Tuesday, July 22, 2014



                                     CHARLES TEGART : HERO OR VILLAIN?

         (Published in The Statesman on 13 August 2014 under title "Relevance of Tegart")                                              
I grew up on stories my father told me about the legendary Calcutta Police Commissioner Charles Tegart’s exploits as a policeman and detective. I thought about Tegart off and on in course of nearly forty years with the Indian Police Service. He had a sixth sense for unearthing plots, criminal or political A look at Tegart’s memorabilia in the Calcutta Police Museum rekindled my interest in him. If Tegart could develop a network of informers among the Bengal revolutionaries why have our police and intelligence agencies not been able to penetrate the Maoist den? As I researched Tegart’s profile I wondered if there is a message for those involved in containing the spreading footfalls of left extremism in our country.
Sir Charles Augustus Tegart (1881-1946) was born and brought up in Ireland. He competed into the Indian Police (1901-1931) and joined the Bengal cadre which then included what is now Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.. After serving as SDPO of Patna City, in which capacity he was this author’s grand predecessor removed sixty years, he was promoted as Acting Deputy Commissioner of Calcutta Police. He became closely involved in the suppression of Bengal revolutionaries dedicated to overthrowing British rule; he was hailed as a hero by the European community but reviled as a villain by the Indians.
 The 1905 partition of the province was viewed as a national insult by Bengalis who began to see armed resistance as necessary to secure Indian self-government. Bengal revolutionaries travelled to Paris to learn bomb-making techniques from Russian anarchists, (Where did the Indian Maoists learn making bombs and laying land mines?). In 1913 Tegart was appointed to the newly-established Intelligence Branch of the Bengal CID, where he was tasked to gather information, call it intelligence, about the main players of the revolutionary movement which was then raging in the province. His Irish origin gave him a better understanding of the problem. The majority of Tegarts’s Indian subordinates were Bengali bhadralok and thus from the same background as the revolutionaries themselves. For Tegart to motivate them to act against their own people is a lesson in leadership. He was fair and supportive and they in turn were fiercely loyal to him.
 Tegart quite enjoyed his job and proved highly resourceful and innovative. H also made good use of the Defence of India Act which was then in force. Such was his enthusiasm that he often joined or led the raiding party acting on his own information. One of the most famous examples occurred as a sequel to the well known uprising by Bengal revolutionaries, the Chittagong Armoury Raid, in April 1930. When the Calcutta police received information that a number of raiders had taken refuge in the French enclave of Chandernagore to the north of Calcutta, Tegart organised a group of heavily-armed British police officers to capture them. He gained the permission of the French authorities to carry out an illegal attack in the middle of the night, and, after a short gun battle, most of the suspected revolutionaries were captured. He superannuated a few months later.
Hero or villain, Tegart had proverbial cat’s nine lives from the way he survived several attempts on his life. He had a dare-devil approach to fighting terror and preferred to lead from the front even in penetrating the revolutionary cells. The sight of Tegart driving through the streets of Calcutta in an open car with his faithful dog perched on the hood behind him did more than anything else to keep up the morale of his team. He devised his own techniques of interrogation which did not rule out the use of third degree. Annie Besant, of the Indian National Congress, accused him of punching suspects and threatening one with a gun; Tegart was not bothered while the government winked at the allegation. He was obviously not above the circumvention of law and procedure to achieve results; but then he did not have to bother about the Writ of Habeas Corpus, Human Rights Commission or the Civil Liberty groups.
