by Sachi Sri Kantha, July 3, 2013
In light of the recent death of Bahukutumbi Raman (1926-2013), I offer the following sentiments from an Eelam Tamil’s angle. What humorist Andy Rooney wrote once, “Spies are, generally speaking, maladjusted social misfits who can’t make a living at anything else”, fits perfectly to B. Raman who promoted himself as an all-knowing, all-seeing Hindu seer of the twentieth century. In reality, he was a nasty guy, a toady and a pretentious bureaucrat who unnecessarily misguided Indian politicians and Indian military into a conflict with the aspirations of Eelam Tamils.
This Raman did slip when one of his pals K.V. Unnikrishnan, the RAW operative in charge of handing Eelam militants in Chennai, was honey-trapped by American intelligence operatives in the mid 1980s. The vintage cartoon by India Today’s Ajit Ninan turned out to be a classic in exposing this intelligence-challenged spymaster’s derriere.
According to the information provided by one of his protégés, Swati Parashar, and the Special Correspondent for The Hindu daily, Raman served in RAW for 26 years, from 1968 to 1994 when he retired as the Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat. Even after his retirement, Raman wrote gibberish on LTTE activities, posturing as a philosopher in the rank of a Bertrand Russell. As a keen observer of the Indian and Sri Lankan political scene for the past 45 years, I can list how the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operatives messed with the Eelam Tamil liberation movement since 1983. Here are some select examples.
(1) Trapping S.C. Chandrahasan (a son of S.J.V.Chelvanayakam) as their chief conduit-spokesman to target the young Eelam militants.
(2) Choosing TELO first, and then EPRLF groups for their nefarious activities in the Eelam soil. Promoting Varadaraja Perumal’s chief-ministership during the IPKF period.
(3) Spreading confusion within the LTTE’s ranks, by setting up the then LTTE deputy leader Mahattaya against Prabhakaran in 1989, and announcing (in the pages of The Hindu daily) that Mahattaya had become LTTE leader by killing Prabhakaran, in the aftermath of the assassination of A. Amirthalingam and V. Yogeswaran.
(4) Setting up and training the conscripted Tamil National Army (TNA) to confront the LTTE.
(5) Issuing disinformation news bulletins routinely in the 1990s, implicating the LTTE in targeting assassination of Indian politicians (M. Karunanidhi, J. Jeyalalitha, Vazhapadi Ramamoorthy and Sonia Gandhi) as well as Boris Yeltsin on Indian soil. Other than V. Ramamoorthy and Yeltsin who died of natural causes, the other three are still alive and kicking! Even credible journalists (from The Hindu group and the likes of M.R. Narayan Swamy and D.B.S. Jeyaraj) were forced to swallow the ropes supplied by RAW operatives led by Raman.
That B. Raman had a hand in all the above-listed examples is a no brainer. For an inside view of the activities of RAW guys led by Raman, we have to be grateful to General Harkirat Singh, who had recorded the following in his 2006 memoir, under the caption ‘The role of RAW’.
“Indira Gandhi assigned the responsibility of training and arming the militant groups to RAW, the Indian agency responsible for external intelligence. Two senior RAW officers, Swamy and Ravi Menon, posted in Tamil Nadu contacted S.C. Chandrahasan (of the TULF) in September 1983 and discussed with him plans to train Tamil youths. Chandrahasan was also given the responsibility of identifying and recommending groups for training. He chose the TELO, which at that time was a small group located in Tamil Nadu. TELO was devoid of any organizational set-up and did not have any ideological leadership. Therefore RAW chose this group so that it could be moulded to meet its designs.
The RAW officer-in-charge of Tamil Nadu, and based in Madras, at this time was Unnikrishnan. He was also responsible for coordinating the activities of the Tamil militants. He later turned out to be a double agent who communicated intelligence regarding the type of training, arms and equipment, strength of the groups under training, their strategic plans, and other details to the Sri Lankan National Intelligence Bureau (NIB). Later, this officer was apprehended, identified as a CIA agent, and sentenced.
Initially, RAW trained members of the TELO in espionage and sabotage. The TELO group, however, included a large criminal and anti-social element which had no political goals, ideology or commitment to the cause of Eelam. In the meanwhile, the EPRLF and EROS also approached RAW for training. Other larger and more ideologically oriented groups like the PLOTE and the LTTE were already spread across various camps in Tamil Nadu. The quality of training was very high, and with the help of the Indian Army these outfits achieved expertise in handling explosives and could improvise demolitions.
