Manipur's super cops
Manipur Police is undergoing a sea change. Even as Nongpok Sekmai Police Station in Thoubal district bagged the Nation’s best police station award, a new breed of police officers, armed with PhD degrees and technological know-how, has come to the fore.
Manipur Police is being led by Jawaharlal Nehru University-educated LM Khaute (IPS) as the Director General. He had earlier served as the Superintendent of Police, Agartala in Tripura. Now under him, there are at least three female Sub-Inspectors, a few PhD degree holders with two of them at the SP level, and several others who have worked their way up from near poverty. Also, under Khaute are two Inspectors, one of whom is the most decorated police officer in the country having earned the Police Medal for Gallantry several times. They had begun their careers as Commando officers with almost 100 encounters to their names, but none has ever been charged with any human rights violation when it comes to fake encounters or the like.
Manipur, where armed militant groups were a dime a dozen with demands ranging from specified territories to be liberated to plain extortion, has seen a marked decrease in violent insurgency-related activities coinciding with peace talks between the Government of India and National Socialist Council of Nagalim. Moreover the Suspension of Operations with the 30-odd Kuki militant groups and most of the other armed groups now issuing threats through mobile networks without a significant physical presence, has ensured a peaceful scenario in the State today.
But the police are not being complacent as the new wave of crime seems to be in cyberspace. The cybercrime units of the State are on their toes while combating messages on social media which have the potential to foment communal disharmony. Recently, a person, masquerading as the Public Relations Officer of the Chief Minister, was enticing young women with promises of landing a job upon payment of money and marriage. He was eventually trapped by a young social activist who informed the cybercrime unit.
Speaking to The Statesman, Khaute, who is a 1985 batch officer and has been in the top post since 2016 with two more years to go in office, says that on one hand his emphasis is now on the police playing a proactive role in solving cases and submitting charge sheets at the earliest. On the other, his force is trying to bridge the gap between the police and public by increasing community policing. He expressed joy that a police station under him was adjudged the best in the country as a lot of parameters were considered before conferring the honour.
With more than 100,000 people under his command including the Civil Police, armed police in the form of six Manipur Rifles battalions and nine India Reserve Battalions, in addition to the Home Guards and Village Defence Force, Khaute has a lot of responsibilities. He is not worried about the present but planning for the future. He says that the crime space will look different once the Railways open in the State. The proposed Asian Highway would also usher in prosperity as well as neverseen before crime. “We have to start mapping and preparing a blueprint now,” he says.
Sitting in his office room in Thoubal district, SP Sarangthem Ibomcha IPS remembered his early days. He shot into National prominence when pictures of him carrying an injured man on his back up a ravine went viral. He recalls how he had to work as a bricklayer in the house of the elder brother of a current IGP of the State. Fired with grit and determination, Ibomcha says that he had stopped drinking tea after he could not secure the first position in his Bachelor of Science class. He had stood fourth in the University. He secured a first class first in his class during his Master’s in Life Sciences from Manipur University and obtained a PhD in genetics thereafter.
The following year, Ibomcha missed out on a teaching job at a private school as they asked for a bribe of Rs 5,000 and nearly missed becoming a higher secondary lecturer after an examination conducted by the Manipur Public Service Commission. Then in 2007 he entered the Manipur Police Service and in 2011, was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry by the President of India, besides winning medals for child rights and anti-drugs campaigns.
Apart from having Nongpok Sekmai Police Station under his jurisdiction, Ibomcha is also credited with capturing the largest haul of a psychopathic drug called WY tablets, numbering around four million valued at Rs 400 crore. He also managed in cornering the international kingpin, namely one Kya Kyaw Naing alias Abdul Rahim, a Burmese National at the gates of Imphal Airport.
Ibomcha’s one major worry is the mushrooming of heroin manufacturing units in the Muslim-dominated area of Lilong in his district. He has been able to confiscate 703.54 kilograms of brown sugar worth about Rs 500 crore in the open market. But at the end of the day, this soft-spoken unsung super cop said that a holistic approach must be maintained, and the roots of a crime examined while investigating a case.
