The real life behind a 2002 spy thriller
Seven years ago, Maloy Krishna Dhar wrote Mission to Pakistan: An Intelligence Agent in Pakistan, describing the life of an Indian spy.
The former joint director of India’s Intelligence Bureau had always said his book was based on the life of an agent but he never revealed his identity.
In all likelihood, the real-life spy was Ravindra Kaushik, who died a humiliating death as Nabi Ahmed in 2002 at the age of 50 in a jail in Multan.
Seven years after he died, based on interviews with intelligence officials and Kaushik’s brother Rajeshwarnath, who lives in Jaipur, HT pieced together the Indian agent’s life story.
“There are resemblances between Kaushik’s character and my book’s protagonist,” Dhar finally admitted.
Born and brought up in Sriganganagar, a border town in Rajasthan, Kaushik grew up to be a charismatic college student, with above-average intelligence and looks. He was theatrically inclined, and staged mono-acting skits in college.
As an impressionable teenager growing up between 1965 and 1971, when India went to war with Pakistan, Kaushik became a fervent patriot.
“It was probably his mono-act in college in which he played an Indian army officer who refused to divulge information to China that caught the attention of intelligence officers,” said Rajeshwarnath Kaushik, two years younger than Ravindra.
Soon after completing his Bachelors in Commerce, Kaushik left for Delhi, entering a world of intrigue and danger.
He moved from there to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, ending up in Pakistan, writing letters home every once in a while to let his family know of his whereabouts.
In Pakistan, he converted to Islam, changed his name, married a local girl, graduated from a law college and finally, became the ultimate insider by entering the Pakistani army.
But just when he had infiltrated the inner fortress, his career came to an abrupt halt. In 1983, when he was 29, an Indian agent called Inayat Masiha, caught by Pakistan as he was crossing the border, blew Kaushik’s cover.
Masiha arranged to meet with Kaushik in a park, where Pakistan’s intelligence agencies arrested him on charges of espionage and threw him into a Multan jail. He remained there for 18 years.
Just three days before his death, he wrote a bitter letter home: “Had I been an American, I would have been out of this jail in three days.”
The only thing the government did after he died was to send his parents some money every month as pension, said Rajeshwar. The family first got Rs 500 a month, and after a few years, they began receiving Rs 2,000 a month -- until 2006, when their mother Amladevi died. Their father had already died of a stroke two years following his son’s death.
The only person in India who cherishes Kaushik’s memory is his younger brother. “He will always remain important for me,” Rajeshwar said. “But for the country, he was just another agent.”