Generally, a lot of people observe that states and people get the police they deserve.
Not many may be alive now to actually narrate any serious tale as to how policing was done during the colonial era when the British ruled India.
My mother Lakshmi, who had seen the British era, always talked about it breathlessly.
“People to hide in their homes out of fear if a cop ever visited a village after his departure would remark, “This village has become so notoriously bad that a policeman has visited it! In Trippunithura [now part of Kochi city, where my parents were born and grew up] a family was ostracised for a month after a police constable visited his relative them in mufti for a family function. All of us knew we needed the police to maintain law and order by instilling the fear of God into the minds of the dregs of the society. It is true that no human being can do without the vital parts of one’s anatomy – one’s private parts because they do an essential job. But, most persons would not like to see them. The police department is similarly, inevitably, necessary. There is a proverb about sighting a fox the first thing in the morning is lucky. But, we villagers always add carefully, consider yourself lucky so far as a fox passes by your right or by your left. The animal can kill if it gets too close. One would be better off avoiding encounters with members of any uniformed force … for … friendship or enmity with any uniformed person is always bad news.”
In my opinion, those were prophetic words … if one takes the false police encounters of this day into account.
During the colonial period, the British created four levels of police recruitment.
1. The constable [from what the British called native stock] to tackle the general public at the cut-off point of physical daily contact.
2. The sub-inspector [sometimes referred to as Station House Officer] who always served within the Provincial Service [akin to any state public service commission’ junior level officer recruitment]. Such JCOs drawn from simple “native middle class stock” needed to be in possession of command over written and spoken English besides 2 local languages, touch typing [typing without looking at the keyboard to locate the letters with nine fingers] and shorthand diploma, and most importantly, the candidate’s possession of a secondary school leaving [SSL] certificate. The then training used to inculcate the system of ‘obeying orders of all superiors without question’ right from the outset.
3. The Provincial Service Norm [akin to the post of a state public service commission recruited officer in the grade of DySP] used to have a catchment area comprising local princely families or those with Zamindar Titles like Rao Bahadur, Diwan Bahadur, blah, blah.
4. The Union Public Service Norm [those days – IP – akin to today’s IPS] would 99.99 times out of hundred comprise white men who alone would rise to the post of Inspector General of Police.
One does not need to be the incarnation of the fictional master detective Hercule Poirot created by late English authoress Agatha Christie to know that this was one of the cleverest methods to divide and rule controlling the momentum of the ruled to the rulers’ to the advantage and design of the foreigners by a mere practical application of the word ‘discipline’.
It indeed was such a clever system kept us divided and ruled under the white man’s thumb, illegally, for over 200 years.
Yet, during those times, there were officers who bucked the trend without transgressing the rigid ‘discipline’ earning the respect of their ‘superiors’ and admiration from their subordinates.
Parangusam Naidu, the only Native to be Commissioner of Police for the city of Madras [1919-1919, says the board at the city police HQ, Egmore] and later IG for the entire Madras Province was one such officer.
Reproduced hereunder is a report that appeared in 5PM – an evening paper published from The Indian Express stable in Madras, September 4 1980 under the heading WHITES HAD TO SALUTE TOUGH PARANGUSAM.
Incidentally, yours truly wrote it.
His name figures in a list hung in the City Police Commissioner’s Office in Egmore. And to him goes the credit of having been the only Indian Police Commissioner of Madras Province during the British regime.
This man, Mr Parangusam Naidu, ironically enough, was not at all prepared to become a police officer. His application was in fact forged and sent by his grandfather’s younger brother, a big wig then in the ‘native’ section of the police in 1888.
At that time, the 19-year-old Parangusam was serving as an overseer in the PWD, threw a tantrum, but had to give in to his father’s wishes [and become a police officer].
Initially, he served under SP Brook Legget as SHO [Station House Officer] in Mayuram [now Myladuthurai]. Legget took a fancy for the boy and soon made him the Division Inspector after four years. And before he retired, he got Naidu his second promotion as DySP in Eluru (now in Andhra Pradesh).
The then Police Commissioner Mr F Armitage was looking out for an efficient Assistant Commissioner at that time. Hearing about Naidu, he offered him the job.
And history was made.
Parangusam Naidu became the first ‘native’ Assistant Commissioner.
Luck favoured him again later when Charles Cunningham [knighted later] went on leave.
