It is a sort of comedy of errors!
Two persons ,clearly desperate, to contact the Russian Ambassador of Afghanistan- neglecting the January frost bite of Kabul landed themselves in all sorts of trouble. First they discussed among themselves at length how to evade the notice of patrolling Afghan policeman in front of the Russian embassy. The short, lean man from the duo was after finding a person from the embassy who is Russian –hand him a letter meant for the Ambassador. But in reality it proved out to be a tricky job- first day he encountered a person and told him in Dari- a version of the local Persian language that he wanted to hand a letter to the Ambassador. The person assumed him to be a local Afghan and avoided him. The second day he encountered two women who were not even bothered to speak at him.
Is it a scene from a Charlie Chaplin movie sequence? It is not exactly so!
History will remember This short and thin man as the man who had escorted Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in the Great Escape from Kolkata (the then Calcutta) to Kabul-the capital of Afghan territory an act that ultimately threatened the British Lion during the second World War. The man was Bhagat Ram Talwar –a Hindu Pathan from the North West Frontier Province of British India –who had done his bit as a member of the Kirti Party in the India’s struggle for freedom.
Is that all? Is that the total identity of the unimpressive looking man?
Who was he actually? Friend or foe? Betrayer or helper?
The pendulum continues to swing.
‘The Indian spy- The True story of the Most Remarkable secret Agent of World War II’ by Mihir Bose- a London based author and journalist is the pioneering effort to bring out a full length biography on the man who according to contemporary records and secret files acted as a quintuple secret agent acting for Britain, Italy, Germany, Japan and the USSR. His story is sure to bit the wildest imagination of any spy thriller writer. Bose made extensive research from archives of British, Japanese, U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. and had made a series of interviews with the persons concerned. He consulted secret war documents, and then made a sketch of the person. The writer made very detailed study of the contemporary politics and international relation -to arrive at a neat and perfect study of the character who dared to fool them all.
The story of Talwar-who was lovingly given the name ‘Silver ‘by his British Secret Service bosses, first caught the fancy of the writer while working on the full length biography of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Talwar- the Hindu Pathan from the British North West Frontier province was a follower of the Communist ideology. Still he preferred to work for the Fascist Powers during the war days. Apart from the fact that both Communism and Fascism were derived from Hegel-there was nothing in common. It does not make sense either. So the Writer made an obvious conclusion- Talwar acted as a double agent- both for the Allied and the Axis powers during the turbulent days. In his words-‘How I wondered, was it possible that by 1942 all Silver’s associates had been arrested by the British but he was free to on with his spying. I concluded that ‘even when we have allowed for (his) extraordinary brilliance at deception we are left with some doubts….the record is so murky that a clear answer is impossible.
The book started with a detailed study of the socioeconomic scenario of the North West Frontier study. The study continued with a quick recollection of India’s quest for freedom in between the time period from the end of First World War to the rise of extremist period in India or we may say-more broadly a transformation from moderate to extremist challenge in India. Talwar was from a family background that participated actively in the extremist movement-in the words of the author-‘the Silver family were now rebels in British eyes and several of his family members, including Jamuna Das were arrested. Silver himself was released in September when he had served his sentence but was then immediately rearrested under the Frontier Crime Regulation Act.’ Although Talwar hailed from a well off aristocrat landowner’s family- his association with the peasant movement allowed him to come closer to the socialist segment of congress and ultimately to Subhash Chandra Bose. This association ultimately paved the way for Talwar to become a spy. The writer commented-‘ Silver decided to follow Bose and became the NWFP propaganda Secretary of the party. In India at that time the word propaganda was seen in a positive light and Silver gloried in the title.’
War had changed the life of Talwar- and his story begun! As an escort of Netaji to the roads of Afghanistan he discovered his true worth or rather the world discovered this hidden treasure. His association with Netaji gave him ample opportunity to come closer to the Axis powers and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Further he had the added advantage- Netaji himself had nominated him to work as his agent. The unimpressive looking impressive character won the confidence of the axis power-swindled 2.5 million pound in today’s valuation from the Axis nations. Not only was that he given transmitters for setting up operating station inside India to create insurgency. Needless to say-those valuable equipments and money have been used for the benefit of soviet and British power. As a spy he supplied them with baseless information which was ultimately used for the benefit of Allied troops. Not only had he deceived Axis powers- he also deceived Netaji by creating a false impression of his organizational set up in India.
But why he did so? According to the writer his first and foremost commitment was to the communist party. Soviet power allowed him to work for the British power- and he fulfilled his promises. Even in his book the master spy had made a false impression that he worked diligently for Netaji. The writer rightly commented-‘’Silver was a wonderful tool for proving that not all communists worked against Bose. Why, here was a man who had helped him escape, and throughout the war worked for him in league with the Italians, the Germans and Japanese.’’
This book as we have earlier said was not only a full length biographical sketch of the spy- but also a treasure trove of contemporary events-particularly of wartime days. The book is written in a lucid way- which transformed the book to an enjoyable read from a dry book of information.
It is a sort of comedy of errors!