Saturday, May 2, 2015

Back to Creepy Crawly Time!

Just when I think the nut cases at the Intelligence Bureau have gone off my case they come roaring back.

In early April I woke up coughing one morning and the puff at the inhaler, which is usually good for my mild asthma, had no effect.

It got worse very rapidly, and feeling that I needed help, I tried calling a neighbor. It was before seven in the morning and there was no reply.

Next I tried calling a taxi. I have three on my mobile phone.

The first two did not pick up. The third did. "Manoj, I need to get to Manipal Hospital" I croaked. He knows who I am and where I live.

There was a slight pause. Then another voice came on. "Wrong number" it said.

By then I was in deep distress and passed out. How long I was out I don't know, perhaps a few minutes. But eventually I regained consciousness. As I was heading for the compound gate the resident IB spook was coming in on his bike. He was visibly surprised to see me.

That was only the most dramatic of recent incidents.

Another was when I went to a musical concert and at intermission, left a tiny package of pills on the seat to show it was taken. When I got back, the taped brown-paper package had been ripped open and one of the pills pushed out from its blister pack.

What exactly they're looking for or have against me is impossible to say. It can't be just that I keep writing that the IB is completely out of control and needs to be brought under constitutional controls.

In fact, it reminds me of the first time I went to Nepal. It was the sixties, and I went overland along what was then called the "hippie trail."

From the train-head on the Indian side you had to take a cycle rickshaw through a magical stretch of gloomy forest.

There was no one on the Indian side of the border. On the Nepali side a lone sentry inspected my backpack.

I did not notice the time because it was so pleasant, but eventually, the impatience of the rickshawwallah got through to me.

The sentry was carefully going through my underwear and socks.

"What are you looking for?" I asked amiably.

"I don't know sir," he replied

It seems to me that is the predicament of all intelligence agencies. They have to be suspicious with no idea what to look for.

What makes the IB particularly interesting is the belief of some of its staff that they need to control what journalists write. And that those who they cannot control must be harassed.

I have written about this off and on over the last few years, but rather than give links to old posts, perhaps it's time to offer a summary.

The first time surveillance turned to harassment it turned my face black, as if I was undergoing radiation treatment.

That was followed by two "accidents" in Pondicherry. On both occasions, motorcyclists ran into my bicycle. Neither so much as tapped his horn (a certain indication of mala fide in India).

One ran into me frontally and knocked me to the pavement. The shopkeeper there helped me up and wiped the blood from a cut to the forehead. The guy who ran into me, a rather hefty police type, took off.

The second incident occurred on a clear day on an uncrowded road: another police type ran into me from the back and sent me sailing a good six feet. No blood but I felt the jarring in my 66-year old bones for a fortnight.

Other harassment took the form of warning people that I was a spy. At a meeting of the Progressive Writers Group, the speaker, thinking I was asleep, remarked "Ah, the spy has gone to sleep!" (and had the grace to look embarrassed when I opened one eye to let him know I had heard.)

In 2011, I brought back a Sony laptop from New York. It became totally dysfunctional in short order. The local service center proved entirely, even arrogantly unhelpful. It comes back to life occasionally, I guess when someone at IB is feeling magnanimous. Last week I could use it to surf the web. Today I can't get it to boot.

Forgot to mention that a Samsung I bought in Mumbai in 2008 also became dysfunctional, but the guy at the service center found the problem: ants nesting inside. They ate up some vital ingredient and now it too will not turn on.  

Back in Goa, my cleaning lady came in one morning and asked me to get her a sim card. As it is illegal in India to get someone else a mobile phone connection, I declined. She refused my offer to accompany her to the shop and stand guarantor. That evening there were bomb blasts in Hyderabad, and I realized that I might have escaped entrapment very narrowly.

I wanted to go to the World Social Forum in Tunis and my attempt to get a visa set off all kinds of unexpected repercussions. Here I must resort to a link, for the story is too complex to summarize.

After I wrote about what had happened, a reader suggested that I complain to the Home Ministry. The Ministry passed the buck to the Home Secretary in Goa, who evidently initiated a police inquiry.

I got a call from the Dona Paula Police Station and went there to make a statement. In the course of my narration I mentioned the Hyderabad blasts.

Whether my statement was an FIR or not, it obviously must have put someone's nose seriously out of joint, for the harassment became intense.