Almost immediately after joining as the ACP, Naidu was posted as the Deputy Commissioner, Northern Range.
History again but not without the usual furore in the English circles …
But, Armitage, who had by then become IG, with the support of influential personalities like Sir Sivaswami Iyer, Sir Arthur Stuart (then Chief Secretary and later Governor) stood firm.
Finally, the time came for his appointment as Commissioner on the basis of seniority. This again was a tricky situation. But then, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, a Privy Council member, gathered the much needed support and strengthened Armitage’s hands.
It was indeed an uncommon sight to see the sturdily built Englishmen with their gloves, boots and all, standing in attention and saluting a ‘native’ Commissioner.
One Inspector Hitchcock had the audacity of not doing so. Although Parangusam overlooked it, Armitage slapped a suspension order in the offender’s face forcing him to mend his ways.
However, Hitchcock became one of the strongest supporters of Naidu.
Parangusam also had to face a powerful racist lobby, which almost succeeded in getting him displaced by securing a transfer for him.
His opponents temporarily won as he accepted his fate and bided his time working as Deputy Commissioner.
Efficiency eventually triumphed. After a gap of 8 weeks, Naidu was back at Egmore Headquarters [as CoP]. That was not all. Almost immediately afterwards, the Duke of Connaught’s visit gave his opponents a good opportunity. They again tried to get him transferred to Vellore.
But, Parangusam fought his battle alone saying he would either receive the Duke or resign. And he made history again.
Parangusam is said to have always kept in touch with 10 influential persons in each section under his control and visit at least three of them apart from inspecting a station a day. Thus, neither the acts of omission on the part of officials nor the secrecy of criminals could escape his attention.
Once the showroom of m/s P. Orr & Sons in Mount Rd [now Anna Salai] – the shop still exists [under a different management] was burgled and almost the entire shop was cleaned up. Naidu who was tipped off about the identity of the culprits within a few minutes of the crime, being committed, rang up Mr Renes Pillai of Flower Bazar police station (Mount Road was then under FBPS jurisdiction) and asked him to go the military barracks at St Thomas Mount and recover the stolen material from the British soldiers billeted there.
Pillai applied for ‘sick’ leave fearing violence.
Undaunted, Parangusam telephoned the Brigadier in charge of the soldiers and told him that he was sending his officer to recover the stolen property from his men.
The Brigadier reportedly threatened him with dismissal and imprisonment if the charge was unproved.
Naidu told him he was not afraid of being shot, let alone being imprisoned.
Renes was forced to go [and execute the search warrant issued by the Executive Magistrate and CoP – Naidu].
Under Naidu’s pressure, the erring soldiers were court martialled.
The ‘crowning’ event in Naidu’s life was the Prince of Wales visit.
All the officers were required to be present at a formal function. Naidu arrived on time in his uniform and medals wearing his ‘namam’ and ear studs.
The ADC asked him to remove these only to be refused. On being reminded again, Naidu got into his car and went home.
The IG who arrived just after Naidu’s departure, was shocked at the latter’s absence. From the scoffing ADC, he learnt about the incident.
The IG is understood to have told the ADC, “I would request you Sir to overlook the fact that he is wearing his traditional marks, as you would be a fool sir, not to realise that not ten of you would make one of him!”
Without waiting for a reply, the IG rushed to Naidu’s residence. He was horrified to see Naidu in civvies. After a lot of persuasion, Naidu got into uniform again and attended the function, which was delayed by 9 minutes, during which, the Prince of Wales himself, had to wait!
Parangusam retired as IG in 1923 and passed away in 1931 at the age of 63.
In a nutshell, Naidu was part of the colonial system and yet held his head high.
The inputs for this article had come from his son, Dhanrajulu Naidu who also retired as a police officer ... but in disgrace. He had spoken to me at length in his residence not far from the office of the CoP in Chintadiripet.
The saga of Naidu junior began with a hated colonial law against the Indian right to produce salt by themselves.
The British always promulgated laws that could never be obeyed, allowed the natives to flout them and pretended to overlook the transgression.
Whenever, someone had to be ‘taught a lesson’ the transgression would be cited, a warning issued and soon, a person would be in custody.
The hated salt law was one such thing.
The British did not know how to make salt from sea water, the traditional tropical way nor were they prepared to do so.
Yet, they promulgated a law wherein salt could only be made with the permission of the British.
