The Daroga Raj
By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi

maxpk@vsnl.com

I was introduced to the term 'Daroga' for the first time on that fateful night of 25th June 1975 - the time recorded in the annals of our Nation's history as the night when Emergency was declared. As SDPO Parliament Street and supervising the nightlong swoop of arrests, a very young me in the wee hours of the morning had stepped also into the Dr Bishambar Das Marg residence of political heavy weight Raj Narain - remembered more for successfully petitioning the Allahabad High Court against Indira Gandhi in an election petition… and pictured always with the green bandana kerchief tied round his pate. Shell shocked as he was with the turn of events, I remember him placing his hand on my shoulder, addressing in Hindi this naïve… then not much Hindi comprehending South-Indian me as "Daroga-ji…" and resignedly uttering, "…..'tis not your fault; after all you are doing your duty!" It was only later, when I enquired of my Inspector, I learnt the term daroga was normally reserved for an officer-in-charge of a police station in UP - invariably then a sub-inspector…. but by then though it was too late to correct the venerable leader's perception to tell him that I was way above that rung in the hierarchical level.

The indigenous system of police in India in comparison was no different from that of Saxon England, organized on the basis of land tenure and collective responsibility of the village community. Like the 'Thane' in the time of King Alfred, the Zamindar in India with a number of subordinate tenure-holders was required to maintain public peace. The village responsibility was of its headman, assisted by one or more village watchmen. On the existing structure of local responsibility for policing, the Mughals introduced the Arab-cum-feudalistic institutions of the Faujdar and the Kotwal. The faujdar being the military officer cum chief police officer for executive authority in the District, with the Sigdars for its paraganas under his command. The Zamindars now supplanted the village headmen in their police functions with control over the village watchmen, and assisted the Faujdar and his subordinates. The Kotwal - for police and muncipal administration in large towns was paid a heavy salary to defray the expenditure of a large body of peons, horse patrols, spies and so on. The Lord Justice - Mir-e-Adil, with the Kazi to conduct the trial and state the law, administered justice.

With the advent of the British knocking out the central authority of the Mughals, there was break down of law and order, with a free for all for dacoits, robbers and marauders. Zamindars, village watchmen and even higher officers connived at crime and harboured offenders in return for a share of the booty. When the East India Company acquired the Diwani in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1765 the extremely unsatisfactory state of law and order could not be bettered with the remedies adopted, since consideration of finance always stood in the way of real reforms. Initially the Zamindars were relieved of their liability for police service and the duties of Faujdars were ultimately transferred to the Company's covenanted servants who functioned as judges and magistrates. It was at this stage after 1781 that for police purposes the magistrates took under them a staff of Darogas with subordinate officers and a body of peons.

The charge of a daroga averaged about 20 square miles, with 20 to 50 armed 'Barkandaz'es under him and all village watchmen subject to his orders. For every dacoit arrested and convicted he got a reward of Rs.10/- and ten percent of the value of all stolen property recovered! The office of Kotwal remained in the cities, but a daroga was appointed for each ward to assist him.

In his book of the early 70s on 'Police Administration in India', Sharat Chandra Mishra records that the Daroga system proved far from satisfactory. The Report of the First Indian Police Commission 1902-03 had earlier recorded: "There was marked increase in crime everywhere; robberies and murders, accompanied by the most atrocious and deliberate cruelties, were of frequent occurrence; gangs of dacoits roamed unchecked about the country and, in the expressive native phrase, 'the people did not sleep in tranquility'. In large measure this was attributed due to the inadequacy of the police establishment, absence of assistance which was formerly available from the local population; a much higher degree of proof now required by courts; the criminal's realisation how difficult it was to secure his conviction; and punishments now turning milder - with no mutilation, indefinite or perpetual confinement, and torture no longer the practice as was previously!

Words recorded a hundred years ago - perhaps needing no change in their application to the state of affairs today! And, I believe, the term Daroga continues to be in vogue in UP even today…. while a much (rightly or wrongly) maligned he, with his law-enforcing counterpart elsewhere in the country, continues his battle to find his due place under the sun in the service of his community!

(The author can be reached at http://planetindia.net/maxwell or his email: maxpk@vsnl.com ) 800words. 10.03.2003: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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