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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 18 New Delhi, April 18, 2020

My Days in the IIIAS, Shimla: An Autobiographical Reflection in honour of the Late Professor K Raghavendra Rao

Saturday 18 April 2020

by Kadayam Subramanian

December 17, 2019

I was Visiting Fellow at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla from 1973 to 1975. A former IB official, I had decided to research the evolution of the communist movement in India. My inspiration came partly from the conversations I had earlier had with the inspirational friend and ‘Guru’ Dr. K. Raghavendra Rao Professor of Political Science, Karnatak University, Dharwad and also from my studies. I had a very useful time doing my work in Shimla. My sources of research were mainly published Indian and other material and conversations with my Guru, Professor Rao. I enjoyed my work and met several learned scholars. The studies contributed to my intellectual improvement. I had no thought about the publication of my work if at all. I did not realise the difficulties I would encounter from official agencies such as the IB and the Union Home Ministry in the process. Reading and writing were all for me. I had not realized that as a serving public official on study leave, I needed government approval for publication of my academic work. My struggle to get the necessary government approval was needless and prolonged. I had to go through an arduous difficulty before my book titled ‘Parliamentary Communism: Crisis in the Indian Communist Movement’, was published in 1989. In this process Professor Rao’s support was invaluable. He helped in getting myself admitted to a PhD programme under him in his department at the Karnatak University. Hence this article in his memory.

The circumstances which brought me to this situation is worth narration. During my earlier posting on law and order duties in New Delhi in the mid-1960s, I had been subjected to a physical attack causing a serious injury at the hands of a riotous mob of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) men. On recovery from the injury, I had been deputed to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) for five years.

While in the IB, I was placed in charge of the Kerala desk of the important ‘B Group’ of branches of the IB (‘B’ for Bolshevik), which dealt with communist activities in India. This was an educative experience. I developed academic interest in the communist politics and became experienced in writing reports on communist politics of Kerala. Interactions with officials on other desks in the B Group were useful. The most important of these desks was the one dealing with ideological developments in the communist movement in India, which had been entrusted to an experienced official.
Every Friday, usually at 10 am, the IB officials held a meeting with the super boss of the organisation, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau or DIB, to brief him on political developments in different parts of the country. A battery of senior officials met the DIB at a conference to briefed him. The DIB was ‘the holy cow’ of the IB and regarded with almost religious fervour. As the man in charge of the Kerala desk, I was part of the largish group of officials who briefed the DIB every Friday.

These meetings in the IB provided insights into matters of the moment for the IB. The DIB used these insights to educate the Home minister, the Prime Minister and so on.
At these Friday meetings, the DIB spoke rarely but listened intently to the various presentations by the highly submissive officials. A generalised atmosphere of supplication and information provision to the DIB was the norm. It was in this situation that at the Friday meeting once, I felt compelled to open up and correct the DIB on a factual point. on Kerala. Complete silence followed my brief intervention. The meeting ended. As everyone came out, I noticed that I was being avoided by my colleagues.
I did not I fully comprehend the impact of my intervention at the meeting with the big boss. However, at the next meeting with our immediate boss, I was briefly upbraided. The indication was that I had erred in attempting to correct the DIB. I realized that my days in the IB were numbered. When my B tenure ended in July 1972, I was asked to proceed to the Northeast on a so called ‘punishment posting’. I opted to return to my cadre of the IPS, which was also in the Northeast.

By then my academic interests had become prominent. Before my departure for the Northeast, I submitted a research proposal on ‘Peaceful Transition to Socialism in India, a hot topic, to Professor SC Dube, Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla. I also met the Director who appreciated my research interests.
In early 1973, I received a fellowship offer from the IIAS, Shimla. My application for the grant of study leave was rejected by the state government, whereupon I submitted a one-line resignation from the IPS. The Chief Secretary summoned me and after a serious conversation, he offered to grant me study leave for two years. I found myself in Shimla in March 1973.

My experience in the IIAS, Shimla was most interesting and educative. Meeting eminent scholars at one place and interacting with them on a daily basis was exhilarating. Professor Dube, a deep and refined sociologist, had welcomed me as a ‘social scientist’. The witty Professor VV John and the even wittier Ramu Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma proved a great company.

My Guru, the erudite political philosopher, poet, novelist, social anthropologist and political theorist Professor K Raghavendra Rao of the Karnatak University Dharwad was also in Shimla. He played a crucial role in my academic work at the IIAS. At the end of my two-year term at the Institute, I submitted to the Director IIAS my output work titled ‘The Ideological Evolution of the Indian Communist Movement in the Post-independence Period’ and returned to my job in the government of Tripura.

The All India Services’ (Conduct) Rules, as it then existed, provided that serving civil servants must get government permission before publishing any academic or literary work. As a law-abiding civil servant, I had submitted my application for the grant of government permission for publication of my Shimla manuscript. After a long delay, I was informed that my work was being examined from the security angle. I met the concerned IB official and clarified that I had not used any classified material in my work. The IB official stated that my mind had been ‘corrupted’ by the study I had undertaken. This led to refusal of permission for the publication of my manuscript.

Luckily, Professor K Raghavendra Rao of the Political Science at the Karnatak University, Dharwad, admitted me to a to a PhD programme in Political Science in the Karnatak University.

I returned to Delhi in 1980, on a posting in the Union Home Ministry assignment, I pursued my studies and received a PhD in Political Science from the Karnatak University, Dharwad in 1984. Professor Raghavendra Rao was immensely helpful.
Interestingly in 1989, the All India Services (Conduct) Rules were amended to permit serving civil servants to publish their literary and academic work. I had to certify that I had used any classified information in writing my thesis. As mentioned above, my PhD thesis was published as a book. A great relief for me!

(The author was Director-General of the State Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development in the government of Tripura).

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