It resulted in the famous Dandi March led by the father of the nation – Mahatma Gandhi.
The Wikipedia introduces the endeavour thus:
The Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha began with the Dandi March on March 12, 1930, and was an important part of the Indian Independence Movement. It was a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly in colonial India and triggered the wider Civil Disobedience Movement.
[It] followed the Purna Swaraj [complete freedom] declaration of independence by the Indian National Congress on January 26, 1930.
Mahatma Gandhi led the Dandi march from his … Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, to the sea coast near the village of Dandi.
As he continued on this 24 day, 240 mile (390 km) march to produce salt without paying the tax, growing numbers of Indians joined him along the way. When Gandhi broke the salt laws at 6:30 am on April 6, 1930, it sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the … salt laws by millions of Indians.
The Dandi endeavour had its echoes in Southern India.
Excerpts from The Hindu report entitled Tales of valour from Vedaranyam Satyagraha dated April 30 2010, under the by-line of P.V. Srividya:
Eight decades ago, this day, at the strike of dawn, C. Rajagopalachari, picked up a fistful of spontaneous salt at Agasthyampalli in Vedaranyam in defiance of the British Raj and blazoned out “Vande Mataram”.
Popular history … [says] that the [salt agitation that began] … in Vedaranyam, April 30, 1930 also marked the beginning of marathon arrests, with each day, sathyagrahis picking up salt to court arrest - recorded to have continued for over a month.
The Vedaranyam Salt Satyagraha had always been a footnote in the large narrative of Gandhi's salt Satyagraha.
According to popular and recorded history, the Sathyagrahis, who had camped in Vedaranyam (what now hosts Rajaji Poonga) after reaching on April 28, were oblivious to Rajaji’s plan to pick up salt before dawn – a plan that saw fruition due to Sardar Vedarathinam’s ingenuity.
Sardar Vedarathinam Pillai deputed Naganandha Desikar, Marimuthu Thevar, and Rajagopala Iyer to smuggle Rajaji before dawn to Agasthyampalli through gullies and lanes to avoid surveillance. It is said that even the sathyagrahis were not aware until Rajaji broke the salt law, says A. Vedarathinam, the grandson of Sardar Vedarathinam Pillai.
Here is a gist of Naidu junior had told me way back in 1980:
I had been posted as the Station House Officer in Mayuram.
Rajaji began his anti-British-anti-salt-law march from Tiruchirappalli several days ago in April 1930.
Gandhian Sardar Vedarathinam Pillai who owned several salt pans was its main financier.
The Sardar had already destroyed his tobacco fields to accommodate the freedom fighters heeding the call of the Mahatma to destroy all plants that could intoxicate the youth and lead them astray.
Vedarathinam Pillai had been named Sardar after the visit of Vallabh Bhai Patel, the first non-Sikh to be accorded the honoured title Sardar during the freedom struggle and who became our first Home Minister and came to be referred to as India’s Iron Man.
It had been Patel who had conferred the title Sardar on Pillai.
Those days the instruction to freedom fighters had been very strict.
Even the word violence had been forbidden.
The men used to come with the odd mud pot, gather some sea water routinely, attempt to light a small fire underneath the pot. The odd constable used to routinely break the pot and the daily ritual used to get over.
It was Naganandha Desikar and Marimuthu Thevar who had noticed that the struggle was becoming tepid and insipid and decided to ‘pep up’ the proceedings.
As the struggle progressed, the protestors began using foul language against policemen who served the British.
Some of them asked thus: “Do you guys also wash the fat behinds of the white men? Send your women to their homes to clean and perhaps entertain, shameless fellows?”
My men brought the tidings to my notice.
My orders had been strict. No violence at all … even in the face of the gravest form of the provocation.
Since that did not pep things up adequately, the freedom fighters graduated to spitting on the ground, then on shoes and finally on faces of the constables.
My men cried out, demanding their defending their self-respect.
I pleaded with my superiors. The answer was NO VIOLENCE!
On the penultimate day of Rajaji’s arrest, a few of the protestors urinated on us.
The men threatened with rebellion. I desperately sought some permission to do something to keep the police morale intact.
Finally, someone permitted me to ‘use absolute minimum force.’
I told the men that.
But, the constables thought they had suffered too many indignities. To get even they created batons out of branches of tamarind trees that night.
Rajaji was arrested without ado.
