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Radha Vinod Raju: a rare security expert, fine professional (Tribute)

New Delhi,Defence/Security, Thu, 21 Jun 2012 IANS

He was a devout Hindu who always kept a Bhagawat Gita by his side. He was secular to the core. He was a thorough professional, never showed bias, treated everyone fairly, and never compromised to go up the ladder. Above all, Radha Vinod Raju, the first head of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) who died Thursday, was an excellent human being.

I had the privilege of knowing Raju and his family intimately.

I came to know Raju when he headed the team that investigated Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. In that capacity, he literally chased - in Bollywood style, using every means of transport including helicopters - every suspect on the run in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere.

'There were times,' he once told me in Srinagar, 'when we were up all through the night. We would net one chap but another would slip away. We wouldn't rest till we caught the guys we wanted. Before it all got over, the LTTE realised it was facing an unbeatable foe in the CBI.'

By the time the hunt and the trial proved the involvement of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Gandhi's killing, Raju became a virtual walking encyclopedia on the LTTE and its now dead chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

He could recall exact words of each and every comment the LTTE and any of its members, senior or junior, had ever made on India, Gandhi, Indian politicians and the costly Indian military adventure in Sri Lanka in 1987-90.

He remembered accurately even titles and page numbers of LTTE publications and duration of LTTE videos. 'He is consumed by the LTTE!' his wife remarked at their house.

Raju would proudly recall that it was he who signed the Indian document urging Sri Lanka to extradite Prabhakaran.

But unlike many in his tribe, Raju never let any of his professional successes go to his head. In some ways, he was a spiritual person, one without ego. He was humble to the core and married to upright values.

A Konkani Malayali who was at equal ease in English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Malayalam besides Konkani, Raju began his career in a bank where he met his future wife, Achamma, a Syrian Christian.

He was a devoted husband and he doted on his daughters Renu and Sindhu and grandchildren.

He joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1975. After earning laurels in Kerala as a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer, he moved to Jammu and Kashmir, to whose cadre he belonged.

There he held several senior posts from the time militancy erupted. In the years he served in the Kashmir Valley, he gained the reputation as an officer who never discriminated on the basis of religion or community. He was spotlessly clean.

I sat unobtrusively in his Srinagar office when he chided a officer for seeking funds to increase the height of his house boundary wall. 'This is unacceptable,' Raju said. 'We officers can't be seen to be living in forts when people are asked to fight militancy.'

On another occasion, he told a young police officer: 'Great work! But do not wait for the terrorists to come. Find out where they are and hit them!'

He was very proud of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and did not take kindly to attempts, including by the army, to run it down. 'But for the Kashmir Police,' he told me, 'militancy can never be controlled.'

Although he was otherwise low profile and also very considerate to everyone, including young scholars who sought him on Kashmir and LTTE affairs, he could be tough if the situation demanded. He never courted any controversy and spoke to the media on a need-to-know basis.

He shunned VIPs outside of official duty.

After retiring as the first head of NIA, Raju devoted plenty of time to writing and lecturing on security affairs.

He was a voracious reader too. The government consulted him regularly on security issues. During the end, Raju despaired that Indian leaders were not uniting on matters of security and strategic affairs.

Only in May the Central Vigilance Commission made him a member of its board to help crack cases of fraud. But God, in His wisdom, had other plans for Raju.

(M.R. Narayan Swamy is Executive Editor at IANS. He can be contacted at narayan.swamy@ians.in)

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