You did not come to love him at once, but you could not fail to be impressed at first sight. His colony folks in Dwarka, Delhi, would see him ride out early morning on his Royal Enfield in a printed khadi shirt and khaki jungle trousers, sporting his trademark handlebar moustache. When he was in service, it was a jungle hat, boots and a proper service shirt with ribbons. His 35 years in the police were all spent in uniform. I rarely saw him in any other formal attire. Frugality marked his entire life. E N Rammohan lived his way.
A Malayali born in Coimbatore in November 1940, Rammohan’s ambition was to join the military and serve in the Northeast. When his father put his foot down, he decided that the next best option was to enrol as a teacher in the Army school at Bhubhaneswar, after a BSc from Madras Christian College, an MSc in Zoology from Presidency College. When Rammohan was the Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF), much to his happiness, five of his former students, then holding the rank of lieutenant general, paid him a visit.
Bowing to peer pressure, he wrote the 1964 civil services examination, qualifying at the first try and opted for the Indian Police Service. It was as a police officer that he finally got his wish: He was posted to Assam. This was a period of turmoil. The Northeast was angry. While posted as SP, Jorhat, Rammohan, belying his Rambo looks, became known as the compassionate cop — arguing with the student agitators for hours and then with his colleagues about the righteousness of the students’ agitation. The ULFA leaders could trust him and Rammohan used his good offices with them to avoid many a dangerous conflagration. His book, Insurgent Frontiers: Essays From the Troubled Northeast, is an authoritative tome.
Rammohan stayed away from politicians, yet they sought him out when they needed him most. As SSP Shillong, he was brought back twice to head the police force when Meghalaya was burning. The local army command bowed to his wisdom. After a few years in the CBI, he returned to the Northeast with the CRPF, as head of its counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya, during K P S Gill’s term as the Director-General Assam and Meghalaya. This was Rammohan’s golden period, a time when he won several laurels. Once Gill moved out of the CRPF, Rammohan was called to its headquarters to continue to guide operations in Northeast. It was at this time that Rammohan came to understand the difficult conditions under which the CRPF was being made to work. His remarkable report to the government following the Dantewada Massacre involving the death of 72 CRPF men, was tinged with the experience of this association.
Rammohan also worked early in his career with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police as commandant, training in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh in the 1970s, and with the National Security Guards, a period when he could be the closest to his favourite, the army. He then moved to the BSF, becoming its director general from 1997-2000. He will be remembered as the BSF’s most muscular leader. With imaginative strategies, Rammohan led his men from the front and for once the ranks were united behind one leader. It was during his leadership, that in the summer of 1999, a small BSF patrolling party spotted a Pakistani patrol on Indian soil. The rest is history.
He seemed to slow down after losing his son, a major in the army, in a helicopter crash in Ladakh on August 15, 2008. He also did not share his problems with family or friends. It was only two months ago that his daughter discovered her father was in an advanced stage of prostate cancer. Even three weeks before the end, he showed no change because of the disease but inwardly, he had become weak. Ten days ago he fell and fractured some ribs. He was rushed to the hospital, never to return home.