to the government in 1993, its report is not yet made public, despite the fact that its declassification will let people know how a criminal network was virtually running a parallel government, thanks to the criminal gangs enjoying the patronage of politicians belonging to all parties and the protection of government functionaries. I am sure that the situation is not much different even today.
I think it is high time the Modi government devised a law on declassification on the British and American patterns. Declassification will strengthen our democracy, not otherwise. If my memory serves me right, late V P Singh has been the only Indian Prime Minister who had at least promised to amend the country’s Official Secret Act. But soon after his announcement, his minority government fell, with the BJP withdrawing support, following the arrest of L K Advani for his Rath Yatra on the Ayodhya issue. But Modi has a politically stable government for five years. Will he then go beyond declassifying Netaji files and bring out a new general law that will declassify all the ‘sensitive’ documents and reports periodically? He should, rather must.
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