A Cop Reminisces….
By Maxwell Pereira

I came to Delhi when for the first time a 'worthy' from my home State of Karnataka had just landed the seat in Rashtrapati Bhawan through what they called a 'conscience' vote. Soon after the time when the occupants of the nation's supreme law making body newly learnt how by the power of a mere show of their hands not only a 'wrong' could be 'right'ed…. but when needed, also that 'white' can be 'black' and vice versa. It was when despite being declared by the UPSC as eligible for appointment into the IPS on the basis of its 1968 combined services competitive examination, through some warped logic, an unfathomable quirk of fate landed me in Delhi Police via the route of Phillaur in Punjab, instead of the then expected route of Mount Abu.

None of these things I understood, nor did it matter then; for I was just a seedha sadha bola-bala south Indian simpleton who knew no Hindi nor Punjabi, nor the wiles of those that inhabited the lands north of the Vindhyas - a good knowledge of which, I was told, was a must for survival. And having arrived here from the beautiful air-conditioned garden city of Bangalore, I did not also understand why to the North Indian I was a madrasi when I was not from Madras - and on this score perhaps were the only brawls I had. Another strange myth that prevailed, which I found need to dispel despite my aversion and firm crusade against those who practised the caste system, was the seemed belief in the North that all Christians were of scheduled caste origin. This prompted me… nay forced me, to append to my name the family's ancestral surname of Kamath too. The reason why I did so, has not ceased to trouble me.

Which moves me on to the frightful next ….in the 'ways' of the North: The suspicion with which every non-Hindu was viewed. May be not to your face, but hovering above always was this constant under current dubbing the Muslim as an anti-national pro-Pakistani… and the Christian …well, a bit alien any way, who should have left the land like did others of the same ilk when the colonial powers left. Something further that I did not understand, having not witnessed this kind of a pervading hatred and distrust in all my growing years down south.

And as my days in the nation's capital progressed into years, I learnt how down the ages Delhi has always been plundered and raped by all …leaving behind a non-local seed and flavour of varied creed, cultures and mores, that spread across its land a fabric of myriad stock ….and even tribes that were once termed criminal. On this fabric was later superimposed from the days of the traumatic Partition the 'refugee' breeds that have since not ceased to infect its soil. Giving rise to lobbies - the powerful ones among them, the Bihari and the Punjabi ….and regional pockets be it of the Kashmiri, the Bengali, or the predominantly south-Indian Karol Bagh ….and a jhuggie-jhompri slum class from all over that's become the main-stay and the bread and butter of Delhi's new breed politicians. In the refugee category are the alien Bangladeshis too, whose multiplying strengths since the 1971 war - estimated today at over three lakhs in Delhi, about which bloody all have we been able to do. Delhi's refugee status is so real, that I have even heard a defence analyst tell a group of Rotarians that India's main concern for the stability of Pakistan next door, is the nagging fear of its entire population flooding Delhi as refugees should it ever split up or disintegrate for whatever reason. What a frightening prospect!

It was nice though, to land in Lutyen's Delhi …at a time when Delhi's remaining barren lands were not yet sullied by the new planners. As witnessed by me over the years, the romance of Lutyen's hundred year old dream-city part still lasts, while all else that's come up post-Independence is cracked and battered, bursting at every seam with inadequacies galore, breakdowns in amenities and facilities, clogged roads and chaotic parking. And with no attempt spared to ruin what Lutyen left behind too.

And despite Delhi Police over these past 32 years of my close association with it evolving and emerging as one of the finest police forces in the world ….one witnessed along the way the setting in of the rot among Delhi's people, the erosion over the years in the respect for the rule of law …and a misplaced priority to distinguish between major and minor crime without the need to treat all crime as something anti-social. Resulting in a tendency across the board for all to shrug away most things as minor depending on who the perpetrator is.. thereby contributing further to the lawlessness. In this category fall the realm of the traffic laws and general road user behaviour, where it is not uncommon for all ….even the self-righteous most elite of the elite, to always blame the other road user or the system without seeing the boulderous filth in one's own eye. Going by the saying - that the character of a city's people is reflected in the manner in which its traffic moves, I believe there is nothing much to write home about on the character of Delhi's people.

A totally materialistic lot devoid of all scruples, Delhi-ites - if one were to describe so the ones who have made Delhi their home temporarily or permanently - are not the most lovable of people. They are brash, loud and aggressive - whatever their historical reason for being so. And they have in them an inborn propensity to drop names, to pull strings, adopt short-cuts or extra-constitutional means, to bulldoze and to violate law, knowing how exactly to circumvent it, overcome it and overawe it.

Reminiscing through it all, one had occasion to witness in these past years of policing Delhi, the black-outs and other civil defence war time needs of 1971, followed by the agitational years of the likes of the railway strike and the kissan rallies ….the promulgation and the rout of the Emergency era and the connected rampage be it to arrest national leaders from their beds …..or for sterilising, if not for pseudo disciplining of the masses. And then midst the rewarding of sycophants - even as the hydra headed militancy and Punjab based terrorism reared its self in Delhi with Bhindranwale's gun-toting supporters on bus-rooftops invading the city with impunity …ultimately culminating with the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi leading to the '84 November riots - Delhi police's only real hour of shame like never before nor thereafter - not without a few bright sparkles though of exemplary deeds even in these trying times!

Simultaneously came the Maruti culture, and with it the yuppy and the puppy, driven by the new and newer exposure in the colour medium of communication. Also, suddenly there was so much money around with the landed whose lands the DDA acquired not knowing where to put their money, with land prices shooting up, and the economy generally looking up - leading to ever growing vulgar displays of opulent wealth and a farm-house culture that helped widen the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. The need to measure up to the times honed the Delhi police further to the needs of narcotics control, control of gangsterism, supari killings and kidnappings for ransom …and against forays by organized crime syndicates; not forgetting the cyber crimes of the recent times too. And most importantly, to thwart the constant challenges of an open enemy through its ISI to infiltrate and strike at will in the heart of the Capital and elsewhere. Talking of crime though, there has never been an occasion when Delhi Police has not been found wanting, or unable to rise to the occasion. The match-fixing cricket scam of course, catapulted Delhi police as a force par excellance to contend with, in the international arena.

Crimes that happened earlier, happened through the period and happen today too. Only, perhaps the viciousness has grown, as seen in the likes of the Tandoor and the Personal Point murders. A glaring change has been in the security scenario and the emergence of the 'vulnerable' category of a plethora of protected persons, whose very obtrusive gun toting commandos a much sought after commodity as a status symbol than for real security. Against the real threat from sponsored terrorists to not just a few prominent leaders, the focus of policing has indeed shifted to very jarring limits.

And through it all, is the process by which one gradually and without much ado perhaps evolves into a Delhi-ite, as the city some how grows on you. You start loving it - through its history, its cosmopolitan life and activity… its heritage and culture, the opportunities it has to offer, the challenges it can throw up, its national and international character. And not the least, for its growing cadre of committed individuals and public-spirited interest groups that have started raising their voice to fight against nepotism and temporary self interests. To whom quality of life matters enough to fight for it, to pay for it and achieve better standards. This glimmer of hope has indeed emerged in the very recent times, giving rise to a tremendous sense of satisfaction in what one contributes of his little mite to the city's advancement.

850 words: dated 24.08.2004.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com


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