Cool Embers

Cool Embers.

The  camouflaged fire exudes

a dull look with its  flames dying

 and embers covered with ashes.

But the heat underneath has not receded,

which most certainly is sinister in its

design to prolong the suffering.

Cloud of smoke bellowing from underneath.

Elusive and hideous as always.

It has burned for many long years,

destroying everything in its wake.

Scorching  fire engulfed and

devoured everything.

What is to be salvaged from the hot ashes?

Having the potential to come alive again,

it may take you by surprise and torture

until it finds a little  trace of happiness and laughter.

Some fought tooth and nail for survival,

and some resigned with a sigh of utter helplessness.

It only burns itself and other mortals.


A humane touch

                       I was a small kid of 5 years when something very gruesome and ghastly took place infront of me at Koraput, where  my father was then posted as an Assistant Commandant in 3rd Battalion of Orissa Military Police, a specialised armed unit of Orissa Police. We lived in one of the staff quarters on the foothill of a flat topped hill popularly known as the “Table Hill”. There was jungle everywhere, except a foot ball field size clearing infront of the staff quarters . It was a chilly winter morning of the early part of 1968 when I heard someone shouting outside our quarters. I ran outside and found that a spotted deer with her two offsprings were sorrounded by some hunting dogs and a group of  officers and sepoys who were armed to teeth in the clearing. The deer was perhaps pregnant and unable to run. After sometime I heard loud echoes of rifle fire and found that the deer was lying dead on the ground within seconds. Some men caught hold of the offsprings after a little chase.They cheered and greeted each other with their prize catch, while the hapless victim was lying still in a pool of blood. I was so terrified at the sight that I immediately covered my face with my mother’s saree. My father soon sensed everything and comforted me saying,  “son don’t be afraid, it is only a hunting spree the jawans are indulging in, which will be over very soon “. I could not help but started sobbing. It was my mother who hugged me tightly for sometime and then I relaxed and stopped crying.
The second incident which occurred infront of me at Koraput left an indelible print in my mind. During the last part of 1968 my father got his transfer orders to another Battalion at Charbatia. My father had arranged a department jeep and a truck for our transport and shifting of our belongings as well. It was early morning when we decided to move. I was very much excited to travel such a long distance with the entire family. Some of my father’s colleagues and  suborinates had gathered near our quarters to bid farewel. Then suddenly something bizarre happened. I saw some jawans  were driving inside an abandoned house some 20 odd stray dogs. The house was located a little away from our quarters . The dogs were systemetically herded inside the courtyard of the house and the only entry/exit door was shut from outside. 2 jawans climbed up the courtyard wall with rifles in their hands. Then they started firing indiscriminately at the poor animals. I could hear muffled cries of the dogs with each shot fired. After sometime I could clearly see a stream of blood flowing out of the door and understood everything. When I and my elder brother shouted in protest against such a dastardly act by the jawans, the men who had gathered near our house explained to us that the dogs were rabid and hence harmful for the people around them.
After the baggage and other household goods were loaded a space of  6″x4”  near the cabin of the truck was left vacant. We children cuddled against each other in that little space to enjoy the journey, though my father wanted all to sit in the jeep. As soon as the truck started moving we cheered and chorused at the top of our voice. Slowly the unpleasant scenes disappeared from my mind and I felt a little spirited in the company of my brothers and sisters.
The episode of human cruelty to animals soon faded into my subconcious mind. But, the entire picture emerged clearly again after 42 years, when one fine morning  my wife fished out a trembling puppy from a gutter near our house at Bhubaneswar who was completely drenched in gutter water. We could not trace her mother. She looked like the skeletal remains of a puppy and breathing very slowly. Out of compassion we gave her some warm milk which she with much effort finished drinking. We cuddled her up in a blanket and soon she fell asleep contendedly. Every day we nursed her and soon she became healthy and strong.  Several times thereafter I had tried to drive her out from the house fearing that she might be infected with  rabies, but she would not budge an inch. My daughter pleaded me to keep her in our house. I finally resigned and agreed to her request. She is now 2 1/2 years old, all white and a charming beauty. Her name is Goldie. Now she waits for me every day till I return back to the house from work. She would wag her tail in happiness and then lie upward as if pleading me to stroke her with my hands. After getting a vigorous stroke she would go to sleep in my daughter’s bed-room.

