Thursday, July 26, 2012

Muslims And Sikhs Need Not Apply

From 1969 till today, the 10,000-strong RAW has avoided recruiting any Muslim officers. So has has NTRO, a critical arm of external intelligence..Humayun Kabir was known, among other things, for being a prominent Bengali politician who did not subscribe to the Muslim League's vision of Pakistan. Instead, he chose secular India, rose to be the education secretary. Little did Kabir know that nearly fifty years later, one of his grandsons would not be inducted into RAW, India's external intelligence agency. Reason: he was a Muslim.

The year was 2000. The NDA government was restructuring the Indian security apparatus following the Kargil war. Kabir's grandson had been cleared for induction into the RAW's air wing, the aviation research centre (ARC). He was found to be competent for the job and met all the required parameters. His interviewers were very impressed with him. They had no doubt that they had found their man. But hours later the decision was reversed. The members of the selection board came to the view that there was a question mark on Kabir's suitability for the job. He was a Muslim and the unwritten code within the agency was that Muslims could not be inducted it. That code vis-a-vis Muslims is still followed. From 1969 till today - RAW's current staff strength is about 10,000 - it has avoided recruiting any Muslim officer. Neither has the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), a crucial arm of external intelligence. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) with 12,000 personnel has been a little more open. It has a handful of Muslim officers, the senior-most is a joint director.

Many intelligence officials say keeping Muslims out or minimally represented is unwise. Post-9/11 the Indian intelligence community has been tasked to keep its eyes and ears open to global Islamic terrorism. It is here that the presence of dedicated Muslim officers will add to the expertise and capabilities that an organisation like RAW requires. But, senior officers are quick to point out that this should be done not to appease the community. "We have to realise that by following the unwritten code we are denying a pool of talent that is readily available. We need bright, dynamic, intelligent operatives. Should we deny them an opportunity just because they are Muslims?" asks a senior official.

According to former RAW chief A.S. Dulat, appointing Muslims is not only necessary but also critical. He feels that only a Muslim is capable of understanding the psyche of the community. Says Dulat: "The Muslim psyche can be baffling to non-Muslims. However much a person claims to be in tune with what the community feels, he can never really know all the nuances. A Muslim, on the other hand, would have the feel for the language, the metaphor and the culture. If you have to know what is happening in Aligarh Muslim University or SIMI, a Muslim will be much better informed. And you cannot wish away the feeling of neglect, the hurt and the discrimination that the community feels. That too is something a Muslim would be able to understand better."

Similarly, while dealing with intelligence inputs from Pakistan and Bangladesh, a Muslim could be far more effective. But officials point out that appointments should not label Muslim officers as Pakistani specialists. As Indians, their expertise can be deployed elsewhere too. The point they make is that efficient and qualified candidates should not be barred because of their religious identity. As opposed to RAW, the IB, tasked with internal security, took a decision during the Narasimha Rao government to induct Muslim officers.

Soon a couple of young IPS officers were taken in—one from the Uttar Pradesh cadre became the first inductees into the IB. Since then a few more appointments have taken place. According to official feedback, the performance of Muslim officers has never been under question. In fact, some of them went on to hold senior positions and one officer has risen to the rank of joint director presently handling a sensitive unit.. Read more: