Part 1 of a 3-part story
Vinod Sahni was a taxi Driver in the 1970s in Jammu and used to ply locally as well as on the Srinagar-Jammu Route working long hours. He was twenty-two at the time and was weighed under the responsibility of supporting his family, a responsibility that had not dawned upon him in full strength back then. The following is his narration of the events that led him to becoming a spy for India in Pakistan:
People do not introduce themselves when they are paying you to travel from an area to another. I remember the day clearly when this man, who I know as Inspector Dhar, came and sat in my taxi. Some passengers like to talk while others keep to themselves and this man was of the former kind. He casually warmed up to me and during the ride asked me,
“Kitna Kama lete ho? How much do you make?”
To which I answered, “Sometimes thirty. On better days forty.” That was what one could make back in the ’70s.
This continued to something exciting when he asked me, “Would you ever like to work for the government?”
He had all my attention and I, just an eighth class pass, obviously answered in the affirmative. We were at Jewel Chowk and he asked me to stop there, “I cannot give you the job on my own and it is my senior who would be able to take the final call. Meet me here tomorrow morning.”
I was excited, this man was a God to me offering a job that I never dreamed of. I did not know what this job was but I was excited and went home early that day and rested. Next morning I woke up early, offered prayers to the Gods and left early without discussing a word with my parents wanting to surprise them once I had the job in hand.
I reached Jewel Chowk and the man, who till date I know only as Inspector Dhar, came after a short wait and sat in my taxi.
“Are you ready?”
“The greed for this job brought me here Sir.”
“Swarn Theater,” he said and we left for the place.
We stopped opposite a tea stall which was managed by the famous Bansi, the owner of today’s Monica Super Market. Inspector Dhar got off and asked me to wait in the car. After about half an hour he came back with an officer. I ran to open the door for him but he waved signalling a no and shook hands with me first. The officer asked me to lock my taxi and we walked towards a government jeep with a driver dressed in BSF uniform.
From here we went to 32 BSF house which was back then a safe house. The place was heavily guarded by BSF men and I was taken to a room and offered tea. What I did for a living and how much I made along with other details of my insignificant life were asked.
“You have so many family members to support. With this much money, it would be difficult to support them all,” asked the senior officer who told me his name was Chadda.
“I do what I can do Sir.”
“Would you like to do a sarkari naukri (Government Job)?”
I answered in the positive and I was so excited that in my excitement did not ask what the sarkari naukri was. I had no idea my government appointment would mean working on the foreign soil, in Pakistan.
“I have another senior officer that I have to consult before we can give you the job. We need to go and meet him right now.”
They took me to Akhnoor road this time.
“Sir my taxi is parked at Swarn Theater.”
“Don’t worry, your taxi will reach your home.”
I was still excited about the job and did not care since happy times were ahead of me. With a government job, I could support my family in a brand new way and everyone was going to live a more comfortable life now I thought.
In the night at about 11pm, more officers came. I was asked to remove each article I was wearing at the time. I protested but they reaffirmed, this was required. I hesitatingly took off my clothes one by one. They removed the tailor marks from the shirt, the pants and the seal from the inside of my shoes. They asked for cigarettes or matchbox or any other object but I had nothing.
After that I was allowed to wear my clothes and conversations with these officers went on for two and a half hours. I was offered a sarkari naukri in this conversation but not once was I told what my mission was going to be.
“Chadda Sahab is going to be your in-charge and you will be working on his instructions.”
In the morning we left back for Jammu. I told them that I wanted to inform my parents saying that my mother would be worried sick for me for not having returned home.
“We cannot stop. Our officer is waiting for you already and we are late.”
I could not protest for the government job was a God’s gift. We passed Jammu and drove straight to R.S. Pura where we rested in a safehouse again. After dinner, we went to Suchetgarh border where a subedar and a couple of constables came with a register and took my details.
Mr Chadda approached me and said, “You have to tour Pakistan over the next couple of days.”
I tried to register a small protest with a whimper, “Janaab? Sir?”
“Janaab kuch nahi, ye kaam tumhe karna hai,” exclaimed Chadda!
No Janaab nothing, You have to do this
“We have spent so much money on you. We have wasted our days. You cannot say no now,” Chadda thundered.
I wanted to snatch their guns and shoot them all but they all gheraoed me and I fell under pressure.
Tomorrow, 9 March at 5 pm, we would be publishing part 2 of this real life story. Your feedback in the box below would be much welcome. In fact, it would be required for motivation to bring such stories to you time and again.