I first published a series of three articles in November 2013 on the old Manushi website exposing the people who were behind the fabrication of the ISRO spy scandal.
This is a happy day not just for ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan but for India's scientific community. The Supreme Court has finally vindicated Nambi Narayanan and ordered a probe into the conspiracy that led to the incarceration of ISRO scientists who were implicated in a fabricated spy scandal with the active collaboration of senior IPS and CBI officers posted in Kerala. These scientists were in the forefront of India's space missions.
While the country has been celebrating the launch of ISRO's cutting edge technology Satellites putting behind several past failures, we should also remember the sacrifice of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who originally started this project. This satellite would have been launched 13 years ago had his work not been sabotaged by certain rogue officers in the Intelligence Bureau who worked allegedly at the behest of CIA to sabotage Nambi Narayanan's work. The least ISRO owes Nambi is to name the satellite after him. This three-part article describes the leading role played by Gujarat IPS officer RB Sreekumar in hounding ISRO scientist in 1994 through a cooked-up spy scandal to destroy ISRO.
Like the rogue IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, Retd IPS officer R B Shreekumar, who has been projected by Teesta Setalvad’s NGO as one of the prime witnesses alleging Narendra Modi’s direct complicity in the 2002 riots, has a very dangerous and blemished career record.
R. B. Shreekumar belongs to the 1971 IPS batch Gujarat cadre. He was deputed to the Intelligence Bureau on 21 August 1987 and returned to his parent cadre in the state of Gujarat on 9 August 2000 after earning severe indictments from the CBI for falsely implicating two top scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and four other innocents in a fabricated spy scandal to sabotage the work of this premier space research institution. This was allegedly done at the CIA’s behest.
A chance meeting at an airport with a senior police officer of the Gujarat Government sometime in the month of May-June 2013 led me to examine the history of IPS officer Shreekumar. This officer had read my article on IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt which provided a glimpse into his roguish track record. (Read the article: Heroes of the Secular Brigade: A Glimpse into the Doings and Misdoings of Sanjiv Bhatt) This officer told me that Teesta Setalvad and the Congress Party had handpicked only those officers to level cooked up charges against Modi whose own track record was corrupt, compromised and roguish. Hence, they were willing to play the Congress game- especially since it also brought handsome rewards.
In that brief meeting, he asked me to also examine the track record of IPS officer Shreekumar, especially his involvement in the ISRO spy case which nearly destroyed the premier space research institution built by Dr Vikram Sarabhai. This part of Shreekumar’s history had been so successfully erased that no one ever raised it.
Like most others, I too had forgotten the ISRO spy scandal. But on reaching Delhi, I did a Google search and found that there was enough reason for me to follow the lead. What better way to do so than to talk to the prime victim of Shreekumar—the ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan whose life was marred beyond repair by the malafide actions of Shreekumar?
After fixing the time on the phone, I flew to Trivandrum on the 26th of August 2013 and met Mr Nambi Narayanan at his house. The story he narrated was more spine chilling than any crime thriller—not just in terms of the injustice and horrors inflicted on Nambi Narayanan but also in terms of how a premier space research institution of the Indian Government was targeted for destruction at the behest of the CIA by a team of its own police and Intelligence Bureau officials, of which Shreekumar was a lead player.
(The unedited video recording of the interview with Nambi Narayanan is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GNnxc6PNw4. .An edited text of Nambi’s account along with other evidence will appear in part II and III)
Brian Harvey, a space scientist, in his well-researched book “Russia in Space: The Failed Frontiers”, and Rajshekhar Nair, in his book “Spies in Space”, have both brought together a wealth of evidence to indicate that the CIA was behind the targeting of ISRO and destroying the lives of some of its best scientists. Their research points out that Sreekumar and other officials of IB were allegedly set up by the CIA to eliminate India from the lucrative satellite launch business and to retain the monopoly of US firms in this field.
To quote from Brian Harvey’s book –
Development of the Indian upper stage had been underway with Russian help for four years when the arrangements were denounced by American President George Bush as a violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime….
In May 1992, the Bush administration announced that it was applying American sanctions on both the ISRO and Glavcosmos…..
In July 1993, after negotiations in Washington DC, Russia backed off its proposals to transfer technology to India and suspended its agreement, invoking force majeure (circumstances beyond their control), to the fury of the Indian government…..
