In July this year, Subashini Sankaran became the first woman IPS officer since India’s independence to take charge of a chief minister’s security.
She is responsible for protecting Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
“It was a new thing for everybody but people slowly adapted to being comfortable about having a lady police officer as the chief minister’s head of security,” Subashini told News18.
Subashini’s job entails mapping out routes when the chief minister travels, coordinating with other members of the CM’s security detail, and briefing personnel. It is a stressful job and her work day often extends to 18 hours.
Subashini comes from a middle-class family, originally from the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. No other member of her family has ever worked for the police; her father was employed in the industrial safety department of a private company, her mother is a homemaker and her sister an entrepreneur in the United States. The family moved to Mumbai in the early 1980s, where she completed her schooling in Thane. Subashini has a degree in sociology from St. Xaviers.
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She later went on to do M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, where she wrote her dissertation on women and terrorism, focusing on the suicide bomber squads of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It gave her an insight into the broader political and sociological situation in India and a nuanced understanding of law and order issues. After qualifying to become an IPS officer, Subashini underwent training at the Sardar Vallabhai Police Academy in Hyderabad.
Her current posting is not easy. Assam is the largest state in northeastern India and is dealing with multiple challenges – from law and order problems to counter-insurgency to communal strife, smuggling and poaching.
She has some experience tackling many of the key issues facing the state. Before her current appointment she worked as an Assistant Superintendent of Police in Azara Police Station in Guwahati. Next, she was transferred to Biswanath District, followed by stints in Silchar and Tezpur as Additional Superintendent.
Her wide-ranging experience in different parts of Assam has helped her prepare for the task of securing the state’s head of government. What makes the job a little easier is that she has learnt Assamese in the four years she has spent in the state.
The lesson from her years as a police officer: “Talk when necessary, take firm action when necessary…lawfully, of course.”
When she gets some time off from the grind, Subashini likes to unwind by reading biographies, and listening to jazz and folk music.