There was urine in my microwave oven. (I forgot to mention, they seem to have full access to my apartment.) There was human excreta on an inside page of one of my newspapers.

The food I ordered from restaurants invariably came spilled loose inside their plastic bags. Dry food came liberally laced with grit. If I went myself to get the food, an IB flunky would -- with a very in your face attitude -- appear beside me at the counter and get anywhere from a third to a half of what I had ordered.

When this was at its height, I emailed the Governor of Goa, who I had met at an art gallery opening, suggesting we collaborate on a book about Indian intelligence. (He was the former head of RAW.) He declined, but it stopped the harassment: whoever was responsible was obviously reading my email.

I also tried to get a lawyer to file suit against the IB but had no luck finding one to take the case. (By the way, according to reports, none of India's intelligence agencies responds to RTI requests although they are supposed to do so in cases of infringement of human rights.)

In the period that followed there were successive efforts at entrapment.

At a musical evening at Taleigao Church a pimply teenager sat leaning into me. The man next to her whispered "Are you doing it?" Whatever it was she was supposed to do, I did not wait to find out.

At a film showing the man in the next seat was reaching for my crotch and I was getting ready to clock him when he suddenly sprang from his seat and literally ran up the aisle. (Did someone monitoring my responses tell him to run for it?)

On an evening visit to the Magsons supermarket at Caculo Mall as I was passing through a dim stretch of street a little kid leaped on the back of my bicycle; if I hadn't let out an inadvertent yell that scared him off, it might have turned nasty. (The papers then were full of rapes and assaults on kids.)

A continuing element of the IB activity is the interception of my incoming telephone calls. Because of that, it is impossible for anyone to reach me. Most calls I make go through two stages. In the first, a "No network coverage" or other service denial message flashes on my phone. In the second, if the call is deemed allowable, it goes through; otherwise it beeps off.

What leads me to write this lengthy resume of my interactions with the Intelligence Bureau is what I've just gone through with a real estate broker. Perhaps the tale is best told by the letter I emailed her yesterday.

Dear M------,

Given the possibility of fraud because of the non-return of my HDFC cheque number xxxxx I am putting on record the circumstances in which I wrote it.

You asked me for a cheque of Rs.23,000/- as earnest of intent in negotiating the rental of an apartment at Kamat Royale, Caranzalem owned by Mr.xxxxx xxxxx, also resident in the same compound.

When I received the draft agreement from the owner I realized that it would be impossible to have him for a landlord and told you I was not interested in pursuing the matter.

That was in the second week of April.

When I queried you about not receiving the cheque back you told me Mr. xxxxx had cashed it. Upon checking with my bank I found out it had not been cashed and put a stop payment block on it.

Since then I have repeatedly asked for the return of the cheque and you have told me that Mr. xxxxx was travelling and out of reach.

Yesterday (30 April), when I was told that again, I asked for his phone number so I could clarify his intentions. You agreed to give me the number but then the line was disconnected.

Following that, I sent a phone text message putting the matter on record.

This email message is for the same purpose, only in more detail."

What is behind this situation is anyone's guess, but the fact that I have felt the need to write the letter to protect myself in the event of an elaborate IB fraud speaks volumes. 

It is legitimate to wonder how much it has cost the Indian taxpayer for the IB to play its paranoid little Spy games with a journalist too brash to be good at any kind of deception.

Will they ever get tired? Or will someone ever tell them to stop?


Alice Moore said...

This is very bad.

Can you move to a place of safety?

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
From reading your blog from time to time, the "NEW" information I've found is mainly about Britain's crimes which are not just in the past but continuing and it's current efforts to subvert India. This must irritate the British who must be pushing or bribing their Indian agents - who might well be in IB - to harass you. I doubt it is the IB acting BY ITSELF because what have you done to offend anyone in IB or in the current Government?
There is little hope because most Indians (and other 3rd world people) are like that - ready to do the bidding of powerful wealthy people and it is unlikely that that will change so not much hope.

Bhaskar Menon said...

Thanks for the concern Alice, but if I moved the fascists in IB would win. So it's not an option.

Anonymous might have a point. The IB has never been cleansed of its colonial-minded traitors. In fact, I'm pretty sure that its operatives have little or no training in political science or even elementary ethics.