The KVD-1 had now become caught up in a much bigger game- the negotiations between America and Russia for the construction of the International Space Station. Russia suggested compensation for loss of the Indian contract and the $400m paid by the United States for seven American flights to Mir may have become part of the equation……
The plot thickened when, in October 1994, two senior scientists at the Indian Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, S. Nambi Narayanan and P. Sasikumaran, were arrested for ‘spying for foreign countries. Eventually, the Central Bureau of Investigation admitted that the charges against S. Nambi Narayanan and P. Sasikumaran were false and baseless and they were freed. Later, the United States was accused of setting them up as part of a dirty tricks campaign against the sale of the KVD-1….(From“Russia in Space: The Failed Frontier”, Springer in collaboration with Praxis Publishing, UK, p. 259]…
In 1994, Shreekumar was posted as the Deputy Director of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in Trivandrum. He was found by the CBI to have acted as the mastermind in the ISRO spy scandal. CBI had recommended that appropriate action be taken against Shreekumar and other officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Kerala Police who acted with malafide intent to destroy the ISRO. The key target of IB officials was the eminent space scientist Nambi Narayanan—the main anchor of cryogenic technology. His life has been permanently marred. Apart from having successfully fought a heroic battle to clear his own name, Nambi Narayanan has been pleading with successive governments to investigate the role of the CIA and to expose those who acted at its behest. But thus far these appeals have fallen on deaf ears for reasons which are not hard to guess.
Shreekumar has gotten away with his crime despite serious indictment by the CBI. The only “punishment” he got was to be sent back to his parent cadre in Gujarat. On 16 August 2000, he was posted as Adl. DGP, ArmedUnit at Ahmedabad. He continued to hold the same post till 8 April, 2002. However, after almost two months of post-Godhra riots, Shreekumar was posted in the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) and held this post from 9 April 2002 to 17 September 2002.
Shreekumar escaped punishment because he worked out a deal to act as a hatchet man for the Congress-led UPA government. Like Sanjeev Bhatt, he too belatedly launched a tirade against Narendra Modi in unison with Teesta Setalvad to whose NGO the Congress Party had outsourced the job of attacking Modi. (Details of the Quid Pro Quo deal follow towards the end of this piece)
It is noteworthy that before this deal was struck, Shreekumar had submitted a letter to the Nanavaty Commission, raising questions over Bhatt's integrity for speaking up against Narendra Modi. Shreekumar had said that in 2002 he had asked Sanjeev Bhatt, who was DCP (Intelligence) during the riots, to file an affidavit before the judicial panel probing the riots but Bhatt had not done so. Former DIG Mr Syed told me that earlier when Shreekumar was Sanjeev Bhatt’s boss, he had filed a 30-page long ‘Adverse Confidential Report’ against Bhatt. But at the behest of Congress party, he joined forces with Sanjeev Bhatt to level baseless charges against Modi.
After working out a deal with the UPA Government, Shreekumar suddenly claimed that K. Chakravarthi, the then DCP, informed him about a meeting on 27 February 2002 convened by Narendra Modi after his return from Godhra in which Modi allegedly said that- “Komi hulla do ma tame police barabari korocho. Tame be Hindu ne pakdo to tame be Musalmano ne pan pakdo. Have emnahichaleHinduonogussouttarwa do.” (In communal riots the police takes action against Hindus and Muslims on a one-to-one basis. This will not do now- allow Hindus to give vent to their anger). Shreekumar admits that he was personally not present in that meeting. Yet, Teesta and Co. used this as major evidence against Modi.
During SIT interrogation, Chakravarthi denied that he had any such conversation with R. B. Shreekumar. After enquiring with other relevant persons, the SIT concluded that since Shreekumar did not attend the meeting personally and made the allegation based on hearsay—which too was not supported by Chakravarthi, the person who is supposed to have reported the conversation in the CM’s meeting–the version of Sreekumar could not be treated as admissible evidence. The SIT found his charge untenable not just because it was one man’s word against another but also because Shreekumar did not have any concrete and reliable evidence to back his allegations. The SIT report also notes that, like Sanjeev Bhatt, Shreekumar had kept quiet for a long time and started making allegations only when he was superseded for promotion, leading the SIT to conclude that in attacking Modi, he had " a personal axe to grind".
To quote the SIT report: “R.B. Sreekumar did not reveal these facts before the Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry, when he appeared on 31 July 2004, for his cross-examination, neither did he reveal these facts even in his second affidavit filed on 6 October 2004. It was only on 9 April 2005, that R. B. Sreekumar filed his third affidavit before Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry suo-moto, when he enclosed the transcript of the recordings of the conversations with Dinesh Kapadia as well as G. C. Murmu and Arvind Pandya.”(page 127)
His secret recordings of conversations with senior government officers show that Shreekumar was already preparing the ground for his turn around and struck only when the Congress Party delivered on its part of the deal by withdrawing CBI’s charge sheet against him in the ISRO spy case.
