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‘After Bhagalpur riots I went to a house and saw a half burnt plastic toy; I cried…it shaped my character’: M V Rao

M V Rao, 1987-batch IPS officer, who demitted office as Jharkhand DGP on Friday and plans to submit his VRS letter on Monday, speaks with Abhishek Angad on his tenure as the Jharkhand DGP

Written by Abhishek Angad |
February 14, 2021 11:32:23 pm
M V Rao, M V Rao interview, Jharkhand DGP, Jharkhand DGP resign, Bhagalpur riots, indian express newsM V Rao (Left).

The role of the police in these volatile times, and his experience after the Bhagalpur riots. Excerpts:

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Q: Your last tweet thanks people ‘who spewed venom’ — on you? Who are the people you are talking about?

The people who I am referring to are very much aware of it. They totally understand what I mean and what are the consequences.

Q: But what content are you referring to when you use the word ‘venom’?

Since the pandemic there was a very concerted effort to create sectarian conflicts everywhere by very toxic propaganda, which we as police officers responsible for maintaining law and order, had to counter it effectively so that the harmony is maintained in the society. When one is a chief of a state police, you take certain measures to contain these rabid communal elements and we took on social media to counter it. A section of media, for reasons best known to them, already had a narrative and made it a point to target the officials — since we were visible and proactive— and there was a lot of animosity, spinning false narrations.

Q: What are the steps you took since you took over as Jharkhand police chief?

We took to social media in a big way and I told my officers that the only way to survive is to take up work to our bones. We made a lot of improvements in our state: organisations like PLFI was almost smothered, TPC which used to extort huge amount of money from coal mining areas came down heavily, Maoists are on the run and all those Mafia elements who used to run an extortion racket from the jail through mobile phones have been put under surveillance and not a single call have made since last one month. We have done a lot of things against narcotics, cyber crime, illegal arm dealings among others. In our investigation process, we also parallelly saw whether that particular crime would have been prevented by the proactive approach of the police or if the crime happened due to certain lapses of the police. In this process there came upon a lot of awareness among the police. There have been a lot of improvement. Now all that one requires from any woman is to message on a particular number (in case of any trouble) and a woman police officer would get it touch. We also inculcated a culture of mass contact with the people to overcome toxic environment.

Q: In these polarised times when we see a lot sectarian divide across societies with different political masters in play, what is the job of the police?

I think there is a difficulty and we have to take political leadership onboard. We must also make the political executive understand that developmental activity is nothing worth in a volatile environment. Anybody planning development without stabilizing the society from the law and order perspective is going in a wrong direction.

Q: But how do police insulate themselves with a lot of hatred going around?

We have to find a way and succeed. We did to an extent. Many people (who spread hatred) also realized that this was not the right thing to do. Hate can never be fought with hate and it leads to bloodshed. Someone has to bring sanity and a voice of sanity must be heard in these volatile times. This country needs people with ample courage to speak the truth and instill sense into otherwise mad environment, if need be.

Q: Any regrets so far?

No regrets as such but sometimes I feel: didn’t I waste my life spending my peak days in dealing with the dark side of humanity where there is so much pain. The senses are numbed to such an extent, because I hardly recall a day when I enjoyed blissfully. If a crime takes place somewhere the victims’ family will be affected, but as a DGP I am hit everyday wherever crime takes place in the state. Crime is an outcome of very serious aberrations of human nature and society at large must find ways and means to deal with such things. But I also felt a peculiar thing: I felt people feel that it is the job of the police to take care of them — which is a very lopsided view of the legal system and society. If a minor commits a crime, aren’t the parents, the community as a whole responsible. I have resisted for a long time, but I have had the courage to tell people that police alone cannot prevent certain crimes. But some people understand this as my arrogance.

Q: Is that why you are applying for Voluntary Retirement Service?

I would be wasting my time drawing salary and I want to put my time for better use. I want to spend time fruitfully and will probably use it for farming — which my forefathers did. Also a time comes when you start getting irritated easily or feel sad too often. That is the time to switch professions or take a break. Because that erodes your positive senses. The more caring your are, more you will suffer.

Q. You handled Bhagalpur, Sitamarhi riots, and the Mandal agitations, among others. Can you recount certain instances?

I have handled my three decades of service in extremely stressful situations whether it was Bhagalpur, Sitamarhi riots, or handling Mandal agitations and fighting the kidnapper gangs in Betiah and lawlessness in Buxar…or handling LWEs, or handling high profile cases while I was in ACB. It has been fulfilling.

More than 16,00 people were killed and many houses were burnt in Bhagalpur. If you look back, some instances leaves an imprint and Bhagalpur is one of them. After the Bhagalpur riots I went to a house and saw a half burnt plastic toy. I cried (breaks down). It could have been my son. What small hands would have felt…This shaped my character and I became so determined to stand for what was right and if need be, use brute force to bring sense into the people. In another instance, I chased a minister during Lalu Prasad’s tenure. Those days a lot of kidnapping used to take place and nine persons were kidnapped in our area. We were tailing some people inside the forest when we had an encounter and rescued seven of them and two kidnappers were shot. Next day I heard that a police station was circled by a mob in support of the kidnappers led by that minister who also threatened me. I was in so much rage that I chased him for long time, but he fled.

Q: So Lalu Prasad did not create any hindrance?

I need to give credit where it is due. I had arrested a sitting MP from Bhagalpur belonging to the ruling party when Lalu Prasad called me and said whether there was enough evidence. I said in affirmative. He said ‘thik hai’. When Prasad was the CM, there was not a single instance when he asked me to do anything wrong. Even the minister whom I chased was removed.

Q: A prominent politician mocked at your departure and said that you have been registering false cases against him and his family and that you should be thinking about your family ?

Let that politician remember me as a DGP with an iron hand. I don’t want to comment anything else.

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