With you, for you, always
The Delhi police celebrated its raising day last week bringing back many memories I have of watching this great force evolve over a period of time. My parents were both doctors and we stayed in the Doctors’ Flats in the premises of the Silver Jubilee Tuberculosis Hospital (now RBTB hospital) opposite the New Police Lines.
Therefore even before I covered the police force as part of the Crime Beat in successive newspapers I worked in later, I got acquainted with the Delhi Police while I was still in school. I have seen it all when the Delhi police personnel were dressed in “Frock like Khaki Shorts’’ and had a headgear which was a cross between a turban and a cap. I think when Dr K.K.Paul as the Police Commissioner took out a Coffee Table book, some of these old headgears figured in that. A few Inspectors used to also wear a Turban and “Nawab Saheb” a.k.a Inspector Hargobind Singh, once the SHO of the undivided Roshanara Police station used to be proud of “his saafa with a turra’’.
Just before the Republic Day, the Delhi police band with three marching contingents would start its rehearsals on the main road separating the New Police Lines and the TB hospital in the Kingsway Camp area and kids like me would often line up to see this elegant show. The band was one of the best and Banta Singh and Kasturi Singh both nurtured it to achieve excellence. Later Mohinder Singh, the tall Sikh Inspector would sway the baton and walk majestically down the Rajpath to give a salute to the President of India. The Police Lines had two tailors—one by the name of Tara Chand and other I do not remember who would alter uniforms sitting near the Post office.
There were two Coblers, a furlong apart—Mala Ram and Suraj Bhan who would fix their shoes and put metal stars on the soles. There were other unforgettable characters like Reserve Inspector E.A.Mastron who only wore a peak cap since he was recruited as a Sargeant during the British Raj. He used to be also in charge of the Saturday or Sunday film shows, which took place in the Lines for the benefit of the police personnel. The police Lines was a very alive place where the wrestlers would train under the overall supervision of K.D.Nayyar, a fine officer who was later the SSP of the New Delhi district. The Delhi police had a great Basketball team where India’s internationals like Nasseb Singh and Shri Krishan were members.
There was this tall and lean Sikh by the name of Kuldeep Singh who ran 26 miles every day and every kid in the area knew him as the Marathon man. The Lines had a doctor by the name of Dr Khosla who was expected to do a lot of fixing for the cops.
Amongst officers there were some outstanding sportsmen like B.N.Shunglu who also played Ranji Trophy. The police force was a united lot and had a culture, which was evolving. The Lines had many IPS probationers and experienced dy SPs staying there. BN Mehra, Dy SP incharge of security during Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s time and a very influential officer was there. His wife was related to my mother and he would often come to our house. There were others like S.S.Palta, K.C.Kapoor, Kishan Singh Samra etc who lived in the premises.
Subsequently when I started covering Crime as a journalist, I had the good fortune of inter acting with some very good bunch of officers. There was this group recruited in the force in 1950 as ASIs comprising Pandit Hari Dev, Tek Chand Chopra, A.L.Chadha, Avinash Chander, Prakash Singh, etc who went on to become amongst the most useful officers later. All of them were trained at the Phillaur School of the Punjab Police. Every crime reporter will have his share of tales to narrate about these men and many others. I can recollect what Prakash Singh, who was then the SHO of Tughlak Road had to say in 1980 when journalists once got talking to him. He said, “that in my area, the senior most officer is the Prime Minister and the junior most is the Police Commissioner (P.S.Bhindar was the CP then)’’.
I learnt from legends like Pandit Hari Dev who I still meet at least once or twice a year even now. He is nearing 80 but full of life. Panditji has busted a record number of cases and is very unassuming. He was the SHO of Chanakyapuri when the infamous Nagarwala case took place in the early 1970s. He played a major role in the MP hostage case in the mid eighties and also helped in busting the terrorist case involving Sukhdev Singh alias Sukha in Jan, 1984. The disclosures for the first time gave enough evidence about the presence of militants in the precincts of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. There was A.L.Chadha, always efficient and a performer. Others who were either senior of junior included A.L.Malhotra, Avtar Singh Billa, Narendra Singh, Amrik Singh, Tirath Ram Bhasin, Ajmer Singh Chauhan, Hira Lal Kapoor, Vidya Sagar, Jagdish Singh and many more.
The Delhi police also had some lesser minions who were high performers. Head Constable Rati Ram and Sub Inspector Om Prakash Sharma served at the Boat Club Chowki for nearly 24 to 25 years at different times. Since the Boat Ckub was the main area for processions and agitations, every politician of the opposition knew them. My first meeting with the present Commissioner, Y.S.Dadwal also took place when he was the additional DCP of the New Delhi District in 1980 and used to supervise the Boat Club arrangements. A young and handsome officer with a beret, he was nicknamed by the crime reporters as the “Boat Club specialist’’.
The Delhi police had its share of some ace investigators. Lal Chand, Godha Ram and Jasondha Singh (he probed the Mahatama Gandhi assassination case) were amongst the top sleuths.
The police was known for its discipline and I must confess that over a period of time, the standards of discipline have come down. Many IPS officers are also to be blamed for this.
The police has also had its very dark moments—Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the anti sikh riots which followed—among them. But this blog is essentially a nostalgia piece looking at the positive aspects.
There is a lot one can talk about various IPS officers, some of them very fine policemen and human beings too. I will perhaps write a separate blog on them one day. But I do miss some of them who are not with us any more.
Rajinder Singh Sahaye, 1968 batch and one of the wittiest officers I ever met who also became a close friend. His repartee and wit were incomparable and he was so full of life. May his soul rest in peace.