This other SP never got a chance to study formally till Class VI and had to help his father till the land on which they were tenant cultivators. K Meghachandra Singh MPS looks over the district of Imphal West where the seat of Manipur governance is located. He has nabbed 38 insurgents from almost all the major insurgent groups of Manipur and recovered arms and ammunition from them.
A geographer by training from JNU specialising in demographic transitions, he views problems in the valley from a demographer’s point of view and believes in a holistic approach also to the problems at hand. Meghachandra is, however, elated with the fact that many of his subordinate officers, beginning from the Assistant Sub-Inspector level, are tech savvy and beams with pride when saying that Manipur Police is soon going to launch an emergency response system for distress calls like 911 in the US. In Manipur, when a person would call 112 describing a situation, the control room will immediately dispatch it to the nearest Officer-in-Charge along with a GPS location of the site of the call. He was the first police officer to find out that the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur had received training in Afghanistan, thanks to the Chinese.
Meghachandra has two of the most highly decorated police officers in India working under him. Inspector Potshangbam Sanjoy Singh is the Officer-in-Charge of the once-volatile Singjamei Police Station. He is an encounter specialist having survived more than 100 encounters without a single human rights violation charge against him. He is a recipient of the Police Medal for Gallantry with seven bars, the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service plus others from the GOC-in-C of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command. He says that his greatest joy was when he became the only Inspector to be selected on an all India basis for 45 days of training in the US on counter terrorism methods in 2015.
Sanjoy is joined by Inspector B Lungthang Vaiphei, Officer-in-Charge of Wangoi Police Station. He is also a recipient of the Police Medal for Gallantry with five bars. Vaiphei had received a commendation letter from the Director of the National Investigation Agency for his role in nabbing one of the guilty persons during the ambush in Chandel in 2015 when 18 Army men were killed by the NSCN (K) and its associates. He says that he is happy that the latest bar to his Police Medal for Gallantry is not for killing anybody but for saving lives. Last year, he was able to rescue two contractors of the National Hydro Electric Power Corporation Limited who were held captive for Rs 30 lakh as ransom money.
In Imphal East is Jogeshchandra Haobijam, the economist-cum policeman. Soft-spoken, he had earned the appreciation of Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Facebook for his achievements on the “War on Drugs”. He made over 20 arrests and seizures totalling around Rs 55 lakh in the local market. On the counter insurgency front, he has booked 52 militants besides detaining eight of them under the NSA. Haobijam has been actively involved on the Covid- 19 front. He has not only been enforcing strict lockdown rules but also been busy spreading awareness and supervising sanitisation programmes and SOPs.
And now, we come to two valiant ladies who have busted male bastions to become SPs of two districts. The first is Priyadarshini Laishram, the SP of Bishenpur district. This no nonsense cop does not feel that she receives any gender bias from her male peers or the force under her. She is also proud of the fact that the Commando Force under her recently apprehended two cadres of the NSCN(I-M) in the Ngariyan area of her jurisdiction following an encounter. “We did not kill them but just immobilised them. We transported them to Imphal to be treated at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences”, she says.
Her counterpart in Kakching district is Victoria Yengkhom who has been there for almost three years now. She is credited with having initiated the first police patrol on cycles in the country in November 2018. She feels that there can be no room for gender discrimination while supervising law and order in any given geographical area and she ensures that it doesn’t crop up in her district.
Last but definitely not the least, we have a female Sub-Inspector who holds a PhD degree in chemistry from the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong. Ashem Satyabati joined the Police Service in 2010 and is currently posted at Lilong Police Station in Thoubal district. She has already earned a name for herself by recovering a 9mm pistol besides convictions for people involved in four criminal cases.
All said and done, Manipur Police has got a new lease of life as people in the State don’t feel nervous but rather look upon them with hope for protection, security and justice.
The writer is the Imphal-based Special Representative of The Statesman