Table of Contents

   A spy and a gentleman
   Doyen of Indian intelligence
   Czar of India's Counter
   Life and Times of R.N. Kao
   The Legend Called RN Kao
   RN Kao's World View
   RN Kao's Major Feats

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Pandit Rameshwar Nath Kao

The Czar of India's Counter Intelligence

by Dr. B.N. Sharga

BN ShargaIn modern times, a well organised intelligence net work is a must for any country for maintaining its internal security and for properly protecting it from foreign aggression. It is now considered as the back bone of the administration to maintain proper law and order. The intelligence inputs help the government of the day to take effective measures in time for maintaining peace and communal harmony. Even in medieval times, kings and emperors used to employ the spies for getting the correct information about the happenings in their respective kingdoms and empires. So for running any administration smoothly and effectively, we must have a good intelligence setup which acts as its eyes and ears. After the massive Chinese aggression in 1962, a need was felt to have an agency to gather foreign intelligence so that our nation should not be caught unawares in future about any such misadventure by our neighbouring countries. The man who gave a concrete shape to this idea with solid foundation was Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kao, popularly known as Ramji among his friends and colleagues. He not only organised a vast intelligence network for gathering foreign intelligence known as Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) but also gave entirely a new meaning to the system of monitoring such secret information.

R.N.Kao’s ancestor Pt. Ghasi Ram Kao was originally a resident of Srinagar district of the Kashmir Valley. He came out from the Kashmir valley in the beginning of the 18th century in search of a job and landed in Delhi with his son Pt. Damodar Das Kao and other family members. Pt. Damodar Das Kao had two sons, Gulab Rai and Daya Nidhan besides a daughter Benobibi who was married in a Channa family. Pt. Daya Nidhan Kao came to Oudh from Delhi during the rule of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula (1775-1798) and became a dewan in his court. He settled down with his family in Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow where he built two houses for his living. He had two sons, Badri Nath and Bhola Nath besides a daughter Gaurishuri who was married in a Dar family of the locality. Pt. Bhola Nath Kao constructed a big well for providing drinking water to his community members residing in the area. This well was subsequently named after him as ‘Bhola Nath Ka Kuan’. This historical well still exists on Ab. Aziz Road and now the whole locality is known by that name. Munshi Ram Sahai ‘Tamanna’ has written in his book that once Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula paid a visit to his house in Kashmiri Mohalla while going to Dargah Hazrat Abbas to pay his obeisance there, which is considered to be the most sacred shrine of Shia Muslims. Pt. Badri Nath Kao had four sons viz. Ratan Nath, Kedar Nath, Kameshwar Nath and Bishambhar Nath besides three daughters Dhanwanti Shuri, Anandi Shuri and Sharika Shuri. His eldest daughter Dhanwanti Shuri was married with Pt. Ayodhya Nath Kaul Bakshi and his younger daughter Sharika Shuri was married with Pt. Brij Nath Hukku of the locality. Pt. Kedar Nath Kao after completing his education, became a deputy collector during the British period and lived in Ram Nagar, Benaras (Varanasi) for quite some time. He had two sons Triloki Nath and Dwarika Nath.

Ancestral Haveli of Pt. R.N. Kao in Lucknow.

Ancestral Haveli of Pt. R.N. Kao in Lucknow.


Portion of the Haveli used by servants.

Portion of the Haveli used by servants.