                          Please be merciful  to the  animals who are also beautiful creations  of God.

An insider to police brutality

                  One of the nagging problems which our country is facing today is, “police brutality”. It is an ongoing issue, which is reported almost every day  in TV and   news papers, debated in different forums and condemned in every conceivable way by civil society organizations. It is observed that members of general public fall prey to police brutality either directly or indirectly.
                  It has, however, not been specifically defined anywhere in the lexicon. What we generally mean by police brutality is, ‘mindless physical or mental torture or harassment to a citizen by police’. Precisely enough, malicious prosecution, unwarranted aggression towards accused or suspect in custody, unfriendly and indecent behavior towards the citizens are different types of police brutalities.
                  Death of an accused/suspect in police custody or a prisoner in jail, rape or molestation of a female visiting a police station or in police custody and use of force on peaceful demonstrations are some of the police brutalities often reported in newspapers and TV in India.
                  Now, where  such abominable crimes are committed and who are the perpetrators? A police station, which is also known as a station house, is usually alleged to be the breeding ground of all sorts of brutalities and the police personnel working therein are the perpetrators. Majority of the deaths, rapes, molestation and physical torture in custody reportedly take place in the premises of a police station.
                 However, to eradicate the aforesaid malady from society, there is a need to make an in-depth study of the alleged place and people working therein .  A police station is basically an unit of investigation where different types of crime, cognizable or non-cognizable, are reported by members of general public. Incidents of road,  rail and air mishaps, accidental fire, unnatural deaths, flood, famine, other natural calamities and all other matters requiring police action or attention are also reported at the police station, which are recorded chronologically in a register known as the general diary or station diary. A police station is also used as a temporary detention centre for an accused/suspect before his/her forwarding to the court of law. The police stations in Odisha are manned by subordinate police officers , i.e, officers of and below the rank of Inspector.  As per Police Manual Rules the command and control over the subordinate police officers are excercised by officers of and above the rank of  Deputy Superintendent of Police,  who are also known as superior police officers.
                We also need to know about the duties and responsibilities which are prescribed for a subordinate police officer working in a station house. Broadly speaking, the duties of a police officer in a  station house are, to prevent and detect a crime within its local limits and maintain public peace and order.  Apprehension of accused and absconders, regular surveillance over the movements of habitual offenders, execution of non-bailable and bailable warrants issued by a court of law, holding inquiries about missing persons and unnatural deaths, regulation of vehicular traffic and crowd during public meetings, demonstrations by political parties, trade unions, fairs and festivals and protection of VIPs and vital installations are some of the important duties of a police officer who is working in a station house. Besides, prisoner escort duty, participation in ceremonial parades at police headquarters and deposition of evidence in a court of law are some more duties which are prescribed by the Police Manual to the subordinate police officers . Several other minor duties are assigned to a police officer, like maintenance of records and registers, writing out reports and returns, etc
                Basically, a police station functions on round the clock basis by the subordinate police officers. As per Police Act, 1861 and Police Manual Rules, a subordinate police officer is considered to be always on duty unless, he/she is absent on leave, duly granted by a competent authority. Wilful absence from duty is treated as a grave misconduct and makes him/her liable to be proceeded under disciplinary rules. The Police Manual has prescribed minor punishments like warning and censure in the service book of a subordinate police officer . Major punishments like black mark  in the service book, forfeiture of annual increment, reduction in rank and removal from service are also awarded to a subordinate officer. The superior police officers are empowered to award one or more of these punishments to the subordinates. Besides, an adverse entry in the ACR (annual character roll) of a subordinate officer by a superior may entail stoppage of his promotion to the next higher rank. Even a charged officer is not entitled to get his promotion during pendency of a  proceeding enquiry which takes years to come to an end. It acts like a tenterhook which could make someone depressive and vacillating. Though suspension from active service is not regarded as a punishment in the Police Manual, it is commonly used now-a-days by the authorities because of its devastating/deterrent effect on a police officer. With his powers and privileges curtailed and a meagre subsistence allowance, he is reduced to an outcast in his own fraternity.
