Defenders of The Establishment (Ruler -Supportive Police Forces of South Asia)

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Item Code: NAF720
Publisher: Indian Institute Of Advanced Study, Shimla
Author: K.S. Dhillon
Language: English
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 8185952523
Pages: 289
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch x 6.0
Weight 520 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

The evolution and growth of most Asian and African police forces was primarily shaped by the demands, and under the influence, of colonial powers to serve their alien interest. The police in the countries of the Indian sub-continent, though of a much older vintage, is essentially a product of the Indian Police Act of 1861. Even fifty years after Independence from British rule, police in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh continue to be frozen in a mindset heavily coated with mid-nineteenth century values and attitudes, suited more to a colonialist regime than modern democratic politics.

This book is an attempt to trace the history of the sub-continental police from ancient times to 1947, as also to pin-point its ruler –supportive legacies and practices.

About the Author

As a ,member of the Indian Police Service for three and a half decades during one of the most momentous periods in post-Independence India, K. S. Dhillon was witness to vast changes in policing policies and practices in the country. His first-hand experience in some crucial areas of police working first in districts and ranges of police working first in districts and ranges and later at the state and nationa levels enabled him to cultivate a holistic view of police problems and strategies. He has held important positions including those of Deputy Director (Senior) in the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, Director of Police Training in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Joint Director in the Central Bureau of Investigation and Director-General of Police in the Punjab and in Madhya Pradesh. After his retirement from the Indian Police Service, he served as Vice-Chancellor of Bhopal University. He is a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advances Study, Shimla. He has travelled extensively and presented papers and lectured in several conferences, seminars and institutions’ in India and abroad. He writes regularly for newspapers and periodicals.


Police affairs, like politics, range from the democratic to the tyrannical, with many gradations in between, but even within democracies police rectitude can falter; so much will depend on the calibre of the high police officials, and their subordinate leaders.

Police and people alike, have much to gain from having access to literature on the subject, particularly where that literature is by writers of high quality. Kirpal Dhillon is not only a person of great humanity and learning, but he is a man who has occupied one of the highest posts of police responsibility in the Indian Police Service, and high academic responsibility as well; this is a unique combination of talents.

Dhillon is a writer whose communicative skills enable him to speak effectively to the world's police and police administrators. He is politically astute as this book bears witness. But at all times his criticisms are fair and being a man of great moral courage he avoids undue reticence in expressing them.

There is a growing international need for literature on the police, and it is right and proper that the world's largest democratic state, India, should make a significant contribution, as Dillon has now done. His range is massive, as he tells of the police of ancient India, the Moghul period, and particularly the well documented British period. He is well aware of the irony of a Colonial police system surviving into modern India.

I have greatly enjoyed reading this valuable addition to international literature on the police, and I am most grateful for having been given the honour of writing this foreword.


Most institutions of the British Indian vintage survived well into the first decade of India's Independence, virtually unaffected by the latter event, especially in the administrative sphere. Among them was the Indian Police Service (IPS) which did not change its 'pucca' British orientation for several years, at least while the old British Indian officers continued to occupy positions of power and leadership in the new countries of the subcontinent. I joined the IPS in 1953 and was put through courses of training and orientation designed for a colonialist era under the supervision of a commandant who, though of native stock, quite apparently went to ridiculous extents to emphasize his English appearance, accent and lifestyle. Needless to say, he and his colleagues in the training college left a deep personal imprint on IPS officers of our generation. Such personality traits were further reinforced by a two-month long period of attachment with the Indian army, another institution steeped in British culture and etiquette. During the three and a half decades of my service with the Indian Police both at the state level and later with the federal government at Delhi, I was witness to multiple changes in Police attitudes—in their work as well as in their dealings with the public at large: a development not always for the better. However, what did not change was their centuries-old tradition of unquestioning loyalty to the ruling establishment and a total indifference to the interests of the citizens. Police history in the Indian sub-continent is a continuity in the sense that at no time were the law-enforcers overly concerned with providing protection to the common man when under threat from the state. It was as true of ancient and mediaeval times as of the colonial period. Police policies and practices continue to be the same even in post-colonial Indian polities.

