“This is a fight for the right against the wrong. It’s not a fight for religion or race. After a long time, Nagaland got to see an honest and transparent officer that we have been longing for years.”
The story of an honest and upright cop taking on a corrupt system is something that mainstream Indian cinema has latched on to for years.
What’s seemingly unfolding in Nagaland today reads like a plotline from any one of those movies, albeit less dramatic.
Many civil society groups, concerned citizens and even Nagaland police personnel, have asked the State government not to transfer Rupin Sharma, the Director General of Police, who has earned a lot of public support since his appointment to the post on November 24, 2017.
Before his appointment as DGP, the 1992 batch Nagaland-cadre IPS officer served as Director General of Prisons and Superintendent of Police, Peren district. His most notable achievement thus far is leading the CBI that team traced notorious gangster Abu Salem in Portugal and played a significant role in his extradition back to India.
On Monday, according to The Indian Express, civil society groups in the State capital of Kohima held demonstrations in front of the state police headquarters and began a signature campaign demanding that the state government retain his services.
The issue over Sharma’s transfer came to light after Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, and senior ministers and officials wrote a letter to the Centre towards the March, seeking Sharma’s transfer on the grounds that his “experience of serving the state is very limited.”
Aside from various technicalities over issues of seniority and that his initial appointment was a stop-gap measure following the end of his predecessor’s tenure, the chief secretary wrote in his letter to the Centre that Sharma’s inexperience led to “challenges and issues in the conduct of the state assembly elections in February 2018” without getting into any specific details.
Sharma’s supporters in the general public, however, dispute these reasons and believe that he is being transferred because he has formalised the recruitment process in the State police, which is one of the biggest employers in the State. In instituting this formal recruitment process, he has brought an end to back-door appointments into the police—a major source of corruption.
In an impassioned appeal to the President of India, a civil society forum called the Concern People of Nagaland, said, “Young Nagas are driven to insurgency as a result of the blatant manipulation of the system by the corrupt. Funds, jobs, benefits and opportunities are seized by the corrupt and their cronies while the ordinary citizen is left with nothing. Amid this chaos, disorder and darkness, Mr Rupin Sharma has emerged as a beacon of hope for all the people of Nagaland. In the few short months that he has held the office of the DGP, he has done what no other politician or officer has ever done for the people of Nagaland.” Meanwhile, in protest issued by another civil society group called the Concerned Citizens of Nagaland, spouses of police personnel took part.
Speaking to The Print earlier this year, Sharma said that since he possesses no tribal affiliations, any visible public support for his reform initiative comes from his attitude, which has remained “even and fair-minded to everybody across ranks, officials and party lines.”
“The police department is a major employer in the state, and we have thousand odd vacancies every year, but unfortunately, people are only picked based on their tribal affinity,” Sharma told the publication. “After I came, people started thinking there will be an equal opportunity for all. That’s why I have people’s support.”
According to The Indian Express, on Monday, crowds gathered outside the police headquarters in Kohima carrying banners that said, “Retain People’s DGP.” In Dimapur, meanwhile, various signature campaigns have begun. There is even a petition on Change.org with more than 6,000 signatures.
“He is a people’s DGP and an honest officer. He has done several good things for Naga people and has effected positive changes in the functioning of the police department. Therefore, he is enjoying full public support,” said a senior administrative officer at the police headquarters to the publication.
“We have collected 700 signatures from our office today and signatures from other parts of the state, some of them from remote parts, will be reaching us over the next two days. We will be sending our petitions and signatures to the union home minister,” he added.
According to the Nagaland Post, police and personnel at the police headquarters defied direct orders issued on June 17 not to gather in any forum that is protesting DGP Sharma’s removal.
“This is a fight for the right against the wrong. It’s not a fight for religion or race. After a long time, Nagaland got to see an honest and transparent officer that we have been longing for years. The government does not want him so that they can do whatever they want,” said the founder of The Naga Mirror, which claims to be the largest Facebook group in the state, to The Indian Express.
Having said that, the State government seems unmoved and said that the appointment of a DGP is their prerogative. DGP Sharma, meanwhile, has said that he is ready to abide by the government’s orders and service rules.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)