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The khaki brigade

india Updated: Feb 17, 2007 03:59 IST
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Mumbai’s police force is the oldest in the country and one that’s considered second only to Scotland Yard. And the city, in no small measure, owes the semblance of order that prevails, in spite of the odds, to its police force. What perhaps sets Mumbai’s men in khaki apart from those in other cities is perhaps their approach, which is both tough and pliable. The encounter specialist  on a shooting spree, the bumbling constable, the tough, law enforcer— in our collective imagination, a Mumbai cop is all of the above thanks to a varied representation in Bollywood flicks.  

Of late, their image may have taken a beating due to unsavoury incidents involving policemen but it is equally true that Mumbai has produced many outstanding police officers. One such officer is former police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, known in his heyday simply as Supercop. It was during his tenure that Mumbai police killed a gangster in the first ever encounter with the underworld. Ribeiro also ordered a massive crackdown on D-company, which forced Dawood Ibrahim to escape to Dubai in the late eighties.

AS Samra is yet another distinguished officer who comes to mind. It was Samra who cracked the 1992-93 bomb blast case by tracking down Tiger Memon with his deft investigative skills. It was on his instructions that officers gathered splinters of an Ambassador car found outside Air-India building, which eventually led the cops to Tiger Memon.

Rakesh Maria, too did a remarkable job of investigating the blast. He arrested over a 100 people who were suspected to be Tiger Memon’s men. Maria also cracked the 2002-2003 twin blast case, arresting Hanif and his wife Fahimida on charges of planting RDX in two taxis, at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar.  

Maintaining law and order in the city, courtesy the underworld and unwieldy demographic, is a tough job. The police have worked around this problem (with some degree of success) by involving the common man. They have roped in local people to maintain vigil by forming ‘Peace Mohalla Committees’, which consist of members from all communities. The committees meet periodically and try to solve local problems that crop up in the area. The police have also formed panchayats in slums across the city.

The panchayats, with policemen and people as members, are responsible for addressing grievances. Peace Mohalla committees and Police Panchayats have played a major role in solving law and order problems in their areas. They have also set up social security branches, which deal with family problems and domestic quarrels, including disputes between husband and wife or brothers in a family.

And like the rest of the city, they like to work hard and party harder. Top cops like commissioner A.N. Roy are a common sight at parties and police gala nights where Bollywood stars perform .

In keeping with the city’s artistic inclinations, police chowkis (like the one at Sahar) have got a new look thanks to artists like Brinda Miller and Krishnamachari Bose.

Different strokes for a police force that’s clearly different.

Email Sunil Shivdasani: sunilshivdasani @hindustantimes.com

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