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NEW DELHI: In what could be sensational revelations for many Indians and a huge embarrassment for the Modi government, the recently released CIA files have claimed that the rightwing Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) had instigated northern army officers to plot an assassination bid on the country’s first army commander Gen K.M. Cariappa, who was from the southern region of Coorg.

The revelations were first published in the Hindi daily Jansatta on Friday, but this correspondent corroborated the story with the United States Central Intelligence Agency files that were recently released under President Barrack Obama’s orders.

“Rift in the officer corps of the Indian army,” was the headline of the redacted file dated June 12, 1950.

“An attempt to assassinate General Cariappa, Commander in Chief of the Indian Army, was made during the General’s recent inspection tour of East Punjab. Six persons have been sentenced to death in connection with the plot; several high army officers are believed involved,” the CIA noted.

“General Cariappa as a South Indian is resented by Sikh officers of the Indian Army. The RSS is capitalising on the North-South rift among army officers, whom informant considers treacherous and unreliable, to spread dissension. Officers from Travancore, Maharashtra and Madras are invariably loyal to General Cariappa.”

Another file made public, but whose date has been deleted, carries a photocopy of the Bombay-based Blitz weekly, an erstwhile popular tabloid once considered close to Moscow.

It quotes a CIA researcher as struggling to unravel the standoff between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.

He goes on to ponder if India should opt for temporary military rule as Gen Cariappa had suggested. The general was field marshal in 1965 when he apparently made the remarks. Military officers of both countries went to school together and fought side by side in World War II, the report said. They would be able to resolve the issues dogging them.

According to the Blitz story quoting the CIA researcher, Gen Cariappa had pondered that a short stint of military rule in India would help deal with the communist threat and also tackle regional troubles. The latter issue may have been inspired by his experience in Punjab where he was nearly killed in a plot, which was staged by fellow officers, according to the CIA.

Gen Cariappa belonged to the Coorgi region of proud soldiers, which is now part of the southern state of Karnataka. He is idolised by the Coorgis as a great national hero.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi credits his political moorings to his training as a member of the RSS. He was campaigning in the poll-bound Punjab on Friday. Former army officers have been fielded by several parties in Indian elections.

A former Sikh army chief is one of the candidates for the ruling coalition of Bharatiya Janata Party and Akali Dal in the assembly polls due on Feb 4.

The RSS is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP and it denies periodic charges of having a role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.


To view Dawn.com's compilation of extracts from the declassified CIA documents, click here.

Published in Dawn January 28th, 2017