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Kotwals to IPS: The Fascinating Histories Behind Some of India’s State Police Forces

Every day, in every city and town across the country, police officers help make their communities safer. Still, we know very little about these everyday heroes.

If you think people are inherently good, you get rid of the police for 24 hours – see what happens.
 – Sylvester Stallone
Every day, in every city and town across the country, police officers help make their communities safer. Still, we know very little about these everyday heroes. Let’s have a look at the history of some of these departments without which we cannot imagine our reasonable safe existence.

The establishment of India’s current police departments goes back to 1843 when Sir Charles Napier established a police system in Sindh on the pattern of the colonial Irish constabulary.

Sir Charles Napier
 Picture Source – Wikipedia
The Napier’s police led the East India Company to set up a common system of police on the pattern of Irish Constabulary. Later, after the first war of the rebellion in 1857, the British Indian Government set up a Police Commission in 1860.
Interesting, one of the directives of the Commission was “though the duties of the police should be entirely civil, not military, the organization and discipline of the police should be similar to those of a military body”.
The current police system in our country flows from this charter.
The Police Act of 1861 established the fundamental principles of organisation for police forces in India, and, with minor modifications, continues in effect.
Consequently, state-level police forces are separate and differ regarding the quality of equipment and resources. Although their patterns of organisation and operation are markedly similar, the various state police forces have a distinct mission, vision and fascinating history too.
Let’s have a look at few of our State Police forces –

 Delhi Police:

Logo of Delhi Police
Picture Source
 With the motto of ‘Shanti Seva Nyaya’ which means Peace Service Justice, the Delhi Police was formed in 1861 and is currently headed by Amulya Patnaik, the Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
Delhi’s long history of policing comes through the famed Kotwals.

Malikul Umara Faqruddin is said to be the first Kotwal of Delhi in 1237 A.D. The kotwals came to an end after 1857.

New Delhi Police – Early 20th Century
Photo Source
The British re-instituted a force through the Indian Police Act of 1861. Interestingly, since Delhi was part of Punjab then, the force remained a unit of the Punjab Police even after the city became the Capital of India in 1912.
As Delhi’s population rose, so did the strength of the Delhi Police. In 1961, it was over 12,000. Presently, the sanctioned strength of Delhi Police is 83,762.
In the year 1966, on the basis of the Khosla Commission Report, the force was once again reorganised into four police districts, namely, North, Central, South and New Delhi.
At present, there are three ranges, 11 districts and 180 police stations in Delhi. Today, Delhi Police is perhaps the most extensive metropolitan police in the world, larger than London, Paris, New York and Tokyo.

2. Jammu and Kashmir –

Jammu and Kashmir Police Logo
Photo Source – Wikipedia
The Director General of J&K Police, IPS Shesh Paul Vaid, heads the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Their motto is ‘A Saga of Sacrifice and Courage.’
The first modern Jammu & Kashmir police force came into existence in 1873 with one police officer known as a Kotwal and 14 Thanedars for Srinagar City. This police force would control crime with the help of Chowkidars and Harkars, who were paid by the population out of their annual agricultural produce on a voluntary basis.

It was in 1913 that the state requisitioned the service of an Imperial Police (IP) officer on deputation and appointed Mr Broadway as the first Inspector General of Police in June 1913.

Photo Source
He continued to be police chief up to 1917 and was followed by other IP officers.
Since then the police in J&K has undergone several re-organizations. The police in J&K numbered 1040 in the year 1889-90, 1570 in the year 1903 and forty years later, in 1943-44, the strength of J&K Police was 3179.
Amazingly, at present, it has exceeded the 83000 mark.

3. Rajasthan Police:

Logo of Rajasthan Police
Photo Source
The motto of Rajasthan Police is ‘Committed to Serve’, and it is presently headed by Director General of Rajasthan Police, Shri. Ajit Singh Shekhawat, IPS.
The first Inspector General of Police was Mr R.Banerji, who took over on 7th April 1949. Mr. Banerji held this post for seven months, during which he chalked out a common police code for the United State of Rajasthan.
The Rajasthan Police Service was formed in January 1951. This marked the beginning of Rajasthan Police as we know it today.

4. Karnataka Police:

Karnataka Police Logo
Photo Source
Mysore state was the predecessor to Karnataka state, which was created on 1st November 1965.
L. Rickets was appointed as the first Inspector General of Police, prior to which the state police had no status, structure and powers as such.
The police system worked under various names such as Talwars, Thotigars and Kavalgars. Later in 1817, as per the Bengal regulation model, laws were enforced and Patels and Shyanubhogas were entrusted with police responsibilities.
They were neither paid, granted leave nor had access to any vehicle. Instead, the Maharajas gave them Inam (rewards) in the form of land or food grains.
Reformation of the police system took place in the year 1883.
On the 1st of November 1885, Ricket was appointed the first Inspector General of Police of the old Mysore state.

In 1956, the Mysore state came into existence and the new unified state police got a uniform dress code under the Mysore Police. 

With the passage of time, there was an increase in violence, law & order problems, crime rate and a strong force was developed with improved facilities to meet the new challenges.
Presently IPS officer R.K Dutta is the director general of Karnataka police.

5. Sikkim Police: 

The motto of the Sikkim police is ‘Protect and Serve’, and it is currently headed by director general of Sikkim Police, IPS Avinash Mohananey.
At the 19th century began to come to a close, a series of events led to the birth to the new organisation in the laps of the Himalayas.
Sikkim had become a protectorate of British India in 1861.

The first political officer of Sikkim, Claude White raised its modern police force, believing that the increase in population made it necessary.

John Claude White around 1908
Photo Source – Wikipedia
Sikkim was also having territorial disputes with Tibet. In 1886 some Tibetian Militia occupied Lingto on the Eastern border of Sikkim. In 1888, the Tibetans also attacked Gnathang, but were pushed back by British troops.
Such activities were a serious threat. The British felt that a Police outpost must be established somewhere at a strategic point on the Kalimpong-Rhenock-Jelepla-Lhasa Trade route.
It was on the 27th of Nov. 1897 that a force consisting of one Head Constable and five Constables was posted at Aritar near Rhenock. Thus the Sikkim Police was born.


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Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5