The Other Side Of Policing

Foreword by Ved Marwah

The greatest gift one can give another is ‘abhaya-daan’ (the gift of fearlessness or relief from fear) – one of the pearls of wisdom from the mouth of Yudhishtir, the eldest of the Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata. And this gift of abhaya can be given to an aggrieved by none other than a policeman- so said a former Prime Minister in his message to the Delhi Police. The basic police role is to provide security of life and property to its citizens and maintain public order by enforcing the rule of law. It does so by preventing and detecting crime, maintaining public order, peace and tranquillity. Though police is primarily a service-oriented agency, we policemen in India, unfortunately, are yet to be viewed by the society as service-minded or even being helpful. There may be many reasons for this – one of them being the inability of the police to shake off its colonial hangover.

Policing Delhi, the nation’s capital, is a unique job, incomparable to policing anywhere else in the country. It has always been challenging and a complex task. Being the seat of the nation’s parliament, the hotbed of politics and political intrigues – the nation’s ills and grievances get reflected in Delhi. Also home to the vast diplomatic community deputed to India from countries across the world, Delhi is constantly under the hawk-eyed nose of both, the national and the international media. A city of refugees and migrants, Delhi is no less targeted by the crime-ridden hinterlands in its neighbourhood, making the task of Delhi policemen not easier. The burden of coping with the ever-growing complexities is on the Delhi police, and to meet the constantly emerging threats to society and the nation in an environment of insurgency, terrorism and naxalism that has taken root countrywide, Delhi’s policemen are always required to be alert – proactive, and not just reactive.

The police and the public have an ambivalent relationship. While no policing can succeed without public cooperation and help, attempts of the police and the community to come closer are often complicated and hampered by the fact that there is never one public, but many, with divergent views and values often tempered and influenced by a highly evolved media, sometimes with an agenda of its own. Despite these constraints, successful policing remains dependent upon winning the confidence of the people and getting their participation in community policing. For this, there is need to transform our officious grievance redressal machinery into a sympathetic and a public friendly system. The police at all levels should be made accountable to the people.

For one who strayed into the police profession, as most do consequent to the common selection process to the All India Services through the annual competitive examination, Maxwell Pereira in his policing career spanning 35 years built for himself a reputation as a people’s policeman, ever available to one and all for whatever help sought. PR Rajgopal, Delhi Police chief in the early 70s always noted and I can vouch for the fact that Maxwell with his easy accessibility, helpful attitude, always picking up his phone himself, be it at office or at home, any part of day or night, has carved a special place for himself in the heart of Delhi citizens. While being so Maxwell remained a thorough field professional, a committed ‘no nonsense’ man, never faltering in the efficient discharge of his duties.

I recall how when as a young officer in Parliament Street sub-division, I persuaded Maxwell against accepting an offer by the External Affairs Ministry for a deputation to the Muscat police. He had just got married while on casual leave at Mangalore and brought his bride to Delhi – and I had reasoned with him why take her to the barren deserts of the Gulf. My faith in him and for his retention in the Delhi Police was amply justified over the years that followed – Maxwell having acquitted himself commendably in every assignment and charge entrusted to him. His role in crisis situations like during the November ’84 riots, needs to be specially commended. Leading from the front he saw to it that the Sikhs were given full protection. I was appointed to enquire into the role of the Delhi police during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the area under his charge remained by and large riot free. Later, when I was appointed as the Delhi Police Commissioner, I depended on him to handle difficult law and order situations even outside his jurisdiction. I had to summon him from South Delhi to control the rioting Sikh agitators at Gurdwara Bangla Saheb in New Delhi District.

Maxwell’s flair for writing was discernible right from his early career days. Through his writings he has been a positive spokesperson for the police department, especially for the Delhi Police. He has throughout endeavoured to paint an authentic picture of a service torn between the commitment to uphold the rule of law and the compulsions of survival in a system that through its chequered history discounted the ethics of the calling. The chapters in “The Other Side of Policing” are but mere samples of his varied experiences in and out of uniform while still being a true policeman no less. His easy-flowing simple narrative style, often in a lighter vein, brings out not only the policeman in him, but also the warm personality of one who never allowed the rigours of his profession to come in the way or obscure his attributes as a good human being, or his creativity as a perceptive observer of his surroundings – be it nature or the scenic surroundings (some amazing insights into relevant history and nature for the avid traveller and the inquisitive reader too), issues confronting the service and the department, or just men and matters.

From eulogising lower rank minions attached to him in great instances of human interest laced with his subtle sense of humour, to his skirmishes with the right and wrong, and his brushes with time-honoured prejudices; to providing a fresh, engaging look at the gripping issues confronting contemporary law enforcement in the Indian context, the book covers all. Including aspects of the die-hard traditional crimes, of policing newer challenges thrown up by the emerging technologies, lifestyles and growing aspirations of an evolving ‘democratic’ people still stigmatised as hosting the world’s largest chunk of those below the poverty line, currently in an environment of a bullish booming economy governed by a highly politicized bureaucracy and criminalized polity with scant regard for the rule of law; to examining everything from the psychology of bosses in a disciplined environment of the uniform, to ground realities of the need for instant results which makes one wonder whether the end justifies the means; to the risks of being trigger happy – the book lets you travel new ground and meander through the Indian psyche to learn what makes its people tick; all in his unique style.

31 October 2007Ved Marwah

Ved Marwah is the former Commissioner of Police, Delhi, and later Governor of two Indian States (Manipur and Jharkand) with additional charge, for some time, of two more States (Mizoram and Bihar).

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