I would never under-estimate the Soviet influence in our country during the pre-Perestroika era. How else would I become a regular reader of ‘Misha’ (a Russian children’s magazine which now seemed to have achieved some kind of cult status thanks to its virtual disappearance) or participate in a rally conducted by a Catholic School promoting relations with the Soviet Union.
But when a former KGB intelligence officers sensational book implies that the Congress party, the Communist Party of India and most worryingly the Indian media was in the KGB payroll, I am inclined to dismiss it as another Ludlumisque long-drawn spy thriller, but for some meticulous details it provides.
Over the period of 12 years , Vasili Mitrokhin typed in 25,000 pages of sensitive information that he obtained from several KGB documents. When the Mitrokhin Archives finally came out, not less that three countries initiated parliamentary enquiries. It created a storm in India, columnists had a field time assessing Mitrokhin’s authenticity while political parties were trying to gain some mileage out of the affair. Inevitably conspiracy theories followed, putting the KGB name to assassinations of everyone from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Lal Bahadur Shastri to Rajiv Gandhi and infering that Sonia Gandhi was a KGB recruit.
Certainly, many politicians in India was and still is corrupt enough to be bought. But the Mitrokhin archives overwhelmed even our wildest nightmares. Barring some like India Today’s cover story on the affair, the Indian media allegedly tried to trivialise the whole issue, possibly taking into account that the archives indicate that some leading newspapers and media houses were in the KGB payroll.
As any ex-KGB man like Vladimir Putin would reckon, the KGB seldom leaves a trail of its activities. And when it does, it promises to raise a stink.
I am still searching for an old Misha cover.