Forgotten and buried deep behind the uniform is a common man. As The Other Side of Policing attempts to break the stereotype of policing as an obsession with guns, crime and criminals, it insists that even the cops have a penchant for humour. At times, for people like Maxwell, it is the humour that makes them survive in a system that kills initiatives.
The book is based on the author’s own experiences as a policeman for nearly 35 years where he provides an insider’s account of someone who has experienced everything at close quarters and can afford to be critical of the system as a whole. He recounts gripping stories about how policemen learn to survive under the axe of the media, politicians, common people and their own seniors.
In his anecdotal account, the author talks of various incidents and projects the men behind uniform as human beings who could succumb to the trials and tribulations of power. He talks about the inability of cops to do anything when high profile politicians enact stage dramas to stay in the limelight, how the cops take liberties to kill at will, how a South Indian to whom all Sikhs looked the same learnt to differentiate between them and how an April Fool’s prank resulted in a senior officer waiting at the airport to receive a VIP when none was scheduled to arrive.
His narration laced with humour provides a fresh look at unexplored alleys and brings home the point that at the end of the day we all need our daily dose of banter and policing provides ample opportunities for that. The author hopes that this book will connect easily with the man on the street and help bridge the gap between police and people.
Maxwell Pereira, a highly decorated former officer of the elite Indian Police Service, was born in Salem on 3 October 1944. He joined the IPS in 1970 after a brief stint as a successful lawyer. During his 35-year service career, he served in various capacities and territories including Sikkim (as the first Superintendent of Police), Mizoram (as Assistant Inspector General of Police), Pondicherry (as Chief of Police), and Delhi (as Joint Commissioner of Police).
By the time he retired, Maxwell had nine national and four regional awards adorning the lapel of his uniform, making him one of the most highly decorated police officers in India. A thorough-bred field officer with a reputation for taking the bull by the horns, he is the recipient of the Indian Police Medal for Gallantry (1979), the Police Medal for Meritorious Services (1987) and the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Services (1995).
A widely published writer and panellist, he has a firm grip on nation’s political and social issues. Rightly called ‘The Thinking Cop’, Maxwell is often interviewed by newspapers, magazines and TV/radio channels. Apart from publishing several articles in major newspapers like the Times of India, Pioneer, Hindustan Times, Statesman, Delhi Mid-day, he has the book Road Safety for Schools to his credit.
A man of diverse interests, Maxwell is a well-known visiting faculty at various institutions in India, actively involved in social welfare activities as a Rotarian, and a much-sought-after speaker.
The greatest gift one can give another is abhaya-daan (the gift of fearlessness or relief from fear)-one of the pearls of wisdom from the mouth of Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata. And this gift of abhaya can be given to an aggrieved by none other than a policeman-so said a former prime minister in his message to the Delhi Police. The basic police role is to provide security of life and property to its citizens and maintain public order by enforcing the rule of law. It does so by preventing and detecting crime, maintaining peace and tranquillity. Though police is primarily a service-oriented agency, we policemen in India, unfortunately, are yet to be viewed by the society as service-minded or even being helpful. There may be many reasons for this-one of them being the inability of the police to shake off its colonial hangover.
Policing Delhi, the nation’s capital, is a unique job, incomparable to policing any other state in the country. It has always been a challenging and complex task. Being the seat of the nation’s Parliament-the hotbed of politics and political intrigues-the nation’s ills and grievances get reflected in Delhi. Also home to the vast diplomatic community deputed to India from countries across the world, Delhi is constantly under the hawk-eyed nose of both-the national as well as the international media. A city of refugees and migrants, Delhi is targetted by the crime-ridden hinterlands in its neighbourhood, making the task of Delhi policemen ever difficult. The burden of coping with the ever-growing complexities is on the Delhi Police, and to meet the constantly emerging threats to society and the nation in an environment of insurgency, terrorism and naxalism that has taken root countrywide, Delhi’s policemen are always required to be alert-proactive, and not just reactive.
The police and the public have an ambivalent relationship. While no policing can succeed without public cooperation and help, attempts of the police and the community to come closer are often complicated and hampered by the fact that there is never one public, but many, with divergent views and values often tampered and influenced by a highly evolved media, sometimes with an agenda of its own. Despite these constraints, successful policing remains dependent upon winning the confidence of the people and getting their participation in community policing. For this, there is need to transform our officious grievance redressal machinery into a sympathetic and public friendly system. The police at all levels should be made accountable to the people.
For one who strayed into the police profession, as most do consequent to the common selection process to the All India Services through the annual competitive examination, Maxwell Pereira in his policing career spanning 35 years, built for himself a reputation as a people’s policeman, ever available to one and all for whatever help they sought. PR Rajgopal, Delhi Police Chief in the early 70s always noted and I can vouch for the fact that Maxwell with his easy accessibility, helpful attitude-always picking up his phone himself, be it at office or at home, any part of day or night-has carved a special place for himself in the heart of Delhi citizens. While being so Maxwell remained a thorough field professional, a committed “no nonsense” man, never faltering in the efficient discharge of his duties.