The SIT found enough prima facie evidence to conclude that Shreekumar's allegations against Modi were "unsustainable" and were also "tainted by self-interest". He proved the SIT right about being a politically motivated witness when, within days of his retirement from the IPS, he formally joined Teesta Setalvad headed NGO. The very Shreekumar who had written adverse Confidential Reports against IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt became a comrade-in-arms of Bhatt and launched a tirade against Modi. Like with the ISRO case, he helped Teesta fabricate evidence against Modi to personally target Modi.
Alleged Links with Terrorist Groups
Rais Khan Pathan, a former employee of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Justice & Peace (CJP) has recently demanded an investigation into the role of Shreekumar & Setalvadfor their alleged links with Muslim radical groups. Pathan has written a letter to Ahmedabad Police Commissioner in this regard, citing among other things his telephonic conversation with Shreekumar, which he tape-recorded.
According to Khan’s letter dated October 3, 2013, Rais Khan got a call from Shreekumar from cell phone no. 9824061182 on November 4, 2010, which lasted for 17 minutes. In that recorded conversation, Shreekumar is heard saying, “It is my request- you do whatever you want to, but it should not benefit VHP people. It will spoil what we have done till date. Can I do something to help you compromise with Teesta Setalvad? By your association with VHP, the terrorist groups will target you. If you will work against Muslims, the Muslims will also turn against you. We have to work together. If we fight with each other, the enemy will be benefited. The benefit will go to Modi.”
Rais Khan said in an interview with me as well as complained to the police and courts that Teesta and Co. started branding him as a VHP supporter when he began challenging their corruption and wrongdoings in the organization, including manufacturing false witnesses against Modi. Shreekumar, being an expert in propping up false witnesses, played a lead role in helping Teesta get false testimonies against Modi.
Shreekumar’s compromised position and his eagerness to serve the interests of the Congress Party in order to keep himself out of indictment in the CIA-masterminded ISRO SPY case along with his working for Teesta Setalvad’s NGO post-retirement demolishes the credibility of his allegations regarding Narendra Modi’salleged direct complicity in the 2002 riots.
Evidence of Quid Pro Quo between the Congress and Shreekumar
Here is telling evidence that R B Shreekumar was protected by the UPA government in return for turning against Modi:
- On 17 November 1999, disciplinary proceeding against R. B. Shri Kumar were started under Rule 8 of AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968 on grounds of misconduct against him in the infamous ISRO spy case when a charge sheet was issued to him with 9 Articles of Charge.
- No action was taken in that case for 5 years. In the Government of India, such delays are considered routine.
- On 29 January 2004, as a mastermind of the ISRO Spy case, R B Shreekumar was served a charge sheet by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India on 9 counts. The charges included the following:-
(1) Illegally taking into custody the accused persons from the custody of Kerala Police without completing the legal formalities and conducting an independent investigation totally disassociating the Kerala Police which had originally arrested the accused. [The law does not allow the IB to interrogate suspected persons. Therefore, as per law, the interrogations conducted by the IB were illegal]
(2) Torturing/ill-treating the accused persons during the investigation.
(3) Not preparing a written statement of interrogation in respect of the two prime accused interrogated by the team, one of whom wasNambi Narayanan. [The CBI report had noted that Narayanan’s statements were not recorded because he had refused to yield despite torture and did not give false testimony as the three other accused did under third-degree treatment].
(4) The interrogation statements prepared by Shreekumar’s team were left unsigned and undated, indicating devious intent.
(5) The interrogation was video recorded but none from the investigating team could establish the identity of the person who video graphed the interrogation.
(6) Shreekumar failed to conduct a verification about the veracity of the statements of the accused persons as recorded by the team of IB officers. He was unable to assign any reasons for this lapse. “This resulted in irreparable loss and humiliation to respectable scientists of ISRO and others which reflects lack of proper supervision, integrity to duty… ”
(7) In his interrogation report Shreekumar talked about a meeting between Raman Srivastava, the then Inspector General (IG) (an IPS officer of Kerala cadre) with some accused persons, but he neither shared this information with the State Police nor provided the basis of allegations against the officer, which led to the suspension, defamation and humiliation of a senior-level police officer.
(8) Shreekumar had built a case that one of the main accused was responsible for smuggling out the secret papers, documents, maps etc., from one of the installations of ISRO. Despite this fact, the State Police was informed by the IB team that nothing was likely to be recovered from the house of the accused. Therefore, there was no need to search it. However, later, the State Police was blamed for not having searched the residence of that accused.
