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Friday, April 29, 2022

Mr. Ramachandra Khan , IPS , (1968 , RR , Bihar) died a week or so ago .He was an honest and upright officer, conscientious , courageous ,brave and bold .But he was not the garden variety cop with just the necessary policing skills and attributes suited to his trade; he had a keen mind and an unbounded intellectual curiosity. As SP Begusarai he distinguished himself for his anti-crime crusades against the infamous Kamdeo Singh . As Dy IG Bettia he left a mark but a career full of great promise in police was eclipsed by circumstances which were as bizarre as bizarre could be.
Mr Khan’s career was doomed by one fatal flaw in his personality . He was out spoken in his opinion and the truth of his opinion was rendered doubly lethal when delivered in a waspish tongue. He was by no means a votary of sagacious advice सत्यं ब्रूयात् प्रियं ब्रूयात् , न ब्रूयात् सत्यम् अप्रियम् , प्रियं च नानृतम् ब्रूयात् ( Speak the truth but speak it sweetly, refrain from speaking hurtful truth but don’t speak a lie calculated to please.) A cold fire seemed to be running under his skin and it seeped through in his animated discussions ,arguments and left many an interlocutor singed. It was a talent which was not calculated to please and dearly did he pay for it.!
The most significant fact of his life was that he was charged for some irregularities in the so called uniform scandal. There were credible stories that the case which destroyed the top leadership of Bihar IPS was built around a petty pique which arose out of a wordy duel that Mr Khan had. It was a matter which could be handled departmentally but perhaps as the first example of ‘extraordinary rendition’ , a term which gained currency after the infamous Guantanamo Bay, (extraordinary rendition is the transfer of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention and interrogation) the CBI was called in a trifling matter of poor inventory control and some irregularity in purchase of uniform items. The sum involved was paltry but the CBI cast its net far and wide.
Many IPS officers figured in the investigation and were banished to that moral -no- man’s- land , in that twilight zone between guilt and innocence. A few may indeed have acted malafide but most young IPS officer were negligent and put too much trust in their subordinates – sergeants and sergeants majors. At the end out of the day a dozen or more officers were put on trial ; except two or three , everyone was exonerated and they got all that was due to them during their service , as if there had been no case against them. A reprieve which was no reprieve at all because nothing remained to be salvaged . Mr. Khan happened to be the officer controlling the budget so he was held constructively liable for the act of every single officer in the field. But while others were resigned to their fate and vagaries of legal process he fought, as was his wont , undaunted and unintimidated by the situation putting it across to his tormentors and got acquitted in all the cases but one. But much the more credible judgement in the court of public opinion had already been passed; the verdict of not guilty was unanimous .
I will permit myself one brief reminiscence. I was SP Chapra but I was prematurely transferred just before the by-election. Public outcry however led to its cancellation. My Dy IG was at daggers drawn and refused to have anything to do with me . Gautam my predecessor at Chapra has already mentioned in his memoir the reason for the Dy IG’s displeasure- and how the Dy IG himself came to grief - with both of us. In a situation like this Mr. Khan was deputed to Chapra . Those were pre T N Seshan days and the Election Commission was but a distant rumour which parties in power did not believe in. Yet there were norms and rules and one could enforce them ,if one had the guts.
I received a message on my wireless , that a minister was moving around with a convoy of six or eight cars in gross violation of norms . On my orders the convoy was intercepted and taken to the police station . To boot many of the vehicles did not have proper papers. The minster stormed in the Rivilganj police station and was bullying the local police and zonal magistrates. I reached there in in no time .The minster was a marvel of miniature , less than five feet in his socks, but his rage was towering .VIPs in abbreviated or diminutive versions throwing their weight seem more like caricatures and my encounter with him was interesting but must await some other occasion .
The minster raised hell with Patna and Mr. Khan was despatched to the police station at the behest of government. He was believed to be close to the CM , so he was there in double trust- as the man from Patna and as the trouble shooter for the CM . To cut a long story short I explained to him the situation. The law he knew and I made it known to him that the writ of the election law will prevail. Like an elder brother handling an obstinate younger one he humoured and cajoled me . He was politely persuasive but in the end gave up . I witnessed none of his famous flashes of temper that I had heard about.
The minster stomped his foot , got up to go but tarried endlessly . I had shown my willingness to stand up and see him off but after I had made the appropriate gesture I sat down . The minster could take it no more and left . I followed at the tail of small procession that saw him off to his car. His cavalcade stayed behind till the voting was over. On his way to Patna we went to my house for a cup of tea . Mr Khan was so forthcoming, so self-denying and so warm in his approval of my actions that he earned my respect and gratitude for life . He said that he had expected me to behave exactly like this but he did not seem to be seen to be lacking in effort.
We often bumped into each other during the days when I fancied attending seminars, lectures etc but soon I got tired of what Koestler called the “intellectual call girl circuit.” The last I met him was in 2011, at a social gathering. I had severely burnt my fingers with the electricity board case and generally found myself lonely and shunned at such venues. He walked up to me and said in Hindi कितना लड़ोगे ? कब तक लड़ोगे? (How much will you fight ?how long will you fight ? ) On an impulse I said “जब तक है जान( so long as there is the last breath in me.)Actually it was a line from a very famous song . We had a hearty laugh and I lingered a while with him before making good my escape.
I visited his house day before yesterday , and the presence of the absence was unmistakable . Books , magazines , papers all bore testimony to the fact the active life of the mind of the man. Tuhin was organising the treasure that the man had left behind . I could not meet Usha jee , his illustrious wife, a Padma Shri recipient for her bilingual writing, because she was attending some Shraddhanjali – one of the many that were held in the honour of the departed soul. His children all distinguished in their own fields bear the impress of a highly literate and cultural upbringing .The man had become a memory and shall always be treasured in our thoughts .
Stride like a colossus , Mr Khan, wherever you are because no other mode of being would suit you .

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