24 March 2014
The outing of the ‘top secret’ Henderson Brooks report online only underlines India’s obsession with secrecy. The colonial OSA is cited when it comes to matters of security or intelligence even as the under-staffed National Archives is buried in a 2,00,000-file backlog. Sunday Times looks at how the government has become a black hole of Independent India’s history
In a sprawling corner office on the first floor of South Block occupied by the defence secretary, locked away in a vault lies the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 India-China war. Over the years, defence secretaries — including the BJP’s — have guarded the document as if it was the holy grail of Indian statehood. Even after sections of the report were released online by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell last week, there is no indication that the government will make the report public now.
The guardianship of national secrets is not the sole prerogative of the defence secretary. Babus, too, act as custodians of files that could throw better light on major incidents of the past and prove instructive on dealing with the next crisis. Quite a few military experts have pointed out that the Henderson Brooks report contained lessons that are as valid today as they were in 1962 such as the need to build roads in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector to tackle Chinese incursions.
… Declassification is not an issue that is limited to the military alone, says Anit Mukherjee, military researcher currently based in Singapore. “There is no one office/ officer whose job it is to declassify in any of the departments. Therefore the first rule of bureaucracy applies — If it is no one’s job, the job does not get done. Why is this so? For three reasons. Firstly, bureaucracies are afraid they may come across looking bad. Secondly, the existing historical myths suit them and revisiting the past may throw up uncomfortable facts. Third, the most charitable view, is that they don’t do it because they don’t think it is important. Hence, officials are not convinced that they have anything to learn from revisiting the past.”
GPO / IDSS / RSIS / Print
Last updated on