Space Secrets

How the CBI killed India’s biggest espionage case

01 November 2020
The first rocket in India was carried on a cycle as there was no road to the rocket launching station in the Thumba area of Thiruvananthapuram.
courtesy vikram sarabhai archives / nehru foundation for development
The first rocket in India was carried on a cycle as there was no road to the rocket launching station in the Thumba area of Thiruvananthapuram.
courtesy vikram sarabhai archives / nehru foundation for development

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IN DECEMBER 1994, MK Dhar, the joint director of the Intelligence Bureau, was travelling with Vijaya Rama Rao, the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, on a special flight from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram. Rao and other CBI officials were on their way to formally take over the investigation of a sensational espionage case that had taken political and media discussions in south India by storm.

The case involved the suspected transfer of space technology and information about India’s defence establishments in Bangalore to foreign nationals with links to Pakistan and Russia. At the centre were six suspects: two Maldivian women named Mariam Rasheeda and Fauziyya Hassan, two businessmen named K Chandrasekhar and SK Sharma, and, most controversially, two scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation, S Nambi Narayanan and D Sasikumaran. From mid October that year, as the IB and the Kerala police had worked to build a picture of the alleged espionage network, these names began to be leaked to the media. Since the scandal involved a massive security breach and was spread out across many states and several foreign countries, the Kerala government decided to transfer the case to the CBI.

Nileena MS is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. She can be reached at nileenams@protonmail.com.

Keywords: CBI Intelligence Bureau Espionage PV Narasimha Rao science technology space
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