But others in Vedaranyam were not so lucky. The constables’ anger erupted and resulted in several freedom fighters suffering from fractures and bleeding wounds.
Rajaji was being taken to Tiruchirappalli prison by train by first class and I was guarding the exit. I understood he was seething with anger upon hearing that Indian policemen had beaten up Indian freedom fighters on the permission of an Indian police officer.
He summoned me.
The conversation went something like this:
Rajaji: You are the tamarind branch Dhanrajulu Naidu … the police officer who authorised the breaking of the backs, arms and legs of freedom fighters and their being inflicted with bleeding wounds on their psyche?
Me: It is not that way at all … sir… you see …
Rajaji: Answer the question in one word. Yes, or No!
Me: Sir… please understand …
Rajaji: Yes or No?
Rajaji: I will remember your face and name, young man! And I will make you rue this day some day in the future when India no longer is a slave nation!
After becoming Chief Minister of Madras State, Rajaji had been admitted to the Government General Hospital opposite Central Station following some chest pain. By then, I had become an SP. Posted as in charge of the CM’s security, I had stood guard outside his room. While I ushered in a visitor, he noticed me. Soon the conversation went somewhat thus:
Rajaji: I recognise you! You are that tamarind branch officer who ordered our freedom fighters to be beaten up! Isn’t your name … some Naidu?
Me: Sir … please try to understand the circumstances … the higher authorities had authorised me to use force to control the situation which was going out of hand. I may have to do the same under you too … if the situation so demands.
Rajaji: In other words, you sadist, you have to beat someone up all the time eh?
Me: That is not correct sir …
Rajaji: I have seen the noting on the files of 1930. You were authorised to use only minimum force. Who gave you the right to beat people black and blue? Who permitted you to break bones and leave bleeding wounds?
Me: I … sir … the men … the morale …
Rajaji: Shut up! I did not condone those persons whose acts denigrated the self-respect of policemen. Many of those fellows, if I can help it, will not progress in politics till I am alive. But you rascal … you need to be taught a lesson! Because persons like you are a blot on this society … to permit a small error which can result in major riot situations in future. Call my private secretary!
The private secretary rushed in and requested the CM to calm down due to the suspected heart ailment.
Rajaji [to his secretary]: The doctors will take care of my health! You do the job you are meant to! Bring me the map of Madras state and point out the worst places where even water is difficult to get. This rascal here will be posted in each such God forsaken place transferred suddenly within a few months from each posting … never allowed to settle down … and never promoted. I want to make an example of a cruel man who had the temerity to authorise the beating up our freedom fighter colleagues.
Me: Sir … I am indeed innocent sir … I …
Rajaji: I will believe you if you tell me the truth.
Me: I will not dare lying to you, sir!
Rajaji: How many constables did you suspend for use of ‘excessive force’ that day?
Me: Sir … the morale …
Rajaji: Did you suspend even one person?
Me: Sir … please …
Rajaji: One person?
I chose to remain silent.
Rajaji: If you are innocent of that unauthorised use of force … what stopped you from suspending the wrongdoers?
I chose to remain silent again.
Rajaji: I will ensure you will retire in disgrace … never again shall an officer misuse his official position. Not till this old Brahmin Iyengar is alive!
Needless to add, I was transferred to all corners of the vast state that encompassed Andhra and several parts of Kerala and Karnataka.
I was never promoted … though I deserved it.
Perhaps, I was justly punished for having failed to control my men who indeed used unauthorised force.
I cannot hate Rajaji at all despite my issue because Rajaji, I was told, also had played an important role in the promotion of my father to the post of Inspector General during the British regime.
Rajaji indeed knew whose son I was.
And perhaps the severity of my punishment was due to his opinion that someone from such a family could not be allowed to make such a mistake.
Reproduced is passage from a chapter from the United Nations Development Programme sponsored book ‘Turning the Tide’ entitled: Reach for the Sky authored by activist journalist Revathi Radhakrishnan:
The farmhand sadly looked at his landlord affectionately known as “Sardar.”
The caste to which he belonged would need several more decades to adopt the name Dalit according it a new identity and a modicum of respect.
The poor man did not know that the word “Sardar” stood for the Hindi term leader.
The serf only knew that it denoted the popular name of Vedarathinam Pillai, his boss till the other day, who had chosen the difficult path of antagonising the colonial rulers and losing the bulk of his property.
