The cop who never quit in the face of daunting challenges : The Tribune India

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The cop who never quit in the face of daunting challenges

The cop who never quit in the face of daunting challenges

Unforgettable Chapters: Memoirs of A Top Cop by Prakash Singh Rupa. Pages 208. Rs 395

Book Title: Unforgettable Chapters: Memoirs of A Top Cop

Author: Prakash Singh

VN Rai

The theatre of professional challenges enacted by the author would be well known to any informed reader. “Moving from the troubled terrain of Nagaland to the tumultuous landscapes of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, this book unveils the relentless battles against insurgency and the delicate dance between law enforcement and political interests,” reads the blurb.

Prakash Singh has been regularly writing on Naxal issues and police reforms. He also headed inquiries into the attack on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu in October 2003, and the breakdown of law and order during the Jat reservation agitation in Haryana in February 2016. In addition to recalling these defining moments in the book, he has highlighted the frustrating efforts against corruption in public life, calling it the common factor in all major problems.

For those who have followed Prakash Singh’s passionate writings, mirroring his daunting police leadership career, it is no surprise that his memoirs portray him as a no-nonsense defender of the policing space in the governance matrix. It became his karma and sacred duty, and, as emphasised repeatedly in the book, the way he knew to serve the people. Being resigned to relentlessness, both during his professional career as well as post retirement, he has dedicated ‘Unforgettable Chapters’ to the spiritual facet of Maa Durga: “A man who is in the middle of fire, is surrounded by enemies in the battlefield, finds himself in deep trouble, would come out unscathed if he surrenders unto Goddess Durga.”

The author has a variety of hair-raising narratives in his kitty. From facing insurgency in Nagaland as a young IB officer to dealing with terrorism in Kashmir and militancy in Punjab, both at their peak, as a senior BSF officer, his tales of personal courage and professional initiatives are inspiring. Equally fascinating are his principled confrontations as the state DGP with the respective Chief Ministers of Assam and UP, while thwarting the ULFA’s election disruption strategy under the Hiteshwar Saikia regime and Babri demolition build-up under the Kalyan Singh regime. On both occasions, he had to quit unceremoniously. He, however, proved to be a winner in both, being entrusted with more challenging assignments in the aftermath.

In the book, the biggest contradiction to his own ‘rule of law’ approach is his singular adulation for the cavalier law and order bulldozing by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The author’s listing of ‘caste bias’ in the police force as one of the major reasons for inaction during the Jat reservation stir in Haryana came as another surprise, carrying a different experience on this count from my own service days in the state.

Though the chapter is titled ‘Anti-Corruption Efforts’, it only chronicles an exceptional campaign against the corrupt in the top bureaucracy, the likes of which was never heard before. It was to identify the most corrupt in the IAS/IPS in UP and make them accountable before the law by setting up CBI/Vigilance inquiries/investigations. They repeatedly approached the concerned at the top level in Delhi and Lucknow but could draw, as Prakash Singh writes, ‘not a ripple even’. Such a random personalised approach against a deeply-rooted institutional ill, howsoever bold it might look, was bound to create no more than ripples. While holding the charge of UP DGP, Prakash Singh rued in a meeting of senior officers of the department the difficulty in finding even six IG-rank officers of unimpeachable integrity for posting in zones. But, how many of those could be referred for the CBI/Vigilance scrutiny, and with what outcome?

The book is replete with instances of interference by politicians in power with the rule of law and lawful administration, but without linking the practice with their core politics as such. This is most glaring in the tense narrative inching to the Babri mosque demolition. One notable exception is when the author deals with the Naxalite challenges. He himself has written an acclaimed book on the subject and draws from the Government of India’s expert group, of which he was a member, on ‘development issues to deal with causes of discontent, unrest and extremism’. It held the development paradigm, social disparities and economic inequalities accountable too.

This great policeman’s dream and commitment to rule of law is best reflected in his life mission project, and that is police reforms. Its vision can be summarised in his own words: “There can be no genuine democracy or accelerated economic progress unless the police becomes an instrument of service and transforms itself from the ruler’s police to the people’s police.” It is obvious that many more dimensions will need to be added, beyond the present authority/autonomy/accountability matrix, to the idea of police reforms.