Sunday, February 8, 2004

Kotwals of Delhi
Maxwell Pereira


The last Kotwal of Delhi was Ganga Dhar Nehru, the grandfather of India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. Appointed just before the 1857 mutiny erupted, with Ganga Dhar it can be said that the Kotwal system came to an end. This and other little known facts in its chequered history, lend the Delhi Police a rich, fascinating, and interestingly picturesque canvas down its pre-memory lane.

Historically, Delhi remained the seat of many Empires; and various policing systems were developed to protect the citadel of power. It was however, during the evolution of ‘control’ and ‘lack of control’ experienced alternately vis a vis the stability of the time and its ruler, that the institution of the Kotwal emerged in the 13th century, which is the first evidence of the origins of an organised policing system in Delhi.

Malik-ul-Umara Faqruddin, born to a personal attendant of Sultan Balban, is said to have become the first Kotwal of Delhi at the age of 40 in 1237 AD. Malik-ala-ul Mulk, appointed by Allauddin Khilji in 1297 AD is another Kotwal of Delhi who finds mention in history books.

For a brief spell soon after the mutiny of 1857, Delhi enjoyed a commissionerate. It remained, through, a unit of the Punjab Police, even after Delhi became the capital of India in 1912. In the same year, the first Chief Commissioner of Delhi was appointed and vested with the powers and functions of the Inspector General of Police.

In the wake of partition in 1947 and the resultant influx of refugee population and corresponding sharp increase in crime, the need for an independent set-up for policing in Delhi was felt. On February 16, 1948 the first Inspector General of Police of Delhi was appointed. Initially there were eight Superintendents of Police to assist the IG, but then a post of DIG was created in 1956. 1966 saw the constitution of the Delhi Police Commission to go into the problems of Delhi Police. It was the Delhi Police Commission that recommended the introduction of the Police Commissioner system, eventually adopted in 1978.

To the first Commissioner of Police — J.N. Chaturvedi, goes the credit for having laid the foundations of a new order. The IPS officers of Delhi's own cadre deserve special mention for this transition period because of their contribution in developing, perfecting, and changing the face of the force, to meet new challenges. Later, P.S. Bhinder, Bajrang Lal and Subhash Tandon steered the force.

Ved Marwah, the first cadre officer to head the force, understood the malaise and brought about the much awaited reforms and improvements. Raja Vijay Karan heralded a new dimension by giving the force a humane face and pride in its heritage. Arun Bhagat, who succeeded him, kept this up, Mukund Kaushal introduced the concept of community policing and Nikhil Kumar battled the issues of human rights violations and allegations of corruption.

The emphasis on free and fair registration of crime started during Nikhil’s period was not lost sight of by successors Tilak Raj Kakkar and V.N. Singh. Considered the liberal phase when straightforward policing and accountability was strived for, the strength of his tenure was held against him, to make V.N. Singh a scapegoat. Unappreciative ‘powers that be’ cowered behind statistics rather than the quality of policing services the community enjoyed. So ‘crime control’ became the war cry to rope in the services of ‘outsider’ Ajai Raj Sharma from UP Cadre — a thoroughbred field professional who took the reins not to clean up, but battle crime with the gun. The political support wielded to advantage by Ajai Raj, was the forte of his successor R.S. Gupta who wrested the seat back for the cadre, and on superannuation successfully handed over the reins to K.K. Paul his number two, at the recent ‘change of guard’ on January 31.

Down the pages of history, Delhi Police has also earned the dubious distinction of being dubbed ‘the graveyard’ for its chiefs! Many an illustrious Head was sent packing ignominiously, at times replaced unceremoniously and overnight, and even called from the football field and asked to hand over charge to a successor. And yet, suffice it to record that there are Chiefs who also have left the seat with dignity notwithstanding the machinations at play behind the scene.

On 16th February observed each year as its Raising Day, Delhi Police reaffirms its commitment to strive towards improving performance, and to be of service to the people of Delhi; and truly be “with you, for you, always.”

(The author is Joint Commissioner of Police, Delh)

Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// and


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