(9) Shri Mathew John, Joint Director, IB (a senior of Shreekumar) sent a message stating that disclosures made by the accused persons were a mixture of truth, half-truth and untruth. Thus, Shreekumar was fully aware of the fact that the investigation report prepared by their team was full of contradictions and that the statements of the accused did not match each other. He made no attempt to verify the “disclosures” made by the accused persons. [This too indicated malafide intent and a pre-planned resolve to file a case without a shred of evidence]
But despite these charges involving endangering of national security allegedly at the behest of the CIA, Shreekumar remained unscathed because, on 22 May 2004, UPA came to power, after which things took a dramatic turn. This is the sequence leading to the illegal closure of the enquiry against Shreekumar:
- On 13th December 2004, i.e., after a lapse of more than 5 years, an Enquiry Officer was appointed to hold an oral enquiry with Shri K. M. Singh, the then Director-General of CISF, was appointed to investigate charges against R. B. Shreekumar.
- On 13 December 2004 itself, that is, within six months of UPA in power, the written statement of defence was considered by the Home Minister and was partially accepted, dropping 7 out of 9 charges and deciding to hold an enquiry on just the 1st and 2nd charges as those charges could not have been dropped without holding an enquiry.
- On 9 April 2005, Shreekumar filed his third affidavit before Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry suo-moto, when he started levelling charges against Modi. In his earlier two affidavits before the Nanavaty Commission, Shreekumar had made no such allegations. In fact, he had indicted Sanjeev Bhatt for his devious role.
- It is noteworthy that the charge sheet has listed 12 witnesses from all over the country, including retired senior officers like Shri D.C. Pathak, the former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. In addition to that, it relied on 24 documents including the statements of the accused in the ISRO spy case and, more notably, that of Shri Nambi Narayanan, the main accused.
- In the normal course, the Presenting Officer would not have received these documents in less than a year. He/she would not have completed the examination of witnesses and the exhibition of documents in less than two to three years.
- Normally, the Government would not have been able to provide the relied upon documents to the Charged Officer in less than a year.
- The disciplinary proceeding were, however, closed on 24January, 2005, which means that between 13December, 2004 and 24 January, 2005 (which comes to 43 days including both the first and last days for initiation of oral enquiry), presentingthe case of the prosecution; exhibiting the relied upon documents; providing the copies of the relied upon documents to the charged officer; examining the witnesses; allowing the cross-examination of the witnesses by the charged officer; considering the defence of the charged officer; examining the witnesses of the charged officer; receiving the statement of defence by the charged officer; considering the entire material in a judicial manner; preparing the enquiry report; submitting the enquiry report to the competent authority; examining the enquiry report beginning at the level of SO and passing through Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary/ Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary, Secretary, MOS (H), and then finally the Home Minister; considering the entire material by the Home Minister and his decision thereon; returning the file right up to SO through the same channel; drafting the order and submission of the same by the same channel again up to Home Minister; and returning the file through the same route for issue of the order, closing the disciplinary proceeding.
- The entire process involved in disciplinary proceedings by the Government of India is normally not completed in less than 5 years. The swiftness of this enquiry has no parallel in the history of the police administration.
- The very fact that the entire matter was completed in 43 days clearly shows some “hidden hand” was managing the entire case.
- The 2nd Article in the charge sheet was in respect to torture and ill-treatment of at least three accused persons by the Charged Officer in the course of the investigation which could not be decided without the examination of the concerned persons. There is nothing on record to show that those three persons were examined by the Presenting Officer in support of charges.
- There is nothing on record to show that the Presenting Officer examined all the witnesses relied upon to prove the charge and exhibited all the documents relied upon in support of the charge. If the witnesses and relied upon documents were not relied upon by the Presenting Officer, it is obvious that he was given instructions not to do the same by the competent authority which clearly makes a case of strong collusion between the Charged Officer and the Government.
- The breakneck speed with which the enquiry was completed and the manner in which it was conducted clearly shows a deep-rooted conspiracy and collusion between the Charged Officer and the Ministry of Home Affairs and it is clear that for some undisclosed consideration, the MHA/Govt. of India were in a tearing hurry in December 2004, to close the disciplinary proceedings against Shreekumar.
- Finally, the closure of disciplinary proceedings initiated against Sreekumar is also illegal as the approval of the Prime Minister and the President was not obtained in terms of Rule 8 of the Govt. of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1971 r.w. Item 39 (i), Schedule I of the said Rules.
Such serious charges involving national security being dropped without any enquiry was unprecedented. Such a bizarre conduct of enquiry completed in a manner completely contrary to normal and routine practice lends credence to the allegation that a quid pro quo deal was brokered between MHA and Shreekumar. In this connection, reliable sources point to the name of former National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan who is alleged to have played a key role in working out the details.