Of the charm of C.P. Office

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Dec 2017 12:09:08



Vijay Phanshikar,

In the night of June 25-26, 1975, the Commissioner of Police (CP) of Nagpur stood still and silent in his office. He had just received strict instructions about how to handle things from that moment onwards. The Government had clamped Emergency on the country. It had slapped pre-publication censorship on the newspapers. It had prepared elaborate lists of political activists who needed to be arrested immediately even as dawn broke out in a few hours.

The entire country stood on the edge of a dark era when the people would wake up in the morning of June 26, 1975 -- the era of gagging of the whole political process in the country, the stamping down of voice of freedom and reason. The Police chief -- his name not important -- was aware of all the trauma that would engulf the country in a few hours from that moment. He was a seasoned officer, having seen ups and downs of life and of profession. Yet, he felt a sense of numbness.

Just around that time, Loknayak Jaiprakash Narain -- JP to all -- had said prophetic words when the cops knocked at his door around midnight to arrest him. He had said, “Vinashkale Vipareet Buddhi” (When your end comes near, your intellect goes berserk). He was obviously referring to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s decision to clamp Emergency on the country to save her rule. In order to stave off a constitutional crisis when the Allahabad High Court had held her guilty of wrong electoral practices, she had pushed the country into another constitutional crisis of Emergency.

Of course, at that very moment when Nagpur Commissioner of Police was communicated the latest
development, he did not know what JP had prophetically said. He knew instinctively, however, that whatever was happening had an ominous aura.

The office of the Commissioner of Police in Civil Lines, on West High Court Road, thus, has seen many a historic moment. It is sitting pretty on a large plot of land next to the District Collector’s Official Residence, and opposite Deogiri, the official residence of the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Next to Deogiri is the offices of Accountant General Maharashtra II. The official residence of the Commissioner of Police, too, is after a small lane that runs next to his office.

But now, this wonderful building is to be demolished in favour of a new multi-storied building that would accommodate the future needs of the Commissioner’s tasks in changing times. The Maharashtra Government has sanctioned Rs. 70 crore for the new complex. Until the time the new premises get constructed, the CP Office would shift to another place in the Police Line at Takli.

One’s heart aches a little when one hears of the news that the CP Office is going to be brought down shortly. One does understand the need for the CP to have new and better and bigger premises. One also knows that the current building, howsoever beautiful in every which the way, cannot house the ever-increasing work-load of the leader of the Police force in Maharashtra’s Second Capital. Yet, one’s heart cannot stop aching a little, feeling stressed a little. For, this
wonderful building under traditional tiled roof, has seen history taking shape, has seen many a Police chief leading the force into future, many a top cop envisioning how the future historians would rate the City Police when they look back on these times.

No matter how old the building is, no matter how small the premises now seem, this structure has often formed an integral and important part of my consciousness as a journalist and citizen. I have been to these premises countless thousands of times. Even this building was different initially when Mr. M.G. Mugwe came to be the city’s first Commissioner of Police in the 1960s. He was a true super-cop, a true leader of men in uniform, a true gentleman who remained unruffled. Mr. Mugwe’s arrival in the city also matched my entry into journalism as a Reporter in early and Photographer. He took an instant liking for me. The next chief was Mr. V.P. Naik (a namesake of then Maharashtra Chief Minister V.P. Naik), who also showered upon this young journalist a lot of affection, guiding, holding hand, patting the back, even admonishing on occasions.

As all that happened, the CP Office, in its old form and later in its current form, formed an integral part of my idea of the authority of Police chief. From novels and movies, I had some idea of what the Police chief should be and could be like. But in practical field of journalism as I dealt with Police news and roamed the city day and night, I often bumped into Police patrols or officers, including the CP, on the night rounds. On countless occasions, I would take a detour to the CP Office for a cup of coffee with the top-cop and get an appropriate assessment of many a challenging and confusing situation.

This building has certain warmth that has magnetised me to its premises often. Each time I went there, I met with a warmth that was so endearing, almost as if I belonged to the Police force. The speciality of this building does not end here. Much to the contrary, it begins here. For, on many occasions when I blasted the cops for their mishandling of many situations in the rapidly changing city of Nagpur in its socio-political and cultural evolution, I suspected if the cops would again welcome me to the CP Office. But every time I went there, all my apprehensions proved wrong. Each officer, not just the CP, welcomed me with equal and unchanged warmth.

For a young journalist, it was a live lesson on how democracy works, how good officialdom respects free press, and how a young journalist has infinite opportunities to grow in a mature manner not just as a professional but also as a human being. I must place my wordless thanks at the doorstep of many Commissioners of Police, including the present one -- Dr. Venkatesham -- who became my personal friends. I must state clearly, however, that the friendship blossomed because none of us -- him or me -- curried any favours from each other, with no embarrassment to each other.

Now that the current premises are to be pulled down, my mind cries silently. Of course, the new building will continue to serve in a similar manner, no matter who the occupant would be from time to time. Yet, the charm and magnetism of the persona of the current C.P. Office would certainly be missing. That is my tribute to the current CP Office.