Pt. Triloki Nath Kao, after completing his education became a chemist and shifted from Lucknow to Baroda whereas his younger brother Pt. Dwarika Nath Kao became a deputy collector. Pt. Triloki Nath Kao was married to Daya Shuri Zutshi who was the daughter of Pt. Shambhu Nath Zutshi of Lucknow. He had three sons viz. Parmeshwar Nath, Arjun Nath and Gyan Nath besides three daughters, Rameshwari, who was married to Pt. Rameshwar Nath Gurtu, Lakshmishwari, who was married to Pt. Vishwanath Sapru and Shantishwari, who was a professor in the Banaras Hindu University and remained unmarried till her death in 1998. Pt. Dwarika Nath Kao was married to Khemwati Kaul who was the daughter of Pt. Srikishan Kaul of Lahore. He had two sons Rameshwar Nath and Shyam Sunder Nath. Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kao was born on 2nd October 1917 in Benaras where his grand father Pt. Kedar Nath Kao was posted as deputy collector at that time. His father Pt. Dwarika Nath Kao died quite young at Lucknow in 1923. His younger brother Pt. Shyam Sunder Nath Kao was born after the death of his father and so was a posthumous child. R.N.Kao was brought up by his uncle Pt. Triloki Nath Kao, so he had his early schooling in Baroda which was under the Bombay Presidency in the British period. He did his matriculation in 1932 and intermediate in 1934 from Baroda. He then came to Lucknow for higher studies. He did his B.A. in 1936 from Lucknow University and M.A. in English literature in 1938 from the University of Allahabad and was an inmate of the Muir Hostel. R.N.Kao also did job in a cigarette company for some time which was floated by Pt. Jag Mohan Narain Mushran who was the Chief Judge of the Benaras State at that time, for his son who died subsequently. In 1938, R.N.Kao joined the law classes in the Allahabad University and did his LL.B (Prev.) in 1939. He simultaneously appeared for the Indian Police Examination. He was selected as an I.P. in 1940 and so could not complete his law course at the University. R.N.Kao after his selection in the I.P. was sent to Moradabad for an extensive course in Police Training College there. Since he had a fetish for cleanliness so temperamentally his relationship with his superior British officers at the Training College and other British trainees was not very cordial, since they used to dress up very shabbily. After completing his training he got his first posting in Kanpur in 1940 as an A.S.P. in the civil police. R.N.Kao soon realised that while doing service in the civil police department and performing routine duties, he will not be able to show much of his talent and calibre, so he switched to Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) which was constituted by the British to gather vital informations in the country. He was the first Hindu officer to join this highly sensitive department which was packed with British and Muslim officers at that time. R.N.Kao got married at Allahabad on 21st January 1942 to Malini, the daughter of Justice Tej Narain Mulla of Allahabad. When India became free in 1947 and Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru became its first Prime Minister, the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) was reorganised to suit the needs of an independent country. Its founder director Bhola Nath Mullick saw to it that this vital intelligence gathering agency in the country would not become another Gestapo (Secret Service) of Adolf Hitler of Germ a n y . B.N.Mullick groomed this agency on different lines and R.N.Kao was entrusted with the task of looking after the security ring of the Prime Minister Pt. Nehru. R.N.Kao performed this challenging job very well and made his own mark in this specific field. In 1950s Pt. Nehru sent R.N.Kao to Ghana to help Prime Minister Nkrumah and to set up an intelligence and security organisation in that country, a job he carried out with great professional skill. When the air crash of the famous jetliner ‘Kashmir Princess’ took place just before the historic Bandung Conference, R.N.Kao was deputed by India along with Chinese and British secret agents to find out the real cause of this air mishap. After the massive Chinese invasion of 1962, the Indian government felt the need of having an altogether separate wing apart from IB for gathering foreign intelligence. Consequently, a super secret technical intelligence agency known as Aviation Research Centre (ARC) was constituted in 1963 and R.N.Kao was made its director. His professional ability and skill in the areas of organising and management of intelligence was superb because he deeply studied the working of the secret intelligence service of UK known as ‘Scotland Yard’, CIA of America and BND of the then West Germany. When Mrs. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of the country after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966, she felt the need to have a dynamic and scientific intelligence network in the country to monitor foreign intelligence. She entrusted this task to R.N.Kao as she had seen his style of working earlier from close quarters during his stint with Pt. Nehru at the Teen Murti House. R.N.Kao did this job in a remarkable time and constituted a new wing for exclusively gathering foreign intelligence known as Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) on 21st September 1968. Mrs. Indira Gandhi appointed him as its founder director and simultaneously he was made a Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat. His main job was to assist Mrs. Gandhi on security matters of the country. R.N.Kao played a key role in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 by providing vital intelligence inputs to our armed forces during the Indo-Pak war in which about 90,000 Pakistani soldiers armed to the teeth under the command of Gen. N.A.K.Niazi surrendered before the Indian troops in Dhaka, under the command of Lt. Gen. Jagjeet Singh Arora without firing a single bullet. Nowhere in the world such a thing had ever happened before in military warfare, the credit for which squarely goes to R.N.Kao and his meticulous planning. R.N.Kao retired from active government service in 1977 after attaining the age of superannuation. After his retirement from service, he became a senior advisor to Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1980 when she became the Prime Minister of the Country for the second time. After the Operation Blue Star, Mrs. Gandhi felt the need to have an elite force trained exclusively to deal firmly with the growing menace of terrorism in the country. She again entrusted this task to R.N.Kao to raise these special units to carry out surgical missions and other specific operations. R.N.Kao subsequently raised the battalions of National Security Guards capable of handling most sophisticated weapons and performing difficult tasks under most abnormal conditions. He worked with Mrs. Indira Gandhi till her assassination in 1984. From 1980, he supervised both IB and RAW and thus became a czar of Indian intelligence. He floated the idea for the first time in a democratic India for a special security ring around the Prime Minister. When Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of the country in 1984, he again appointed R.N.Kao as his security advisor. The split in the Congress Party and formation of Jan Morcha by V.P.Singh forced Rajiv Gandhi to bow out from office in 1988 and with him, R.N.Kao also sought retirement and started leading a calm and quiet life at his residence ‘Sakeeta’ E-10/2, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. On 16th January 2002, R.N.Kao paid a visit to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi to see his younger brother Shyam Sunder Nath Kao, who was admitted there for some treatment. All of a sudden, he felt pain in his chest. He was at once admitted in the Intensive Care Unit for observation, where he breathed his last in the early morning of 20th January 2002 at the age of 84 years. He was cremated at the Nigambodh Ghat where his grandson lit his funeral pyre. Many dignitaries of the country like the leader of the opposition in Parliament Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir state Mr. Girish Saxena attended his funeral. The President of the country K.R.Narayanan in his condolence message said, “Kao occupied a crucial position in our government set up and significantly contributed to enhance the efficiency and professionalism of law enforcement agencies by introducing innovative mechanisms of intelligence collection.”

