Campaign Against Jwalasingh

Having learnt that Jwalashingh was in Rajasthan, local Crime Branch Inspector Netaji shinde and his men raided the criminal hideout and nabbed a gang member called Modya.  Unfortunately the rest of the gang escaped into the surrounding jungle.  Modya was brought to me.  I questioned him extensively about his background. 

Modya had been committing crimes since his childhood.  His father ran an illicit distillery, which the Police would raid frequently.  They would beat up everybody in sight.  Modya started with petty crimes committed with his friends in the vicinity of Pune.  He became a real dacoit after entering the police records.

He had a family.  By day he would sleep on a hill near the village as he could see any approaching policemen from there.  His wife & children fetched him meals.  It was risky to stay on the hill at night.  He therefore slept in the sugarcane farm wrapped up in a plastic sheet that protected him from scorpions and rodents.  The frequency of his robberies depended on his needs.

However, since he had to spend on police, courts, bail and lawyers, nothing was left of the loot.  The only thing that increased was the number of crimes registered against him in court.  He was unable to send his children to school.  They worked at the illicit distillery.  Modya sounded very unhappy with his life. 

Finally I asked him, “Modya, have you ever thought of leaving this life of crime?”  He promptly responded, “Sir, I often think about it.  I feel like Walyakoli (Mythological robber turned saint), I should change too.  But how can I ever get out of this trap?” 

“If you stop your crimes immediately, undergo punishment for your past crimes and promise me you will not return to your old ways once you are released, then I will help you.  You will also have to give me information about Jwalasingh and his associates.  If Jwalasingh wants to reform and lead a happy life like you then I will help him too.”

I could see from his face that he didn’t have much faith in my promises.  I said further, “although we arrested you in Rajasthan we will not put you inside the lock up.  Once we have Jwalasingh and his associates we’ll present all of you together in front of the courts.”

Modya was set free.  Seeing that I was true to my word he started coming to me frequently with information.  He told his former associates that ‘Khopade saheb is going to give us a second chance.  One by one many criminals met me.  One of them was a hardened criminal called Badshah.  His gang had looted a bus in Andhra Pradesh.  He had killed the police officers chasing him and decamped with his revolver.  He met me in my chamber bringing along the same revolver.

60 Kanjarbhat criminals some with prior records and some even without any police record met me.  We did not arrest them and instead deputed to nab Jwalasingh.  They would accompany my men in police jeeps on night patrols.

The news that dreaded Kanjarbhat criminals were in the custody of the Pune Rural Police reached Satara, Solapur and Pune City police.  In the crime conference called by the CID Crime a SP alleged that SP, Pune (Rural) had given shelter to 40 criminals belonging to the Kanjarbhat community.  All the officers were startled by this allegation and started whispering amongst themselves. 

Was the Pune Rural Police really sheltering criminals when the whole state was being plagued by robberies?  I was asked whether this was true.  “Yes, it is true,” I replied.  The temperature in the meeting shot up.  I went on to tell them that the number of criminals was 60, not 40 as my colleague had pointed out.  My answer just added more fuel to the fire.  My furious seniors bombarded me with questions.  “Why haven’t you arrested them?” they screamed.  I explained that I was going to arrest them after using them to get to Jwalasingh.  “These criminals have promised me to change for the better.  Only a few families are criminal.  If we rehabilitate them now, we can save their next generation from a life of crime.  We are sketching out schemes to rehabilitate them.”

What?  Rehabilitation of the Kanjarbhat criminals through schemes implemented by the police?  My colleagues and seniors couldn’t digest the thought.

‘How can you trust criminals who claim to be helping the police?  How can you say that they have stopped crime and robberies?’  The questions kept coming.  I answered that these criminals were always with the police and that we were confident that they would not commit any more crimes.  Some officers were still not satisfied.  ‘How can you say that they aren’t continuing their robberies by hoodwinking you?’

The Kanjarbhats were doing the same things that my interrogators were doing, except in civilian clothes instead of my in the police uniforms. Some of my attackers looked to me like the pre-independence Britishers in brown skin.  My rehabilitation schemes were ridiculed in the meeting.  “You are going to rehabilitate the Kanjarbhats?  Who do you think you are, Vionba Bhave?  Stop this drama of yours.  What is all this nonsense?  We expect you to practice professional policing!”  I was unable to understand the reason behind this ruthless and relentless opposition till I read ‘A Passion for Excellence’ by Tom Peters, the management guru. 