               So far as the state of Odisha is concerned, a subordinate police officer is entitled to take a day off from the police station, only when his/her leave application  is duly sanctioned by a competent authority, as prescribed in the Leave Rules. The application  is always routed through proper channel with necessary recommendation at different levels. The resultant delay in obtaining the sanction order is often worrisome for an officer.  Broadly speaking, the subordinate officer is entitled for 15 days casual leave, 5 days special leave and earned leave, usually not exceeding 30 days in a calendar year. Except earned leave, the casual leave and special leave put together, are granted in piece meal, not exceeding 10 days at a time and there is every possibility of getting a recall order in exigency. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned leave are only  applicable to Head Constables and Constables. Officers like Assistant Sub-Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors and Inspectors are very rarely granted long leave, because of their engagement in investigating crimes, which are to be completed within a prescribed time frame. Further, they are burdened with more responsibilities than the former ranks. Especially on festive and religious occasions in Odisha, one has to remain extra alert to ensure peace and tranquilityin the locality and facilitate peaceful observance of celebrations by the people. It renders a police officer tensed and fatigued, as on most occasions reinforcement or relief would not be available to him owing to shortage of staff. Again the same officer has also to attend to reports on incidents/crimes during or after the occasions, as the police stations are badly understaffed.
               A subordinate police officer is duty bound to visit unwholesome places like brothel, dance bar, drug joint, liquor den, gaming house etc, which  a law abiding citizen would ordinarily avoid to go to, for maintaining surveillance over the movements of criminals and antisocial elements and sometimes for their apprehension. It is observed that regular visits to such places only complicates his conduct and affects his scrupulous professional integrity .
               A subordinate police officer is often found missing in a family get-together or a fiesta. He can barely manage to take a day’s meal with his family. Sometimes it even becomes difficult for him  to take an ailing family member to a doctor for treatment. I, myself is very comfortable and happy as my wife is capable enough to look after the household chores by herself alone.  Under such physical and emotional constraints a police officer gradually becomes a social outcast and develops a subculture within his fraternity to escape frustration and keep him amusing. In the process he becomes cruel and develops an indifferent attitude towards people’s grievances.
               Surprisingly, when detection of crime and succesful prosecution of a case in a court of law require a team effort, the investigating officer, who is again a subordinate police officer, is alone held responsible for failure of the same.  An unsolved crime or a acquitted case may put  a blot in his service record.  Hence, a police officer becomes very much apprehensive and desperate right from the beginning of reporting of  a crime or an  incident. In his frantic effort to solve a case, he sometimes exceeds the prescribed limit and adopt malpractices like applying coercive methods to obtain a confession from an accused, keeping suspect/accused in prolonged detention and so on. On many occasions police officers are also found guilty of suppressing cases which are reported to them.
               It is very often alleged that police officers in order to ensure conviction of a case take recourse to short-cut and unscientific methods like obtaining statements of witnesses and accused under duress and manipulating evidence at the scene of crime,  as more and more emphasis is being laid for speedy detection of a case. The inadequate training and lack of practice in scientific aids to investigation, has rendered them helpless before criminals who are now adopting scientific methods in commission of a crime with mathematical precision.                
              It is not my intention to justify or legalize the acquisition of such a bad trait or application of unlawful methods by the police officers. It is rather intended to draw the attention of intelligentsia, civil societies, media and the politicians, who are the so called guardians of democratic values and principles, to consider the aforementioned facts while voicing their criticism on police excess or inaction.               

