IIAS Newsletter 14, Autumn 1997, South Asia 07

IIASNewsletterNo 14Regions

South Asia


Indian Political Intelligence Files Released for Research


In August 1997, 751 files and volumes of the former Indian Political Intelligence organization were released for public consultation at the British Library's Oriental and India Office Collections. The withholding of these files has caused the academic community some concern since the 1980s. In effect, the non-availability of the files has rendered the writing of a proper survey of revolutionary movements in India between 1916 and 1947 frustratingly incomplete.

Some of the files were previewed and discussed by Patrick French in his recent book Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division (London, 1997) and articles in The Times Higher Education Supplement 'Shadow Games as the Sun Set' (1 August 1997, p19) and 'Red Letter Day' in The Sunday Times Review section, (10 August 1997, p 6).

The Public and Judicial (Separate) P&J(S) or POL(S) series of the former India Office comprise the files of Indian Political Intelligence (IPI). IPI was a shadowy and formerly non-avowed organization, within the Public and Judicial Department of the India Office in London, devoted to the internal and external security of British India.

In consequence of the development of Indian anarchist activities in England in 1909, the India Office suggested (after consultation with Scotland Yard and the Government of India) that an officer of the Indian Police should be placed on deputation in England. The organization he headed was first called the Indian Political Intelligence Office, but the name finally decided on for this organization in 1921 was Indian Political Intelligence or 'IPI'.

Major John Arnold Wallinger, a senior Indian Police officer, was deputed to England in 1910 'for the purpose of observations upon Indian revolutionaries and criminals (connected with India) of all nationalities'. This activity increased during the First World War. In view of war conditions, Wallinger was provided with an assistant, Philip C Vickery, Indian Police, in 1915, whose duty was to 'watch anti-British conspiracies in England and Europe, so far as they affect Indian interests' and Indian conspirators attempting to attack the British government of India. During the First World War information collected on German efforts to create dissatisfaction among Indians in Europe became of great value to the War Office and Vickery worked in close co-ordination with Military Intelligence in Europe to 1919 and also in the United States, returning to duty in India in 1923. John Wallinger retired in April 1926 and was succeeded by Vickery as head of IPI in October 1926. Vickery remained IPI chief until the organization was closed in August 1947 and transferred to T.G. Sanjevi Pillai, Director Intelligence Bureau, Government of India. In 1950 the remains of IPI's organization became known as the OS4 branch of the Security Service (MI.5).

After the 1935 Government of India Act, IPI became a subsidiary of the Intelligence Bureau, although in practice it was autonomous. IPI was run jointly by the India Office and the Government of India. British, European, and American operations were run by IPI in London. Indian operations were run by the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Home Department, Government of India or DIB, (also known in India as the Secret Service). A Central Intelligence Officer in each province of India (usually seconded from the local police force) received information by close liaison with the Provincial Intelligence Branches and from sources run within the provinces and other informal sources.

IPI reported to the Secretary of the Public and Judicial Department of the India Office, the Director, Criminal Intelligence India and maintained close contact with Scotland Yard and MI.5. IPI shared accommodation with MI.5 from 1924. When this was bombed in 1940 the organization moved with MI.5 to Oxford, returning to London in 1945.

Unique material

The files are a catch-all for India Office political intelligence data, including correspondence with the Director of the Intelligence Bureau in India (DIB), on intelligence matters about pre-Independence India. They include much material originating with the Security Service (MI.5), the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI.6) and Scotland Yard's Special Branch. The files contain intelligence data on communism and other Indian political or revolutionary movements (notably the Communist Party) in India between 1916 and 1947; surveillance of Indian revolutionaries abroad and British and foreign sympathisers; proscription of certain publications; censorship of mails; notes and reports on personalities, intercepted letters and passport controls. According to one IPI officer these records differ little from records maintained by MI.5 and MI.6. The files expose in detail the existence and operations of a secret intelligence organization operating both in Europe and the USA. IPI was also the India/Burma section of MI.5, and it was the only Imperial or Dominion intelligence agency which was permitted to operate out of London.

The archive is so far unique - the only known instance of a British intelligence organization's archives being opened to the public for research. Summing up the value of the files, Patrick French comments, 'An ambitious PhD student could have a field day'. *

For further details:


The British Library

Oriental and India Office Collections

197 Blackfriars Road, London

SE1 8NG, United Kingdom

Tel: +44-171-4127832 (Geber)

Tel: +44-171-4127837 (Farrington)

Fax: +44-171-4127858

E-mail: oioc-enquiries@bl.uk