I said, “the professional policing you are talking about doesn’t exist.  The present policing in Pune district is nothing but fire fighting.”   The senior officer yelled at me, “Stop your nonsense, I want professional policing in your district.”  He further added, “Henceforth if there is a dacoity in Pune district jurisdiction you will be personally held responsible.”  I was thus tried, convicted and sentenced in the meeting.  My ideas were called ‘nonsense’ and ‘a farce’.  The senior officers vented their ire at me with all the righteousness and courage of a religious preacher.  I was the only officer with a bullet scar on my chest in that august gathering.

After the meeting a colleague said to me, “Mr Khopade, why do you want to argue with the seniors?  Just say yes sir to whatever they say and forget the whole thing.”  His advice was indeed practical.  I remembered the old adage, “Never cross a donkey from behind and your boss from the front.

I thought about my colleague’s advice.  In a way he was right.  The Kanjarbhats were not my family or kith and kin.  And for them I was inviting the wrath of seniors in a job that was high on discipline.  But my conscience kept telling me that it was highly imperative to bring the Kanjarbhat community into the mainstream, and that only the police could accomplish this task.

There was a lot I wanted to say, but I wasn’t allowed to.  What we regard as professionalism has become outdated and irrelevant.  The SP is held responsible for a rise in crime.  In this meeting I was threatened that I would be held personally responsible for any more dacoities.  But how much control do I have on the factors that lead to increase in these dacoities?

The first reason is economic deprivation.  As a Superintendent of Police I have no powers to improve the economic conditions of the Kanjarbhats.  The second factor is administrative powers.  I could transfer incompetent officers, but how many such transfers could I order?  The third factor is social conditioning.  A Police officer’s son aspires to be an IAS or IPS officer and he is brought up accordingly.  A Doctor’s son becomes a doctor while a Lawyer’s son becomes a lawyer.  What does the son of a Kanjarbhat aspire to be?  Once a constable asked Jwalasing as to why he had lead a life of murder, dacoity and loot.  May be he wasn’t entirely serious but he said, “Havaldar saheb, if my father had been a school-teacher or a farmer like your father, I would also have been a policemen like yourself”.  Jwalasingh’s father and grandfather had been notorious robbers.

Children growing up in such families are regularly beaten up.  The idea is to toughen them so that they do not give any information to the police or yield to the police beating!  The boys are taught to escape from the police.  They are so conditioned that they can get drunk and assault people mercilessly.  A portion of the loot has to be given to the gang chief.  The community recognizes crime as a profession. The boys are brought up to continue the hereditary occupation of dacoity.  They take to crime for living and get used to the easy money.  The terror they create satisfies their ego.  Can I, as Superintendent of Police reach the Kanjarbhat households to change these circumstances?  Certainly not!  

Traditional crime prevention measures outlined in the manual were useless against this gang.  To what extent can I modify the instructions for crime control given in the police manual?

Though I cannot amend the police manual, I can certainly try innovative methods of public administration and crime control.  This is the only thing in my power.  Accordingly I decided to try a new approach in case of Jwalasingh. 

The present method is called professional but it is hardly so.  It is actually the fire brigade approach to police work because we never think about crime prevention.  Every second or third day there is a dacoity in Pune (Rural).  How do police handle these crimes?  Early morning they get the news of the docility.  Police officers and men rush to the spot.  The crime branch sleuths follow.  If the crime is serious then the Superintendent of Police visits the scene of offence.  The local circle inspector and the SDPO visit the site.  Local police register the case.  They make the Panchanama.  They try to figure out the community and caste of the dacoits.  If the dacoits were of dark complexion they could be Paradhis or Mati waddars.  If they were tall and fair they could be Kanjarbhats.  They raid the habitats of the particular community in the vicinity and arrest some persons.  Most of them are innocent.  Why would the real culprits stay at home? Senior officers are told about these arrests and assured that more arrests would be made shortly.  The senior officers advice them to send ‘A roll and B roll’ while the subordinates answer with ‘yes sir, yes sir’.  A couple of days later a new dacoity takes place.  The first dacoity is forgotten.  Everybody rushes to the new dacoity spot.  The same show is repeated all over again.  Like the fire brigade they wait for the next call.  I started thinking in terms of crime prevention.  I wanted to replace the short-term reactionary measures by long term comprehensive innovative schemes.  I did so in Pune (Rural) district.