The fact that IB did not become a Stasi or a Gestapo … speaks about the strength of its operational fibre, says Prabhakar Aloka
GN Bureau | July 18, 2022
Prabhakar Aloka (IPS 1986), with a three-decade stint at the Intelligence Bureau, has now turned to penning thrillers. First there was ‘Operation Haygreeva’. Now there is the sequel: ‘Operation Sudarshan Chakra’ (Penguin Random House India).
The latest is a gripping espionage saga that shares an insider’s expert view of India’s counter-terror and counter-insurgency through the protagonist, Ravi Kumar and his team of young recruits.
Ravi Kumar, head of the Central Counterterrorism Command (C3) of the Intelligence Bureau, is haunted by the partial success of ‘Operation Haygreeva’. He and his team of young recruits – Mihir, Cyrus and Jose – exposed designs of a hitherto-unknown terrorist outfit, the Lashkar-e-Hind (LeH), responsible for the Mumbai train blasts. But the mission they had staked their lives on remains significantly unfinished.
The LeH’s leader, Tabrez, had managed to escape to Pakistan. Looking to expand the scale of his operations and strike back at India in previously inconceivable ways, Tabraz becomes the lynchpin of a sinister K2 plan of Pakistan’s ISI to leverage different socio-political anxieties and create a vast network of radicalised minds penetrating deep into Indian society, to destabilise the delicate fabric that holds the nation together.
Despite having faced severe personal trauma, Ravi and his team come together to launch deft counterterror and counterintelligence maneuvers, codenamed Operation Sudarshan Chakra, putting everything, including their individual safety, at risk.
On the occasion of the new publication, Governance Now spoke with Prabhakar Aloka:
You have vast experience in intelligence and counter-insurgency. Any particular reason for you to pen your experience through fiction? Any memoirs of some interesting cases in the pipeline?
There is varied perception about the work of a spy who attempts to unravel deliberately hidden facts. Be it ‘Atharvaveda’, or ‘Book of Joshua’, or ‘Arthashatra’ of Kautilya, or ‘Thirukkural’ of Thiruvalluvar, ancient and modern literature emphasises spy as an indispensable instrument of governance. Work of a spy is sublime. The transcendent nature of work can be best explained through a fiction. A memoire or information may not delve into tribulations which form a major part of vocation of aspy.
Your book highlights the re-emergence of insurgency and the Khalistan movement. How well do you think we are prepared to nip it in the bud?
India has a robust security apparatus which has withstood the test of time. The agency could blunt various onslaughts on the Republic by undertaking structural and procedural reforms consistent with the democratic ethos. The fact that it did not develop into a Stasi or a Gestapo at the time of Independence, despite the existence of situation relevant for such transition, speaks about the strength of its operational fibre. The Indian agencies stand tall among their peers in terms of philosophical moorings and competence.They have necessary wherewithal to tackle emerging threats.
The story of ‘Operation Sudarshan Chakra’ also highlights the personal compromises one has to make in your line of professional commitment. Does this affect the quality of work or life?
A spy has to take different ‘avatars’, sometimes inconsistent with his beliefs and learning. These could be psychologically disruptive. Training and commitment helps overcome unsettling situation with aplomb.
It’s said, 'once a spy always a spy. Does this hold true for you?
The foremost attribute of a spy is awareness about the environment – both proximate and distant. An active spy emphasises near environment. The focus of attention of a former spy may shift to spatially or temporally distant environment. Awareness remains associated lifelong.
‘Sudarshan Chakra’ is known to be a divine weapon. Why did you pick this particular name for your second title?
Precision in action is the hallmark of an efficient spy. A spy makes effort to accomplish task with certainty and without any collateral damage. Sudarshan Chakra embodies all attributes of result a spy aspires to achieve.
The book is up for screen adaptation. Please tell us more about it.
Two seasons of eight episodes each has been envisaged. It is work in progress.
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