Pillai had willingly destroyed the huge stretches of tobacco plantations owned by him in the vicinity to create tents for the freedom fighters and then pledged them to feed the people who had traversed 150 miles a year ago to make salt in defiance of the foreigners’ law prohibiting it.
Since then, the word was out that Pillai was a marked man.
In spite of high social standing, “Sardar” was an easily approachable man to all even to those who were nothing more than slaves due to the then stifling social hierarchy.
“Why do you have to invite so much grief upon yourself, sir?”
The 34-year old Pillai clad in homespun cotton attire so common amongst the Congress supporters looked at him with familiar kindness.
“I may lose a bit of real estate. But one day, the entire nation will belong to us.”
One of the great grandsons of Parangusam Naidu is at the mercy of real estate rogues and plain thieves living in Sriperumbudur attempting to run a small clinic – dealing in homeopathic cures for near-fatal ailments … free of charge.
Thieves routinely steal his goods and the local police do not even look his way.
He keeps trained dogs to guard his real estate … all of which is in a rather decrepit state.
The colonial British have changed the way policemen are recruited into their system back home.
In the United Kingdom … there is only one system of recruitment – that of the constable.
Later, routinely, aptitude and other tests are to be written.
Promotions happen only on the basis of merit.
One can see officers with African, Asian and Mongoloid features routinely in the United Kingdom.
Promotions are always clean, just, proper and only by merit … though the British police department is an ‘equal opportunities employer’.
Okay, what does the term ‘Equal Opportunities’ mean?
Let me quote the Wikipedia again:
Equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular “distinctions can be explicitly justified.”
The aim according to this often "complex and contested concept" is that important jobs should go to those “the most qualified”–– persons most likely to perform ably in a given task –– and not to go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, friendship ties to whoever is in power, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste, or “involuntary personal attributes” such as disability, age, or sexual preferences.
Chances for advancement are open to everybody interested such that they have “an equal chance to compete within the framework of goals and the structure of rules established.” The idea is to remove arbitrariness from the selection process and base it on some “pre-agreed basis of fairness, with the assessment process being related to the type of position,” and emphasizing procedural and legal means. It is opposed to nepotism and plays a role in whether a social structure is seen as legitimate.
People with differing political viewpoints see it differently.
The concept is debated in fields such as political philosophy, sociology and psychology. It is being applied to increasingly wider areas beyond employment including lending, housing, college admissions, voting rights, and elsewhere.
In the classical sense, the equality of opportunity is closely aligned with the concept of equality before the law and ideas of meritocracy.
Generally the terms “the equality of opportunity” and “equal opportunity” are interchangeable, with occasional slight variations: “the equality of opportunity” has more of a sense of being an abstract political concept, while “equal opportunity” is sometimes used as an adjective, usually in the context of employment regulations, to identify an employer, a hiring approach, or law. Equal opportunity provisions have been written into regulations and have been debated in courtrooms. It is sometimes conceived as a legal right against discrimination.
It is an ideal which has become increasingly "widespread" in Western nations during the last several centuries and is intertwined with social mobility, most often with upward mobility rags to riches stories:
The coming President of France is the grandson of a shoemaker. The actual President is a peasant's son. His predecessor again began life in a humble way in the shipping business. There is surely equality of opportunity under the new order in the old nation.
—The Montreal Gazette, 1906
In India that is Bharat we still follow the silly rule of the colonial era and have 4 levels of recruitment.
This leads to queer situations.
Graduates from the same class in school and college may end up being recruited as constable, sub-inspector, deputy superintendent of police [state service commission cadre] and assistant superintendent of police [IPS or Union Public Service Commission recruited].
The constable may at best become sub-inspector, the sub-inspector may retire at best as superintendent if he/she is lucky, the deputy superintendent of police in the state service may never be allowed to become DGP [like in the case of an honest, uncompromising officer in the rank of ADGP who belongs to a Dalit community Thukkiandi].
Brahmin officers like V.K. Rajagopalan may quit the service in anger and disgust.
Similar stories abound in other services.
The question that keeps popping up in my mind today … given the attitude of our police officers today, does the nation belong to us at all and more importantly, what have we Indians done to deserve police officials who cannot stop rapes, robberies and murders, who serve as uniformed rowdies of ruling parties and who only kill criminals in false encounters?