Memoirs of another day

              It was the winter of 1989 that the small industrial town of Jharsuguda in   Sambalpur  district experienced a series of night burglaries involving property worth of lakhs of rupees. The worst affected area was the crowded market near Station Square, where some unknown culprits had ransacked the shops and stolen away garments, jewelleries,electric appliances, electronic gadgets and many more articles worth lakhs of rupees. They had adopted the modus operandi of digging into the walls of the shops to effect their entry, which we in police terminology call “sendh cutting”.

              I was then posted at Jharsuguda police station as a Sub-Inspector (Executive) after completion of my basic training and probationary period. We saw that whenever police patrolling was intensified in the affected area, the criminals would very cunningly shift their area of operation to the outskirt of the town, where usually deployment of police personnel was sparingly done . There was a public uproar over the issue and people demanded immediate prevention of the crime and apprehension of the  perpetrators.  It gradually became clear to us that a group of professional burglars were involved.

              The Sub-Divisional Police Officer, Jharsuguda who was then a probationary IPS officer, called a meeting of the officers of Jaharsuguda police station and its bordering police stations to discuss about the alleged crimes and strategy to contain it . After a threadbare discussion he selected me and one of my colleagues to investigate the crimes, for having intimate knowledge about the criminals of Jharsuguda.  We were instructed  to solve the crimes within a fortnight. We  requested the SDPO to spare us from other responsibilities at the station to concentrate wholeheartedly on the aforementioned task. In agreement he issued appropriate instructions to the officer-in-charge of the police station.

             We then visited the scenes of crime one by one  and discussed with the forensic experts who were requisitioned earlier to collect material clues pertaining to the crimes. Surprisingly enough, the culprits had left no material clues like chance prints, latent prints, strands of fiber or hair, traces of metals or burglar tools, or any other clues at the scenes of crime, which could lead us to a particular gang. In most of the cases they had dug into the walls of the shops from behind or from the roof by cutting the asbestos or removing pieces of tiles. So, we prepared a list of burglars who were sent up in the previous five years having similar modus operandi and made a systematic roundup of suspects. We made thorough interrogation of each of the suspects. But, we set all of them free, as no clue could be elicited.

              After a thorough verification of above category of suspects, we shifted our attention and zeroed down on a gang of trio who had reportedly gone underground for quite a long time. They were professional burglars of the infamous ” Raghu Rout Gang” comprising Raghu Rout, Manoj Singh and Estephan Tirkey.  While everybody in the station was speaking about the gang, but neither anybody had seen them, nor knew about their physical descriptions. We made a thorough study of their dossiers and ascertained that, they had not been verified by any police officer in the previous 2 years. So, first we located their house and launched a raid for their apprehension. As in the case of professional criminals all of them were found absent from their respective houses. The inmates/family members were examined, who stated that that the suspects had left their houses since 2 years and staying elsewhere. They posed themselves as innocent and denied knowledge about their present whereabouts.

              However, one good thing which happened after the raid was that, the regular reporting of burglaries came to an  abrupt halt and we got some respite from the intense public clamor   It also became clear that the gang was hiding somewhere nearby in the town. We planted our source in all gambling and liquor dens which were functioning clandestinely in the town.

              Manoj Singh was the first to be caught from the house of his concubine, who was bootlegging in the nearby locality. He confessed his involvement in the aforesaid crimes and led to the apprehension of Raghu Rout and Estephan Tirkey. Their confession led to the discovery of a huge cache of stolen properties of every description and appreciations soon flowed in from different quarters for our immaculate work. After proper identification of the stolen properties and handing over to their rightful owners, the trio were forwarded to court. Their bail application was rejected by the honourable judicial magistrate who remanded them to jail custody.

               But, something kept on egging into my mind. I had an intuition that the culprits had concealed some serious matter from us. After a few days an information arrived from a source that certain railway employee named Mr. B.N.Rai, who was also a close close aid of the gang was found missing from his house under misterious circumstance prior to their apprehension. There were also rumour in the locality that the gang was responsible for his disappearance.

               So, we brought the trio from  jail to police station on police remand for their  interrogation. After sustained interrogation they broke down and confessed that they had committed murder of Mr. B.N.Rai for his treachery few days prior to their apprehension by police and buried his dead body near the abandoned marshaling yard of Jharsuguda railway station. They stated that B.N.Rai was assisting them in selling stolen properties, who they believed squandered away their loot to the tune of Rs. 50,000/-                 Basing on their confessional statement, we exhumed the skeletal remains of Mr. B.N.Rai from the marshaling yard in presence of a local magistrate and sent it for autopsy and examination by forensic experts. The trio were then remanded to jail for the cold blooded murder of Mr. B.N.Rai and causing disappearance of evidence by burying the dead body.

                 The mere thought of the ghastly murder of Mr. B.N.Rai and discovery of his decaying body gives me goosebumps even today.