“Kya Bharat jaise bade deshon ke liye kurbani dene walon ko yahi milta hai?”
– Ravindra Kaushik
The world of spies is oblivion, betrayal and torture – all rolled into one. Despite constant threats of perish, Indian spies have never shied away from the responsibility of putting their life in danger for the sake of protecting the motherland with gallantry. India’s Research and Analysis Wing popularly known as RAW is one such secret service agency which has not only executed several operations successfully, but has also been able to baffle other agencies. Operations such as Operation Kahuta, Operation Smiling Buddha, and Operation Meghdoot speak volumes about the RAW. The secret agency was also victorious in placing a spy as a Major in the Pakistani Army, popularly known as the Black Tiger, Ravindra Kaushik.
Let us shatter a few myths regarding a spy that exist in the society till today. To begin with, spies don’t receive access to savvy weapons or latest gadgets, as is inculcated in popular culture. They are barely given a pistol to work with. They don’t work in obscure locations with high-tech equipment. Instead they work in the most seemingly modest environments where terror lurks in the shadows, always ready to devour. Wearing a cloak of normalcy, they try to fit in a foreign environment always on the lookout for things that do not fit.
One such human weapon who adopted this life for the greater good of his country was Ravindra Kaushik. Born on 11th April, 1952 to a family based in Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, Ravindra was a man of many talents. Popularly known as the Black Tiger, a name speculated to have been conferred by Indira Gandhi herself, he is regarded as the best spy to have ever penetrated the ranks of the Pakistani Army. Ravindra Kaushik was an exemplary theatre artist who was spotted by the RAW officials during a national level dramatic meet in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The officials got in touch with him and persuaded him to become an undercover agent from India to infiltrate the Pakistani Army.
Kaushik was recruited by RAW and was given an arduous training for a period of two years. He was taught Urdu, his religion was converted to Islam, he was given an education in religion and was made familiar with the topography of Pakistan. He was sent to Pakistan in 1974, where he acquired the name Nabi Ahmed Sakhir, a resident of Islamabad. He joined the Karachi University where he completed his LLB and was later commissioned as an officer in the Pakistani Army. Gradually he was promoted to the rank of Major and during this period fell in love with a local Pakistani girl named Amanat. He never dropped a hint about his true identity to his wife which shows his adherence to his job.
During his tenure as a spy, he visited India a couple of times travelling via Dubai, from where he reached Delhi using his Indian Passport. He sent valuable information during his service but in 1979, an operation carried out by him was received with much admiration from his superiors for which he was awarded the title of Black Tiger. Some speculate that the title was given by India’s then home minister S.B Chavan, and some speculate it was given by then prime minister,Indira Gandhi. The secret information he supplied to the Indian Army foiled many of Pakistan’s war preparations. Ravindra Kaushik defied the Pakistani Army and it’s intelligence for 26 years.
In September 1983, another intelligence agent, Inayat Mahisa was sent to get in touch with Ravindra. In the process his alias was discovered and during the interrogation he broke down and revealed his purpose. He was sentenced to death which was reduced to life imprisonment by the meagre help from the Indian government which only made his life even more miserable. He was tortured and was transferred to various jails including the ones in Sialkot and Kot Lakhpat. During his imprisonment, he was able to send several letters to his father secretly. It is from these letters that we come to know about his life. In one such letter, he mentions “Kya Bharat jaise bade desko ke liye kurbani dene walon ko yahi milta hein?” which is probably true. According to a letter received from the Kot Lakhpat superintendent, he died from TB and heart disease caused by unseemly treatment sometime in the year 1999/2001 in the New Central Jail, Multan.
It is known for certain that his kid died in 2012–13 of unknown reasons. However, there is no information regarding his wife Amanat. Most probably, she must have also been arrested, as it is a common practice by most counterintelligence agencies, and put through severe interrogation and torture resulting in her probable death in captivity. Both Kaushik’s brother and ailing 72-year-old mother Amladevi hold the government responsible for the death of her son and her husband, who died of shock and terror. All their pleas since 1987 to secure Kaushik’s release from Pakistan custody fell on deaf ears. They wrote several letters but got no response apart from a few foreign ministry dispatches that said “his case has been taken up with Pakistan”.
One such letter from Amladevi to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee read: “Had he not been exposed, Kaushik would have been a senior army officer of the Pakistan government by now and (continued in) the coming years (to serve India secretly).”
They say, if you live by the sword, you die by one. But dying for a cause which is at one with your heart and mind is no wretched deal at all. He might have not been celebrated upon his death like other heroes are. But that does not make him any less of a hero. His unsung life and death only make his service and sacrifice appear all the more altruistic.