This book is an effort to trace the history of the police in the Indian subcontinent from ancient times to 1947—the year of freedom from British rule—especially in its ruler-supportive role and the deft manner in which it was transformed into an exceedingly efficient, effective and totally loyal tool by the British Indian governments to seek to crush India's freedom struggle. The Indian police could never shed its baggage of servility to the ruler and oppression towards the masses all through its long history. With each successive generation, its commitment to defend the ruler, in fact, became more steadfast. Even fifty years after Independence, police attitudes and-functional styles remain unchanged. I must add that I am not unaware of causing shock and hurt all around by voicing such unsympathetic views about our police: also I am equally sure that a large number of my police friends and contemporaries do inwardly share many of my comments and observations. My long experience in the Indian police during which I occupied some of the most crucial positions in at least two Indian states and in the Union Home Ministry enabled me in no small measure to have a fresh look at Indian police history. This book strives to provide a sequel to the earlier two excellent studies of the sub-continental police by J.C. Curry and Sir Percival Griffiths. However, I have attempted to look at its real personality with the insight and objectivity of an insider. As such, I have found it necessary to challenge many of their perceptions and conclusions.

I sincerely thank John Alderson Esq. C.B.E. formerly of the British police, who has written the Foreword. Mr. Alderson served many large forces in the U.K. with distinction and was an eminent commandant of the British Police Staff College, Bramshill, during its early formative years. He has contributed in serveral ways to 'humanize' many British and continental Police forces. He has been associated with the Universities of Exeter and Strathclyde for several years in formulating and teaching courses in community relations and Police Studies, besides writing a large number of excellent books, monographs and papers which earned him transnational recognition. He has lectured extensively on police subjects and human rights in Europe, America, China and many other countries. The concept of a common European Police—Europol—was first put forward by him. He has held numerous Fellowships including the Gibbon Research Fellowship at Nuffield College Oxford. He now lives in semi-retirement near Exeter (U.K.)—the Exonbury of Thomas Hardy's "The Wood-landers".

To Professors J.S. Grewal and Mrinal Miri, successive Directors of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, where part of the research work for this book was undertaken and the staff of the Institute library, I owe a deep debt of graditude for their encouragement and assistance. I am also grateful to the librarian of the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, who helped me in locating very useful material in the Academy Library, perhaps the richest store -house of police literature in the country. I do wish more scholars would make use of its many facilities. My special thanks are due to the Directors-General of Police Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh, Panjab, Central Reserve Police Force and my own state of Madhya Pradesh for some interesting pictures and other material included in the book. Unfortunately several others did not respond to my requests for more of the same. I also acknowledge the help rendered by Mr. N.K. Maini, Asstt. Publication Officer of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla in preparing this book for publication. Mr. D. Trinad, who typed the manuscript so well, deserves to be specially mentioned not only for his typing skills but also for a helpful and willing disposition.

To a host of my friends and well-wishers in the Indian Police Service and the Indian Administrative Service, as also the many scholars in residence at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla, who did not object to being used as sounding boards for many of the views expressed in this book, I place on record my deep sense of gratitude. However, none of them is in any way responsible for the many shortcomings which have a way of creeping in unnoticed in a work of this nature. I take full responsibility for the flaws.

It is not easy to verbalise or quantify the debt an author owes to his (or her) spouse who, besides providing the necessary support and encouragement in ample measure in those barren moments when creativity seems to desert him in an odd way, has to constantly bear with long and lonely evenings in the hope that the effort would finally prove worthwhile. It is in this background that I mention the contribution of my wife, Sneh, in the making of this book, besides, of course, her stimulating intellectual companionship. Whereas I have used the generally accepted spellings for vernacular terms in the work, I have used 'Panjab' for 'Punjab' because the latter version invariably turns into 'Poonjab' in the West.


