Delhi being the national capital, policing has its own challenges. Sometimes one has to handle situations which may be extremely rare as well as unusual. Such situations are always full of anxiety as events can get out of control if not planned for. As Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of South Delhi, several such situations arose where advance planning was essential.
Indira Gandhi had ceased to be an MP after the electoral defeat in 1977, but had been just elected to Parliament from Chikmagalur. It was December 1978. The winter session of Parliament had been convened, where she had to be sworn in formally as an MP. Simultaneously, it had been well publicised that she could be sentenced to undergo a prison term by Lok Sabha, for breach of privilege.
South district those days used to be, area-wise, the largest. Tihar jail was technically in West Delhi, but barely so, and only for the last 500 yards of the route. Except for the area around Parliament House and a few roads, which were in New Delhi, most of the remaining route passed through South Delhi, and as such I had started to make plans mentally for the eventuality if she had to be taken to Tihar jail. An unobtrusive route recce was also undertaken during one of my night patrols. We also made efforts to ascertain through informal channels the plans of Youth Congress workers, who were likely to protest and create a scene but not much could be learnt. The shortest and most convenient route to Tihar jail from Parliament House was via the Dhaula Kuan round about, which was one of the inter-state bus terminals and amongst the busiest intersections in the city, particularly during evenings. Due to proximity of some colleges, a number of youngsters could always be seen by the roadside, waiting for buses or hanging around tea stalls and dhabas. The topography of the area made it extremely vulnerable from law and order point of view, the reason being its size, the volume of traffic and the forested area in the neighbourhood. Even if we barricaded the open spaces, it made tactically a very weak position. The next recce was undertaken during yet another one of my night patrols. Considering various aspects, I had thought about and made up my mind on a plan of action. I rang up Mr. N.K. Shinghal, my Additional Commissioner, on a Sunday evening, and went to his residence. I shared my predicament and possible solutions with him. Thorough professional that he was, he was extremely receptive. After tea, he asked his driver to bring out his private Fiat car. He asked me to sit beside him and went behind the wheel. We then drove around, incognito, on the proposed route, without any police vehicle or policemen in tow. As D-day approached, our plans were ready. Arrangements for lighting up the area and barricading had to be done in advance. This was well publicized and was noticed by all. We told party workers that they could court arrest, but they were quite adamant and wanted to draw maximum mileage from the event by compelling the police to use force. A spot was selected for media and informally conveyed. Despite sunset being early and the evening being unusually hazy and cold, there was a huge gathering at the spot. I found officers and men to be upbeat and ready to even physically lift the protestors into jail vans. But my plan had not been shared with any officer in my district. It was known only to Mr. J N Chaturvedi, the Commissioner, Mr. Shinghal and may be two others. In pursuance of this plan, I remained at Dhaula Kuan for some time and then proceeded towards Tihar jail to check the route. In anticipation of the arrest, an alert had been sounded all over my district as some stone-pelting and violence were expected.
I was anxious that any delay may lead to a leak and thwart our plans for a peaceful handling of the situation. The absence of cell-phones was a boon for the police, as the relatively poor communication facilities with the public/media always gave us with our wireless sets an edge. When finally the motorcade started with Mrs. Gandhi, there were several cars tailing her. The local police effectively cut off this tail. On the chosen route, there was no police deployment. It was a calculated risk but it paid dividends in the shape of an incident-free journey to Tihar jail. But it led to a serious reaction as anticipated. For when party workers came to know that the motorcade had already reached Tihar, they were furious and a serious law and other problem followed at Dhaula Kuan.
While this was handled, and I was returning home at about 10 p.m., efforts of some miscreants to torch a few buses on Ring Road were foiled. It was a very eventful but successful day. Everything had gone as per plan and crowds attempting violence had been controlled and where necessary, rounded up. While I was having dinner, I got a call from the Commissioner, Mr. Chaturvedi, who complimented me and then added, “you have one more important task to perform and you have to do it personally”. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what was coming. I was told that since the matter involved a senior officer, I must go personally and in uniform, and ensure all respect was extended. It was around midnight that the special messenger brought a double-sealed cover to me. Inside there was a warrant of arrest issued by the Speaker, Lok Sabha and tasked to CP/Delhi, who had endorsed it to me by name. By the time we reached the residence of Mr. D. Sen, former Director, CBI, in Safdarjung Enclave, it was about 2.30 a.m. He had also been held guilty of wilful and deliberate breach of privilege of the Parliament and also sentenced to undergo imprisonment for a week. I was tasked with arresting him, lodging him in Tihar Jail, and then returning the warrant as executed. When I reached his residence and saluted him, the first thing he said was that policemen are notorious for visits after midnight and that I had lived up to that. He told me he had heard the news on the radio at 8 p.m. and had been waiting since then. I apologized for the delay and told him that the Speaker&’s warrant was first delivered to the C.P. and only thereafter to me. Mr. Sen must have taken not more than 10-15 minutes to pack up. He then came with me in my staff car as we drove to Tihar Jail. Having known me earlier, he kept chatting about my family and other matters and although I was quite embarrassed about the task at hand, he made things easy for me on the 25-minute ride. At Tihar, arrangements had already been made to receive VIP prisoners even at night. A small slip of paper was given to me as a receipt for having lodged, Mr. D. Sen, IPS (former director CBI) in jail. I would have retained a copy of this, but no one had even heard of photocopies those days. It must have been after 4 A.M. that I finally went to bed on that very long, cold and eventful night.