I recall how when as a young officer in Parliament Street sub-division, I persuaded Maxwell against accepting an offer by the External Affairs Ministry for deputation to the Muscat Police. He had just got married while on casual leave at Mangalore and brought his bride to Delhi, and I had reasoned with him against taking her to the barren deserts of the Gulf. My faith in him and for his retention in the Delhi Police was amply justified over the years that followed-Maxwell having acquitted himself commendably in every assignment and charge entrusted to him. His role in crisis situations like during the November ‘84 riots, needs to be specially commended. Leading from the front, he saw to it that the Sikhs were given full protection. I was appointed to enquire into the role of the Delhi police during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the area under his charge remained, by and large, riot-free. Later, when I was appointed as the Delhi Police Commissioner, I depended on him to handle difficult law and order situations even outside his jurisdiction. I had to summon him from South Delhi to control the rioting Sikh agitators at Gurdwara Bangla Saheb in New Delhi District.
Maxwell’s flair for writing was discernible right from his early career days. Through his writings he has been a positive spokesperson for the police department, especially for the Delhi Police. He has throughout endeavoured to paint an authentic picture of a service torn between the commitment to uphold the rule of law and the compulsions of survival in a system that through its chequered history discounted the ethics of the calling. The chapters in The Other Side of Policing are but mere samples of his varied experiences in and out of uniform while still being a true policeman. His easy-flowing simple narrative style, often in a lighter vein, brings out not only the policeman in him, but also the warm personality of one who never allowed the rigours of his profession to come in the way or obscure his attributes as a good human being, or his creativity as a perceptive observer of his surroundings-be it nature or the scenic surroundings (some amazing insights into relevant history and nature for the avid traveller and the inquisitive reader too), issues confronting the service and the department, or just men and matters.
From eulogising lower rank minions attached to him in great instances of human interest laced with his subtle sense of humour; to his skirmishes with the right and wrong, and his brushes with time-honoured prejudices; to providing a fresh, engaging look at the gripping issues confronting contemporary law enforcement in the Indian context, the book covers all. From aspects of the die-hard traditional crimes of policing, newer challenges thrown up by the emerging technologies, lifestyles and growing aspirations of an evolving “democratic” people still stigmatized as hosting the world’s largest chunk of those below the poverty line-currently in an environment of a bullish booming economy governed by a highly politicized bureaucracy and criminalized polity with scant regard for the rule oflaw-to examining everything from the psychology of bosses in a disciplined environment of the uniform, to ground realities of the need for instant results which makes one wonder whether the end justifies the means; to the risks of being trigger-happy-the book lets you travel new grounds and meander through the Indian psyche to learn what makes its people tick; all in his unique style.
Most readers would expect police writings to have accounts filled with cops and robbers, crime and criminals, sensation and intrigue, even serious stuff that attempts to throw some light on how to improve the deplorable state of affairs of police administrations in the country, and/or the criminal justice system and its aspects-hot topics of the day. It is a fact that police service does provide its members a wide canvas of experiences that include all the aspects mentioned-but not all of the experiences need be official policing as in common parlance. Of even richer variety, are the experiences not strictly covered by the term “official” but definitely and more often than not encountered in the course of duty. Also, we police-men are often accused of carrying our work home, and not being able to shed our policing ways in the home and holiday environment too. So experiences outside the line of duty bordering on policing ways are not uncommon. It is such that I have endeavoured to record in my writings throughout my service career through articles that found publication off and on. Intriguingly, I escaped the draconian eyes and wrath of the powers that be when those not happy with my writings sought ways and means to clobber me with a ban order; with the file opened on the issue in the top ministry-about which I learnt only from the newspapers much later-getting closed after much sleuthing to arrive at the conclusion that in effect no law or conduct rule was really violated by me!
Other than in terms of some history of the evolution of the policing concept and of police perspectives in general, the experiences narrated in The Other Side Of Policing endeavour to provide an insight into the fact that policing need not all be danda and violence, that there is much more there for the one who seeks it; that there is life outside serious policing, which one has to reach our to grasp and grab. That to be a good and efficient policeman, one need not necessarily give up the nice things in the life around oneself-nature, history and legend, music, hobbies, even idiosyncratic indulgences; and that there is ample opportunity for a good policeman to contribute to society, even outside the ambit of the IPC, Cr PC, or the Police Act. I believe I have gained tremendously in these encounters and experiences that either touched my soul or enriched knowledge and enlarged my horizons. If by sharing these with the reader I succeed in some small measure to remedy the legacy of an unsavoury image we carry as a millstone round our necks, my purpose will be served.
Since versions in some form or the other of most episodes in this book found publication down the years in major newspapers like the Times of India, the Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Evening News, Delhi Mid-Day, The North-eastern Sun, The Tribune and elsewhere. I take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge their participation and contribution to my endeavour. Acknowledgements are also in line to team Vitasta led by Renu Kaul Verma and ably supported by Namita Gupta, also the illustrators, the designers, the printers, and all others whom I have missed out-for their combined endeavour in producing an excellent book.
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