Unlike their counterparts in most Western democracies and Japan, Police in the Indian sub-continent have never been held in high esteem by their compatriots. They have never been able to win the trust and confidence of the people they profess to serve. On the contrary, they have mostly aroused feelings of unease, fear, insecurity, contempt and hostility, never friendly mutuality, in their countrymen. It is indeed a rare policeman who would have been held in high enough esteem by the citizens to be able to establish a close rapport with them. However, as abody of men charged with a crucial charter of duties in protecting society against lawless elements, the police have traditionally been perceived with suspicion and distrust by the large mass of the people in the sub-continent. Such a hostile environment naturally tends to colour police behaviour in many diverse ways. No self-respecting person would willingly like to associate with the police— whether as a witness, a complainant or a defendent. A citizen would avoid, as far as possible, any contact with a police unit; even when it becomes necessary to visit a police station for some reason, he will prefer not to go alone. He would rather seek the assistance of an influential individual either from the police organization itself or more likely from the political sphere. Women would, in particular, avoid close proximity to a policeman for fear of compromising their reputation and personal safety. Most people believe that the police in the sub-continent routinely favour disreputable persons, political manipulators, influence-peddlers, even confirmed criminals. Also, most often they are corrupt in their dealings and unjust and cruel towards the poor and the resourceless citizens. Such perceived closeness to undesirable elements materially distorts the fulfilment of Police role and adveresely affects the performance of their duties.

Lack of community support impelled the police to seek support else-where—mostly from the dregs of society. Since no self-respecting person would come forward to tender evidence in a court of law in favour of the police case, the latter had to fall back upon 'professional' witnesses who would be willing to depose as required by the prosecution. Such witnesses would in course of time become touts and black-mailers and broaden the base of criminality. The limitations placed on investigating officers by the new laws of evidence (The Indian Evidence Act and subsequent enactments) made it necessary for them to 'doctor' or concoct evidence and to tutor witnesses. The registration, investigation and prosecution of crime was no more than a charade in the pre-British period. Under the British, it assumed the more sinister form of calculated manipulation of figures and sections of offences and marshalling false evidence to achieve dubious objectives. From the stage of 'first information report' through writing of case diaries and recording of statements to the final act of submission of charge-sheet, the police indulged in a whole series of falsehoods and frauds. Occasionally the courts detected some anomalies and passed strictures but mostly they remained indifferent and mute participants in this game of organized hypocisy. The trying magistrates were also under an obligation not to let their conviction percentages slide downwards, as they were answerable in such matters to the District Magistrate (D.M.) who was also the supreme authority controlling the police in his district and was thus vitally interested in conviction rates. Section 4 of the Indian Police Act 1861 had fully formalized the subordination of the district police to the D.M. by making them function under his direction and control. Since the police by themselves had little functional autonomy and less discretion in their day to day working and fixation of priorities in the conflicting claims on their time and energy, they had neither the will nor the need to seek community support.

The gulf separating the police from the public was not a new development in Indian police history. It had been a part of their tradition and culture from ancient times. Kautilya's Arthasastra and several other extant historical sources testifies to that belief. During the mediaeval period of Indian history the police officials, both in cities and rural areas—the Kotwals and Darogahs—became a byword for oppression, cruetly and venality. The primary role of the police continued to be essentially ruler-supportive throughout the ancient and mediaeval periods and almost totally unconcerned with the citizen's interests and welfare. The British colonial rulers did not materially change that role model though they did succeed in imparting the much-needed organisational unity to the police on a provincial basis and clothed it in modern juridical terminology by enacting the three great legal codes soon after the promulgation of the Indian Police Act in 1861. The Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, both of 1862, and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, clearly and sharply delineated the substantive law and procedure relating to crime and criminals and set forth in lucid, legalistic language, the extent and limitations of police power in investigation and prosecution of offenders. However, what they left completely intact was the centuries- old tradition of police accountability to the ruler and their obligation to safeguard his position and provileges rather than impart to them a citizen-friendly character. This was somewhat odd as neither the Viceroy in India nor the government in London considered it proper to treat their own police in London as a model to fashion the new police in India; for which they looked to the constabulary in Ireland, another colony, at the time, like India. Servility and oppression thus continued to be the hall-mark of the Indian police tradition, uninterrupted by the British zeal for modernism and reforms.

