Outgoing Maharashtra Police chief Sanjeev Dayal has called upon the state government to intervene and dilute discriminatory bylaws that he feels give too much power to members of housing societies.
Noting increasing reports of discrimination either at the workplace or home, Dayal says the time is opportune for the government to intervene and create inclusive guidelines.
“The bylaws have given great powers to the secretary of a building and the elected members. It is time these powers are diluted. The government should hopefully have a framework ready by next year. There has to be a law, which bans anyone from discrimination. It is time that the government interferes. Such powers in the hands of a few individuals has created bumps in governance,” says Dayal, referring to members of minority communities being denied housing and stopped from eating meat in their cosmopolitan housing societies.
He however, maintains, that the police too have a role to play in addressing social conditions that lead to a “sense of deprivation of dignity” in the minds of minority communities.
But the chief of the state police cautions that the police cannot afford to be seen as “interveners”.
Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal, who authored the sensitive report, ‘Strategy for making police force more sensitive towards minority sections’ early in 2014, which revealed a trust deficit among minorities towards civil services, including the police, retires on September 30, after a 38-year-long career in the police department.
In his last interview as the Maharashtra DGP, Dayal says it is time a collective engaging infrastructure was created to resolve this perception.
Dayal, who leaves a comprehensive programme of de-radicalisation behind him, says jobs being made available to only a few communities or
civic facilities designed to suit only certain communities amounts to discrimination. It is these “episodes of discrimination” that intelligence reports say are fodder for radicalisation, and have been found to be an important source behind terror conspiracies hatched inside the country.
Immediately after taking charge as the top cop, Dayal had designed the de-radicalisation programme involving several agencies, including urban development department, civic authorities and the minorities commission.
Recalling the episode when a Mumbai-based man allegedly plotted to destroy a school, he says lone wolf attacks are the biggest danger that any urban police force faces today. “In that sense, we need to learn more, understand the perceptions. Through this case, we learnt how one guy had got himself radicalised by going so deep into social media. It only strengthens our reading that we shouldn’t allow such social conditions to help radicalisation. We have to admit there is a problem and try to resolve it from various levels,” he says.
While the schism that existed between the minorities and majorities in 1993 has diminished over the last two decades, Dayal says, the need today to “engage” with both communities is even more urgent, as the “perceived grievance” that “fruits of development are not shared equally” seems to have become an “ingrained grievance”, fueling social media campaigns from both sides.
From his controversial tenure as DGP, which saw him questioning the previous government’s ‘green room’ control over the force’s placements, to the difficult situations his force often found itself in over the constant differences of opinion between the Congress and the NCP, Dayal feels any good policing is possible only if there is a strong “political will” to take urgent decisions and stand by the police force.
In December 2012, Dayal recalls, he had sent a comprehensive and confidential model plan to then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on inter-community relations and terrorism, involving levels of anti-terror audits and processes. It got scuttled when the home department — under the NCP that had differences with the Congress — proved to be indifferent. “The current chief minister, who also holds the home portfolio, has promised action, and till date, 16 important government resolutions have seen effect. The final test for him will be to ensure that the de-radicalisation programme designed by the police is brought to its logical end,” he adds.
In the same breath though, Dayal also says the scope of control that the police chief commands has changed over the years. In the early months of his charge as state DGP, Dayal grabbed constant headlines by challenging late home minister R R Patil and the home department’s excessive access in decisions involving police placements, recruitment and transfers of personnel, including those relating to the police constabulary.
“The position of the director general of police to contain authority and control over the force has frankly weakened over the period of time. The Police Establishment Board today has several heads and members and it allows for a situation where police officials can canvass each of these positions.” he says. “It is the same with almost all unit commandants. A commanding chief’s authority should be commensurate with responsibility and unfortunately that is not the case any more; certainly not with this post,” says Dayal.
After serving as an IPS probationer in Nashik, the 1977-batch officer had stints as additional superintendent of police in Nanded and Nashik before being posted in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs as a deputy commissioner of police between 1982 and 1986. He enjoyed lengthy spells serving in central agencies — at the Intelligence Bureau between 1988 and 1992 and with the Special Protection Group between 1995 and 2002. Dayal held significant postings in the Mumbai Police before serving in the state police as additional director general, law and order, and additional director general, special operations. In 2012, he was appointed as Mumbai Police Commissioner. Prior to being promoted as DGP, Dayal was also posted as Director General, Housing and Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dayal recalled his early days in the city, post the 1993 riots and serial blasts, when the urban police faced its biggest challenge of governing a divided society. “In some ways, the reactions in 1993 showed that it was seen as an emotional terror attack, where one side felt they were hit, and the other side felt they had avenged and restored respect,” he says.
The “palpable tension” between two communities only showed through in the assassinations of the then Sena functionary Ramesh More, BJP leaders Prem Kumar Sharma and Ramdas Naik. An equal number of Muslim functionaries were assassinated too, he recalls.
“It was all in quick succession,” Dayal narrates. The first meeting called by the then police commissioner at a neutral ground saw members of both communities “letting off steam”. The birth of the mohalla committee, he says, was the first in the set of meetings designed in those months to ensure a neutral common meeting place, where both communities could talk to each other.
“The first meeting in Bandra was in the house of a Parsi gentleman. It was to ensure that both sides came without any biases,” recalls Dayal.
The police also had to be seen as “facilitators” and “motivators” and not imposers. The meetings were to involve discussions on “issues common to both the communities”.
“We had made a conscious decision not to discuss episodes related to peace. It was then that we saw how both sides started to talk in a pained manner about issues relating to garbage, to traffic to everyday living,” he recamms. Within weeks, a nodal police officer was appointed to follow up on community issues of both sides with officials and regain their confidence.
“That trust needs to be earned again,” says Dayal.
A decade on, he feels the 2005 floods and the serial terror attack of 2006 showed that the city regained its spirit of resilience. “Unlike 1993, help poured in from all quarters, from all communities and they stood together in condemning the terror attacks. That was a long journey from 1993,” says the DGP.
Commenting on the situations today, he says the need to introduce a different level of dialogue is important. “They are talking to each other today. But today we have a bigger issue. The two sides have internally hardened their positions. There is insecurity at both ends. The indoctrination of Islamic values has taken shape. Similarly, the talk of Hindu communities to impose old Hindu values has taken roots. It has collectively put a strain on what we call Indianness. In that sense, this perceived grievance is creating social rifts that have a direct burden on policing,” Dayal adds.
While he says urban policing will be a test of governance, Dayal also warns of the challenges in policing districts grappling with Naxalism. “We have new projects moving in the Gadchiroli side. If Corporate Social Responsibility measures are not adopted and there is no plan for smooth uplift of the locals and the tribals, the level of violence only stands to go up,” he says.
Dayal is well aware of the many stories that people will associate him with. “The tragedy is I was always termed as the serial stopper of convoys,” he says, harking back first to 1999 when as the head of the external security of the SPG he held up the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s convoy in Lahore for several hours in the face of severe diplomatic pressure while local police sanitised the route ahead. In spite of being ordered to let the convoy move on, Dayal’s firm stand paid off when the local police were attacked by militants.
In the second instance, he had USA President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wait at Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College for 11 minutes while he cleared away US Secret Service snipers from an unauthorised rooftop vantage point on the route to be taken by the President’s convoy.
On September 30, he leaves his Colaba office as a commoner without the official convoy parade. “It’s a busy month and I have insisted that I leave without any fanfare, as my men will be tired anyway with all the bandobast,” he says.