In spite of his lack of resemblance to a Bengali Tegart did not shy away from using disguise as a tool for intelligence work; he liked to take his chance. He is believed to have once visited the Sonagachi red-light district of Calcutta in the disguise of a Bengali gentleman talking with pimps and prostitutes. At night, wearing a beard and puggaree, he could comfortably pass as a Sikh taxi-driver, and even in the daytime he could go unnoticed as a Kabuli or Pathan.
Tegart had an uncanny knack of spotting potential informers and recruiting them. But that was always on one to one basis. He would much rather kill an information than risk revealing a source. The identity of many informers was known only to Tegart himself, who met them always at night, in some lonely place previously agreed on, and rarely took notes but committed the whole of what he was told to memory. David Petrie, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India, and later head of the British MI5, regarded Tegart as one of the best officers at recruiting informants, cross-checking their information, and keeping the confidences of his agents. One should not dismiss all this as stories from a bygone era but look for lessons in how to infiltrate the Maoist network. If a foreigner could develop a network of informers and undercover agents why can’t we?
Like most Inidan Police officers Tegart too volunteered to fight for his county in the First World War. Refused permission to enlist Tegart remained in India, monitoring plots to import armaments from Germany, Britains’s enemy and thus a friend of the Indian revolutionaries. Here again is a lesson from Tegart for our police and intelligence agencies how to monitor and choke the channels through which the Maoists receive their supply of arsenal.
After the war was over Tegart’s services were used by the British government for odd jobs connected with intelligence and protection.  In a hush- hush posting in France and England he is believed to have rendered valuable service in the counter-espionage work against the Bolsheviks. From July to November 1920, Tegart served as an intelligence officer in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War, when he was one of several Indian police officers imported to bolster flagging British intelligence networks. He was regarded as an expert on both Irish and Bengali ‘terrorism’.  In 1923 Tegart was appointed Police Commissioner of Calcutta. After his retirement in 1931 he served for six years on the Council of India, the first member of the Indian Police to be so honoured.
After the War the Ottoman Empire had been dismembered and the Jewish settlement in Palestine had been placed under British Mandate. In 1937 Tegart was offered the post of Inspector General of the Palestine Police based on his experience in India. He declined the post but accepted a mission to reorganise the police force to combat Arab terror there.   Tegart recommended building a series of police forts across the country, to serve as well-defended positions and bases for suppressing revolt, and to prevent the infiltration of armed Arab guerrillas from Syria and Lebanon. The forts were also to be used as government offices in areas that were regarded as unsafe. A 2- metre high barbed-wire fence ran all along the frontier with Lebanon and Syria. Giving Tegart full credit for this initiative these were colloquially referred to as Tegart’s Forts and Tegart’s Wall. He also had some fifty fortified police stations built to preempt surprise attacks. Looks like these can be tried, with suitable modifications, in our Maoist-affected areas too.
Tegart, more than anyone else, was responsible for crushing the revolutionary terrorism in Bengal in the first two decades of the twentieth century. As a patriotic Indian one may hate him but cannot detract from his effectiveness as a police officer. Tegart had a charismatic personality but the purpose here is not to glorify him but to see if his strategy of tackling the Bengal revolutionaries could be selectively adopted by our police and intelligence agencies in dealing with the Maoist menace. Tactics will have to be modified considering the time gap of a century; our Constitution and laws do not give us the leeway which Tegart had.  Of particular interest will be his building up a network of informers within the revolutionary groups, pitting bhadralok against bhadralok. Not all so-called Maoists are committed and hard core and attempt can be made, and surely must have been made, to win some of them over. For that mutual trust has to be built up over a period of time. Although the area to be covered is very large Tegaart’s Forts and Tegart’s Wall can be tried on an experimental basis.