The British Indian government also did not disturb two other prominent features of the traditional modes of police working. The 1861 Act left the village police totally unaffected. The chowkidars and kotwars, patels and kavilgars of an earlier period survived as a part of the new police system. This left large areas of rural India virtually unpoliced. This was mainly because of financial considerations but also because many early British officers like Munro and Elphinstone believed that the villages of India should be governed only through indirect rule by coopting the Zemindars and village officials as part of the administrative arrangements, though hardly adequate, in major parts of the country at very little cost. A rural police station covering an area of almost 200 square miles and comprising of over a hundred villages, large and small, would find itself grossly understaffed to meet the security needs of the people living in or visiting its jurisdiction. This would induce the police, in course of time, to rely largely on the use of force and not public support and cooperation to pursue their duties of law-enforcement. Use of force and armed might of the State to enforce the ruler's dictates had been imparted almost universal legitimacy in ancient statecraft. During the mediaeval period, police officials were routinely extended the assistance of armed contingents to enhance their capability to effectively discharge their duties. This tradition, too, became an intrinsic part of the functional modes of the post-1861 Indian Police. Curzon saw in it an institutional necessity when alarmed at the rapidly spreading nationlist upsurge, he redefined the importance, composition and strategic location of what he called the armed police along with the formal setting up of the Intelligence Bureau. At a later date, armed police in the states as well as at the national level in the form of paramilitary police, would expand enormously all over the sub-continent and result in considerably reduced attention to and expenditure on the civil (or police station) police resulting in lowered efficiency in enforcement of law and shielding the citizen from lawless elements. The age-old belief in the efficacy of force as also its traditional legitimacy has given to the police on the Indian sub-continent a 'military' character which cannot but detract from its essentially civilian responsibilities. Police phraseology is, in consequence, highly influenced by baraack-room vocabulary. Drill and parade, weapon training and disciplinary chastisement, orderly rooms and stick orderlies and a regimented rank structure as also the command and control practices adopted by the Indian police are directly attributable to its quasi-military character required of them and imbibed lavishly during the initial years after its reorganization under the 1861 legislation. Unlike the British police, the courses of training designed for different strata of the sub-continental police have a very large component of demonstrative spit and polish and drill exercises. There is no stress on seeking active community support though consmetic lessons on what is called police-public relations has become popular of late. The utter failure of the police trainees to internalize such values soon leads to a complete neglect by them of this important aspect in their subsequent conduct towards the common man. The induction of serving or retired military officers to fill up the many newly created supervisory levels in the reorganized force after 1861, certainly did not help in introducing a much-needed civilian temperament in the new constabulary.

