Rameshwar Nath Kao
Czar of India's Counter Intelligence
B. N. Sharga
modern times, a well organised intelligence network 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 unaware 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
Kao 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 informations.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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
Nath Kao was married with 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
with Pt. Rameshwar Nath Gurtu, Lakshmishwari, who was married with Pt.
Vishwanath Sapru and Shantishwari, who was a professor in the Banaras Hindu
University and remained unmarried till her death in 1998.
Nath Kao was married with 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.
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.
also did a 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.
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.
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.
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.
got married at Allahabad on 21st January 1942 with Malini, the daughter
of Justice Tej Narain Mulla of Allahabad.
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 Gastopo (Secret Service) of Adolf Hitler of Germany.
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 did this challenging job very well and made his own
mark in this specific field.
Pt. Nehru sent R.N.Kao to Ghana to help Prime Minister Nikrumah and to
set up an intelligence and security organisation in that country which
he carried out with great professional skill.
the air crash of the famous jetliner ‘Kashmir Princess’ took place just
before the historic Bundung Conference, R.N.Kao was deputed by India along
with Chinese and British secret agents to find out the real cause of this
the massive Chinese invasion of 1962, the Indian government felt the need
of having an altogether separate wing apart from IB for fathering 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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.
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.
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.”
was a 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.
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 chanceto 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
ka yeh jaal utho chal ke tod dein
andhiyon ki dishaon ko mo dein
dukh ko dekh jo nahin pigal sake
ko muthi mein kas kar nichor dein