Reuters, Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Security New Delhi, November 7: There are scarcely any Muslims working in the country's 10,000-strong external intelligence agency, and neither Muslims nor Sikhs working as bodyguards for the country's top leaders, according to officials and media reports.
The domestic Intelligence Bureau (IB) had decided to recruit Muslims in the l990s, Outlook said, but the organisation still only had a "handful" of Muslim officers.
A government spokesman declined to comment on the report.
An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Outlook was wrong to say there were no Muslims in RAW but right to say there were scarcely any.
Nor were there any working as bodyguards in the Special Protection Group (SPG) assigned to protecting current and former prime ministers and their families, he said.
"It is an unwritten rule in the SPG that they cannot recruit a Muslim or a Sikh," he informed.
AS Dulat, who served as RAW chief from 1999 to 2000, said he did not recall coming across any Muslims in the organisation but could not confirm the Outlook report.
"If we do not have any Muslims obviously this is a handicap," he said. "If there are no Muslims, there must have been a reluctance to take them in. It is also not easy to find that many Muslims."
Need for Muslims acute
Sikhs have not been used as bodyguards since Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her personal Sikh bodyguards in 1984 at the height of a Sikh insurgency, Outlook said.
Dulat said Sikhs had come "under a cloud" following Gandhi's murder, but found it hard to believe they would still be excluded from bodyguard duties today.
Leaked excerpts of a specially commissioned report, due to be published this month, have shown Muslims are significantly underrepresented in government jobs and in the judiciary but overrepresented in the prison populations in many states.
There are just 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3-million strong armed forces, according to the defence ministry.
But Outlook magazine's report will also raise concerns about whether India's intelligence gathering will be effective without Muslim agents and officers.
"The need for Muslim officers in intelligence-gathering is acute," another former RAW chief, Girish Chandra Saxena, was quoted as saying. "There are very few people who have knowledge of Urdu or Arabic. The issue has to be addressed."
The country has its first Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, but his community is not trusted enough to guard him, according to Outlook magazine this week.
The magazine said Muslims were not trusted by the security apparatus because of fears they could sympathise with Pakistan.
It said none had been recruited by the country's external spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), since 1969.