The Indian Police Act of 1861 gave legal sanction to the historic legacy of a rigid rank structure in the police as it had evolved in medieval India and under the rule of the East India Company. Several experiments were conducted by Warren Hastings, Cornwallis and some of their more dynamic successors in developing a proper police system for the country, which should provide a reasonably effective social defence mechanism, but above all must serve their colonialist interests. By giving their stamp of approval to the older practices of an elite coterie filling up the leadership positions to command a vast number of low-paid, illiterate and socially backward constabulary, enjoying only the most elementary powers under the law, the colonial government created a vast gulf between the officer class and the rank and file which made the requisite unity of purpose in their functioning impossible. The horizontal stratification formally made an essential feature of the reorganised police by the 1861 enactment was to breed an elitist culture in the post 1861 police leadership. Unlike in Britain and most other western countries where the lowest ranked police official, the constable, enjoyed all those powers under the law which were vested in the senior most officer in leadership positions, the Indian cop was virtually a mechanical cog in the hierarchy, unable to take preventive action except the use of physical force to escort the suspect to the police station. The vast differentials in pay scales between the officer class and the ordinary policeman, sometimes as high as 1 to 100 during the British period, could attract only the most unskilled and poorest candidates for recruitment to the rank of constables. At the middle level were sub-inspectors and inspectors, who though not paid very high salaries, managed to gather sizeable power in their persons within the law, and outside it, to make considerable extra income by the misuse of their office. Since the superior cadres were not open to Indians, the middle ranks provided an attractive opening to many moderately educated Indians. When a new rank of deputy Superintendent was introduced in the beginning of the twentieth century to placate Indian aspirations, police became one of the preferred targets of many an. educated Indian from a more affluent social background, specially as some of these officers could later hope to be promoted to the Indian Police (Service). A sort of caste system was now operating in the department—chowkidars (village police officials) were generally lowest caste villagers, constables and head constables from amongst the poor peasantry, upper subordinates (sub-inspectors and inspectors) from the Kayastha, Rajput and Brahmin communities, and most deputy superintendents also coming from the latter community. Of course, there were occasional exceptions to the rule. Appointment of Indians to the superior cadres of the Indian Police did not take place till after the I World War, and then too only in driblets. For in inducting Indians into the Indian Police (Service), the British Indian authorities were much more circumspect and cautious than in respect of the Indian Civil Service. Thus, while more than half of the latter was Indian at the time of India's Independence in 1947, less than one third of the Indian Police (Service) cadre consisted of Indian members.

No student of Indian police history can overlook the close collaboration and active support which the police forces in India extended to the British Indian governments in their persistent efforts to retain their hold on power and in meeting the periodical challenges posed by an increasingly strident nationalist upsurge. From 1890's onwards, the voices of protest and agitation against foreign rule had been multiplying and a new social awareness had taken root progressively in different parts of the country starting with Bengal. The spread of English education and exposure of large numbers of Indians to Western thought and liberal creeds had produced and nurtured a fairly large middle class of urban professionals who now took over the leadership of these so far scattered and un-organised movements. A literary renaissance in Bengal and Bombay (now Maharashtra) and strong social reform movements in Bengal, the Panjab and elsewhere, provided a much needed boost to the movements of agitational politics, gradually emerging as a new form of discourse. Curzon with his characteristic vision, dynamism and political foresight was a pioneer of sorts in quickly perceiving the potential scope of the police as it was constituted under the 1861 Police Act in being converted into a bulwark of defense against the rising tide of nationalist resurgence. He lost no time, thereafter, to strengthen the organisation in all respects but specially in those aspects of its working which would be most beneficial in containing and overcoming the emerging challenges to British domination for several decades. He surely could not have foreseen the march of political change soon to be set in motion, after his departure, with the Council reforms of 1909. The opening years of the new century were devoted by him to the setting up of the Intelligence Bureau, strengthening the armed component of the police and enacting a battery of preventive and punitive regulations. Of all the imperialist Viceroys who presided over the raj, Curzon was to be the last in the line and expectedly did not fail to do his bit in strengthening the forces of repression to keep the 'Jewel in the Crown' in perpetural bondage. Traditional police attitudes dating from ancient times did not conflict with his plans to impart to the police forces a positive colonialist bias so that they would never side with the forces of nationalism (disroder and disruption according to the Viceroy) and would always be 'loyal' to the government of the day. Police history in the Indian sub-continent is replete with supportive evidence of colonialist orientation in their conduct, behaviour, and functional styles. The progressive refinement and maturing of the Indian freedom struggle would be accompanied, henceforth, by a parallel upgradation and enhancement of the professional strengths and capabilities of the Indian Police. Additionally, though salary scales of the lower subordinates would remain abysmally low, many other strategems would be employed to win and retain their forces. So the police, and not the army, turned out to be the main instrument of repression and subjugation of the Indian peoples in the 90 years of British rule in India after the cataclysmic events of 1857. Only in the disturbed regions of the North-West and the North-East, did the army play a dominant role.