However, the LTTE soon displaced the TELO and PLOTE in cornering funds from expatriates and from M.G. Ramachandran. The Tigers emerged as the most powerful outfit and took full military and administrative control of the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE had disarmed and decimated the PLOTE and TELO by the end of 1986. It was later discovered that it was a RAW officer who promoted inter-group rivalries that had helped to destroy the TELO.
Throughout this period. RAW did not take stock of the weapons it supplied to the Tamil militant groups. Under the garb of losses in battle, the militants thus built up a huge stockpile of arms, ammunition, and explosives. The Sri Lankan National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) blamed RAW for initiating the Tamil insurgency and for setting up the Accord in full confidence and understanding with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India.
It was RAW and the MEA that equipped the EPRLF, since the TELO had been destroyed by the LTTE. Sometime in 1990, I had the opportunity of meeting an Inspector General of Police at Bombay, who had earlier served in RAW. He confirmed that it was the RAW and the MEA who were responsible for re-arming the EPRLF, and that it was Lt.Gen. A.S.Kalkat, the Overall Force Commander (OFC) from February 1988 onwards, who had ordered the handing over of the AK-47s imported for the IPKF to the EPRLF.
During Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka, two RAW representatives were attached to the IPKF Headquarters at Palaly. These personnel were dressed in police uniform and always stayed in the tent provided for visitors at Palaly. Their interaction with visitors to the IPKF Headquarters (HQ), including the media, was not in keeping with the role assigned to them. As GOC, IPKF, I ordered my intelligence staff to assign them the task of entering Jaffna to collect hard intelligence about the LTTE’s cache and also the movements of Pirabakaran. However, they begged to be excused from this mission and wanted to be reassigned to Madras for fear that they would be identified and killed by the LTTE, whom they had been responsible for training in India.” (pp. 22-24)
There, one sees the cowardice of subordinates trained by B. Raman! His protégé Swati Parashar has eulogized him as ‘a karmayogi for whom time was always short’. The word, ‘karmayogi’ literally means ‘action sage’. I’m not sure that Swati Parashar is fluent in Tamil. An alternative equivalent word in Tamil is ‘karuma thalaivar’, which in English means royal fortune-teller, astrologer and conjurer, according to Visvanatha Pillai’s Tamil-English dictionary (1951). This is more apt than the karmayogi crown, for the simple reason that karmayogi’s don’t practice sycophancy!
I also wish to mention that B. Raman was a great pretender. One good example was when then President G.W. Bush exposed the black market nuclear racket by Abdul Qadeer Khan on February 11, 2004. He did mention a Sri Lankan Muslim businessman, Buhary Syed Abu Tahir as the deputy of Khan (“who ran SMB computers, and a business in Dubai”) in this racket. Within two weeks on Feb. 23, Raman assembled and posted his dossier entitled ‘Musharraf’s nuclear gate’ as Paper no.931 in his South Asia Analysis Group website. If he had advanced knowledge about the activities of A.Q. Khan and B.S.A. Tahir, Raman should have been the first guy to report it before President Bush. But, his style of intelligence gathering was merely of a second hand type, akin to the copy-paste strategy adopted by an intelligence-challenged student.
I have provided more details on the functioning of RAW operatives in my 2005 biography of Velupillai Pirabhakaran, which I refrain from repeating here. I’m pleased that before his demise, I did ‘honor’ him last January, with a ‘Sonia’s slipper-wiper Award for sycopancy’ in my annual Art Buchwald humor Awards.for 2012. (http://sangam.org/art-buchwald-humor-awards-2012/)
Andrew A.Rooney: Sweet & Sour, Berkley Books, New York, 1994.
Harkirat Singh: Intervention in Sri Lanka – the IPKF Experience Retold, Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo, 2006.
Sachi Sri Kantha: Pirabhakaran Phenomenon, Lively COMET imprint, Gifu City, Japan, 2005.
Special Correspondent: A Kao-boy till the end. The Hindu (Chennai), June 17, 2013.
Swati Parashar: B. Raman – a karmayogi for whom time was always short. www.rediff.com/news/column/ June 17, 2013.