Former sleuths of the country's intelligence agencies believe the raid at the residence of former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official, Maj Gen VK Singh, was to send out a clear warning and deter others from writing about their time in sensitive organisations and departments.
"Sure, you can't write about matters that compromises the nation's secrets. That's a strict no. But one cannot curtail freedom of expression. Everyone has a right to criticise the loopholes in the system," says a former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Maloy Krishna Dhar, who broke tradition by writing "Open Secrets, India's Intelligence Unveiled" in 2005.
"No government can put in place a set of guidelines for former intelligence officials to write about their experiences," Dhar told IANS.
His comment followed a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raid on Friday on Singh's residence for the publication of his book "India's External Intelligence: Secrets of Research & Analysis Wing" that criticises the Indian external intelligence agency's lack of leadership, accountability and its mishandling of some key events.
Singh also takes a swipe at the communication systems procured by the Special Protection Group for the prime minister from an American firm in 2001 and the defection of Rabinder Singh, a former RAW joint secretary, to the US in 2004.
"If this move is to muzzle others, then it is surely going to backfire. Is the Indian government unaware that almost every month officials from America's CIA and the British MI5 write books? Are they in jail? Intelligence agencies are better off learning from blunders that are committed," queried another senior official who has just retired from the intelligence establishment, declining to be identified.
"Why have they not acted on former intelligence officer B. Raman who just released his book, 'The Kaoboys of R&AW -- Down memory lane'?"
Raman, who retired as additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat in 1994, dwells at length on the history and evolution of the organisation and takes a critical look on several issues - the failure of authorities to take preventive steps in the run-up to Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and how the French intelligence had penetrated the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in the early 1980s.
Raman refused to comment on the raid at Singh's residence and on the publishers of his book. "I have no comments on this case," Raman told IANS from Chennai.
Dhar went on to point out that most of what Singh had written, especially about Rabinder Singh's defection and the handing over a tape to former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in June 1999, were in the public domain. "I have not read his book but I disagree with Singh on some matters."