R.N.Kao was most meticulously dressed person with soft voice and pleasing manners. It is because of this temperament that he was liked by his colleagues even belonging to other services. He never threw his rank or his powerful connections at them. He helped those in distress and sometime people took undue advantage of his attitude. Suave and polite, he was never known to raise his voice. In the intelligence circle, some top officials trained by him are known as ‘Kaoboys’. They are nor mavericks but are identified by their quiet, behind the door operations for which their mentor R.N.Kao was famous. R.N.Kao always avoided publicity and was shy of facing a camera. During his long service period, he was photographed only once. In his death, the country has lost the biggest name in the intelligence community. It is said that after his role in the creation of Bangladesh, the Americans became so much impressed by the Indian intelligence support to Mukti Bahini that they started teaching the whole operation to their secret agents in West Point. He was a perfect gentleman to the core of his heart. The exalted position of RAW in our country and outside and its rich contribution to our national security owe a lot to R.N.Kao. Those who had a chance to work under him still remember his kindness and generosity. It is hoped that the central government would duly honour this giant of Indian counter intelligence by conferring upon him the civil title ‘Bharat Ratna’ posthumously as his name fully deserves this recognition for his extraordinary service to the nation in its hour of peril. One can achieve anything in life if he has a firm determination and an iron will to do the same, so says ‘Nirankar Sevak’, a noted Hindi poet very candidly in the following lines:

Aakash ka yeh jaal utho

chal ke tod dein

Tufan aur andhiyon ki

dishaon ko mo dein

Dharti ke dukh ko dekh jo

nahin pigal sake

Un badalon ko muthi mein

kas kar nichor dein

*(Dr. B.N. Sharga has authored six-volume ‘Kashmiri Panditon Ke Anmol Ratan’, a history of Kashmiri Pandits in Diaspora.)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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