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Thursday, December 06, 2007
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Beyond the obvious
Maxwell Pereira tells P. ANIMA about the human side of policing
(Photo: Anu Pushkarna)
No regrets: Maxwell Pereira, former Joint Commissioner of Police, in New Delhi
Maxwell Pereira – a man of action, dabbler in words, a storyteller. The former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi, served through the dicey times of the Emergency and the 1984 riots, and is now the author of “The Other Side of Policing. ”
About 35 years of decorated service later, Pereira is hardly in retirement mode. In the cosy confines of a well-furnished living room in Gurgaon, the sprightly Mangalorean reveals nuggets about the service, himself and the book.
“Unfortunately, a lot of police writing ends up on the shelves. I want my book to be read,” Pereira is lucid. “The Other Side of Policing,” published by Vitasta, as the title suggests, touches upon the lesser known facets of policemen’s lives. Jostling for space with accounts of riots and traffic management are also tales of orderly Ram Singh’s wisdom, Lala’s sooji halwa, Pereira’s tussle with the makki di roti and of rare holidays.
There are “reasons” and “no reasons”, says Pereira for the birth of the book. “I write for the pleasure of writing. There is no agenda.”
But he goes on to add, “If there is a reason, it is to bridge the gap between the people and the police. There is a side to policing which has lots of positives They are normal human beings who are part of the society, culture and nature.”
The police have got an unfair deal, he feels. It is a sentiment that runs through Pereira’s book. “Every society tends to make its police the whipping boys for all its ill,” he writes. The inability of the public to look at the police as people who want to lead a normal life and spend time with family, but are not allowed to do so as work comes in between, is underscored in the book.
“If there is an aberration it gets blown up. But otherwise they are taken for granted,” says the man who reiterates he has never been diplomatic.
If the clarion call has been for police reforms, Pereira dismisses it. “The police are reformed enough. It is high time the society reformed itself,” he is cryptic.
But try to pin him down on instances of excesses, especially the Bhagalpur incident where a police officer on a motorcycle dragged around a snatcher, Pereira is diplomatic in his answer.
“I firmly believe no one has a right to exercise violence on another being,” he says.
Quiz him on the challenge of carrying on with duties during the Emergency, Pereira says, “One should have a strong sense of the right. During the Emergency too I had to satisfy my conscience. In the end you have to sleep with the conscience. I don’t have a troubled conscience.”
On the fateful night of June 25, 1975, when India woke up to Emergency, Pereira and his colleagues were entrusted the task of arresting many national leaders. But even as he carried out orders, he stuck to his courteous behaviour. Pereira writes this is probably why “the Shah Commission looking into the Emergency excesses did not summon me for a single questioning or hearing”.
“If the Government and agencies have decided that somebody is a national threat, I will pick them up within the four walls of law with utmost courtesy and respect,” he says. But Pereira admits the Emergency broke his idealism and left a permanent scar.
The 84’ riots also saw Pereira in action. As the violence broke out, Pereira says the overriding thought in him was “how can anyone be killed when I am there.”
Yet at the end of a professional journey dotted with many milestones, Pereira declares proudly, “I have no regrets.”