For any worthwhile study of an organisation as vital to the community as the police, one must perforce do so from a deep historical perspective. Social and political institutions grow and develop over long periods and must necessarily reflect in their philosophical make-up and value systems the accumulated historical experiences of their parent societies. Along with that they are also inseperably linked with the evolutionary processes through which a society makes progress from its primeval origions to modernity and civilization. Indian social and political formations have tended to be moulded into an autocratice system of governance, at least for the last five millenia. This conclusion is supported by fairly reliable historical and scriptural evidence. Indian folk-lore and mythology point clearly to an imperial past, albeit the kings and rajahs were generally of the benevolent kind, especially those depicted in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other religious texts. Sanskrit literature of ancient India, too, confirms the deduction. It appears, however, that commencing with the Mauryan kings, the rulers became progressively more concerned with their own survival in power and perpetuating their dynasties rather than the welfare and well-being of their subjects. Each successive empire and kingdom, thereafter became increasingly more tyrranical in their pursuit of power. The people ceased to matter in their scheme of things. Most rulers in the mediaeval period of Indian history appear to have sharpened the tools of repression and subjugation of their peoples even more skilfully. It was a rare monarch (Akbar and Shershah Suri come to mind) who overly concerned himself with the good of the common man. Instruments of oppression could be located in all spheres of administration but were concentrated mostly in the army and what passed for the police agency in those times. The advent of the East India Company did not materially change the scenario for some time and its officials generally upheld the practices of their predecessors. It was not till the Company Bahadur became more deeply involved in administering fairly large areas of the country after Plassey that they paid serious attention to the state of crime, public order and policing policies. After nearly a hundred years of experimentation, the British finally gave legal cover to the Indian police by the enactment of the Indian Police Act of 1861. This legislation imparted a unified structure and a system of command and control to the police organisation in each province. However, its basic character did not change, nor was any such change intended. In its age old commitment to safe-guard the rulers and their interests, the Indian police would henceforth be even more steadfast and would earn commendations and encomiums from many a Viceroy and Governor-General. Its traditional baggage of servility and oppression too would remain unaltered, only its traditional mandate would now be couched in a refined and legalistic phraseology. Also this instrument of coercion would be expanded and diversified from time to time, as the occasion demanded.

Independence in 1947 came to the sub-continent somewhat unexpectedly and it was accompanied by unprecedented violence and turmoil. The process of adjustment to governing institutions by the political class had to be telescoped into a fraction of the time normally required for such a momentous change. However, the Congress had already had some experience of the functional modes and concepts practised by the Indian Police while holding office earlier under the scheme of the Government of India Act of 1935 and to come to terms with them. So the British Indian Police organizations were inherited intact by the new governments of India and Pakistan, complete with their ruler-supportive roles. A further strengthening of their oppressive character in the years to come would widen even further the gulf between the public and the police with disastrous consequences to the citizens. The basic character of the South Asian police with its twin legacies of servility to the ruler and oppression for the mass of the people thus appeared set to survive well into the 21st century, neither the political class, nor the bureaucracy and least of all the police itself, showing any anxiety to alter its established culture, ethos, role and functional styles.


1The Evolution and Institution of Police: The Indian Context23
2Emergence of the Police Concept: Police in Ancient India37
3The Strengthening of the concept: Indian Police in Mediaeval India53
4Trial and Error -search for a suitable system: Police under the East India Company67
5Reorganization, Reform and Uniformity: Police in British India: 1858-1902100
6A Midcourse Review and Some Reforms: The II Indian Police Commission 1902-03144
7Consolidation of the Colonial Character of the Police: Police in British India-I, 1902-1921173
8Safeguarding Colonial Rule -A Role Confirmed Plice in British India- II, 1922-47204
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