Dr Sudhir Kumar Jha

(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014



Famously fictionalised as Chandrapore Club by E.M. Forster in his novel A Passage to India Bankipore Club was meant for the elite among the Europeans residing at the civil station of Patna or visiting here from the mufassil. In the novel when Dr. Aziz escorts Mrs. Moore back to the club it is thus far and no further for him; he  tells her that Indians are not allowed into the Chandrapore Club, even as guests. But Bankipore Club was no more racist than other such clubs under the British Raj and there was one at every civil station.  George Orwell echoes the sentiment in his novel Burmese Days:’it was the proud boast of Kyauktada Club that, almost alone of Clubs in Burma, it had never admitted an Oriental to membership’. While entry to Bankipore Club was barred for “Indians and dogs”, poor Europeans at the station - railway workers, British Other Ranks, and, as in A Passage to India, missionaries, were also kept out.
In 1858 Victoria assumed direct control of administration from the East India Company and assumed the title of Queen Empress. The number of government officers went up sharply at Bankipur as new departments became functional. Patna till then referred to what we now call Patna City.  The area along the Ashok Rajpath from Patna Science College to Golghar was known as Bankipur, which the British preferred to spell Bankipore, with offices dotting the flanks. Patna did not extend further west until it became the capital in 1912. What is now Gandhi Maidan was then known as the Oval and later as the Lawn. The British civilian officers mostly had their bungalows around this vast expanse of greenery where Polo was played. It also served as the turf for horse racing. Nothing stood between the Club and the Maidan. For many decades the  club remained a landmark along with St. Joseph’s Convent school and
Catholic Church, the Protestant Church and the Golghar.. Here and there and along the Fraser Road were spread the compounds of the indigo planters and businessmen.
 Outside the working hours the Gora Sahebs had a pretty lonely existence. Most were either bachelors or had left their families behind. A club, a western concept, was replicated in India to compensate for this loneliness.  Bankipore Club was thus born in 1865 as an oasis amidst the desert of colonial isolation. Members would gather here every evening for games and gossip, much as the Mess in Danapur cantonment provided an exclusive venue for Army officers.
Europeans could not have selected a better site for their club; it was high ground overlooking River Ganga. The river then flowed in full glory and its water lapped against the ramparts of the club. Steam ships and barges plying on the river presented a familiar and fascinating sight. One wonders why the British did not acquire all the land between the club and the Maidan; today’s congested access to the club would then have been avoided. Of course, it was not possible to get more space to the east because of the Antaghat  Nala  nor to the west because of the existing Dutch opium godown, today’s collectorate complex. The members did not have enough open space for outdoor sports but they could take a long walk in the Maidan, ride there or play polo. Though a social club rank and hierarchy mattered even inside the club with Commissioner and Opium Agent being shown due deference.                                                                          
Opening of Suez Canal in 1869 made sailing between Home (England) and India smoother and faster. As a result Mem Sahebs and Missi Sahebs in search of husbands started descending on India in droves. As Patna got its share of them so did Bankipore club. Evenings at the club became livelier. Though extra-marital affairs were a taboo, mild flirtation was not frowned upon.                                                                                                                                                                         
There were several eligible bachelors, young civil and military officers, who were a prize catch. Some of them met their future wives on the wooden dance floors of this club. Senior ladies too loved to play match makers and often succeeded.  The newly-weds were feted at the club amidst much fanfare. The Civil & Military Store run by an Anglo-Indian catered to most needs of the members for indigenous and imported stuff.
Things changed for the club when Patna became the provincial capital in 1912. As the New Capital area came to life polo and other sports activities shifted west. Bankipore Club gained in membership and stature as all the big wigs of government flocked here in the evenings with their spouses. The club was incorporated as a public limited company in 1915. Young barristers educated and trained in England lay a claim to membership of the club which embarrassed the government. As a compromise was born the New Patna Club in 1918 to accommodate  Europeanised Indians.  Bankipore Club thus became to New Patna Club what Bengal Club was to Calcutta Club. But Bankipore Club could not retain its European exclusiveness for long. Once the Imperial Services, namely the ICS and IP, were opened to Indians in the early twenties their entry into this snootiest of clubs could not be resisted. Since their number initially was not sizeable they merely aped their white colleagues. Equations started changing from late thirties with independence looming large on the horizon.                                              
When independence finally came in 1947 there was a last ditch attempt by the departing British members to wind up the club and liquidate its assets. Their game plan was frustrated by the now emboldened Indians. After initial hiccups the club settled down nicely to business under Indian
management. The membership of the club comprised mostly of senior government officers with a sprinkling of doctors but very few lawyers and businessmen. Membership of the Bankipore Club in those days was a status symbol, much as the Patna Golf Club emerged the favourite in the 1980s.  Today businessmen dominate and manage the club.
In the nineteen fifties  and early sixties the Companywallas were the crème de la crème of Patna’s westernized elite. MNCs such as Bata, ITC, Burma Shell and Dunlop became corporate members. Their branch managers and other executives posted at Patna wee invariably Indians. They were an intimate social group living in a world of their own.  At the Christmas and New Year Ball at the Bankipore Club, while they danced to the tunes of Moosa Band, the uninitiated government servants and their spouses, too shy to shake a leg, watched and lamented. In March 1970 the East Zone Davis Cup Tournament between India and Pakistan was played for three days at the New Patna Club. The teams and guests were feted lavishly and the festivities concluded with a gala evening at the Bankipore Club with dinner and ball room dancing. Pakistan’s high Commissioner to India was so overwhelmed that tears came to his eyes.
The character of the club has changed over the decades as it was bound to. Successive management committees have brought improvements. While modernization is welcome care should be taken not to disturb the heritage look and character of the club.  Unlike most clubs                                                                        
there is no Chairman or President in this club. The Honorary Secretary, elected by members of the Executive Committee, is the Chief Executive Officer of the club.
It is a long chain of succession from Founder Secretary J. P.W. Johnston to the present incumbent, spanning one hundred and fifty years. This makes Bankipore Club one of the oldest in India. The sesquicentenary of the club is due next year. Planning must start now to make the celebration befitting the dignity of this venerable old man that is our club.

Dr. Sudhir Kumar Jha
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar)