Book Title: Madam Commissioner: The Extraordinary Life of an Indian Police Chief
Author: Meeran Chadha Borwankar
Gurpreet Kaur Deo
Former top cop Meeran Chadha Borwankar’s refreshingly candid account, ‘Madam Commissioner’, is a compelling read. For a girl whose early education was in government schools in Punjab where her father was posted in the BSF, she went on to join the Indian Police Service in 1981.
The book is an enthralling narrative encompassing 36 years of a woman cop’s journey in the rough and tumble of policing in the financial capital of the nation, Mumbai, and equally tumultuous stints in rural/suburban Maharashtra.
Borwankar cut her teeth as a young DCP in Mumbai, tackling violent mobs as a part of her daily routine. As DCP, Port Zone, the task entailed containing thefts, and visiting in the dead of night, the forbidding alleys and jetties of the Bombay harbour. The book recalls her brushes with the underworld, and leading investigations which brought her in direct confrontation with the high and mighty.
In the initial chapters, she shares some nuggets from her training at the hallowed portals of the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, where she roughed it out as the lone woman in the batch.
She intertwines the narration of her professional journey with the challenges of being a woman cop in a male-dominated ecosystem. Interspersed in the book are no-holds-barred references to the gender bias and sexual harassment which she claims she had to put up with from seniors and colleagues, from time to time.
There is never a dull moment as Borwankar narrates the gripping stories of her career, chapter by chapter. Her assignments in Kolhapur, Aurangabad, and as DCP in the challenging Zone 4 in Mumbai tested her mettle and honed her capabilities.
The sensational Jalgaon sex scandal was another defining point in her career, where, as SP (CID), she led the investigation against all-powerful politicians accused of sexual exploitation and ensured their conviction. As DCP, Zone 4, she stood her ground as violent crowds set her official car on fire. That, she writes, is when she realised that courage is not a function of height and gender, and narrates how a six-footer DCP chickened out of the messy law and order incident as “he could not find the spot”.
It were these episodes in her career which highlighted her professional acumen and leadership qualities, paving the way for her becoming, in 2004, the first woman to hold the post of Joint Commissioner, Crime, Mumbai. Her appointment in 2010 as the first woman Commissioner of Pune was a logical corollary.
Borwankar devotes a couple of racy chapters to her tenure as Joint Commissioner of Mumbai. The Crime Branch operation against extortion calls accused Vicky Malhotra and Farid Tanasha, associates of underworld don Chhota Rajan, and their dramatic arrest in Delhi makes for a thrilling read.
She also takes you through midnight swoops and searches in the Nhava Sheva port of Mumbai, leading to the recovery of a large cache of arms and ammunition hidden in a shipment of glue. The book also highlights Borwankar’s tireless crusade against human trafficking. In another section, she takes you through the pressures of intense media scrutiny and the legal intricacies of supervising as ADGP, Prisons, the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, perpetrator of the 26/11 attacks, and subsequently that of Yakub Memon, in jails under her charge.
The professional journey of Meeran Borwankar is a riveting story of how a woman storms a male bastion relying on a solid work ethic and an uncompromising value system. It leaves an indelible mark on policing in India, inspiring a whole generation of women. This is a story of grit and glory.