Bullet for Bullet : Book Review | Mumbai | Riot

After listening to rich appreciation of this book from my friend s father I d been constantly looking to get hold of a copy

but it was only after coming to the academy that my wish could come true. Written in autobiographical style this book by former super cop Julio Francis Ribeiro largely talks about his distinguished and varied career traversing from a young IPS probationer to the ambassador of Romania. This book is about the life of a super cop who never kept his revolver loaded. This is about an officer who in the line of duty survived two attacks on his life. Julio Ribeiro is a role model for the policemen across the country and his ideas continue to inspire many. His contributions to the nation were recognised by the government by awarding him Padma Bhushan in 1987. Mr Ribeiro began his career as an SDPO in a Mofussil in Kolhapur and it was during his posting as SDPO of Nasik that he got his baptism in ground level policing. He is of the opinion that the posting of SDPO and ASP are the most important one and rues the fact that now IPS officers are posted as SDPOs for a very short time. Ribeiro has always been known for his striking ability to understand human psychology and that made him popular both within the department and outside it. Jogging with fellow policemen, attending their sports meets, playing hockey with them were few techniques Ribeiro successfully uses to form good rapport with his colleagues and juniors. His love for human relations and human rights can be traced back to an incident in his teens which had profound impact on him. A neighbour had complained against the kids who had shattered his windowpane while playing in the locality so the police took them to the police station. Mr Ribeiro happened to be the captain of the team so he feared that now he d be beaten black and blue. But the police inspector, a white man, behaved in a very friendly manner and rather than admonishing them taught hitting the ball with a straight bat. Ribeiro has devoted a lot of pages for the strategy to deal with juniors. He recounts many incidents where he had protected his juniors who had unknowingly committed mistakes but at the same time he resisted political pressures even from the highest levels to throw the rogue elements out of the police. He thinks that it is the juniors who can do the best appraisal of their seniors and it s the duty of the senior officers to resist any kind of political pressures on their juniors. Ribeiro has held a number of important postings despite his reputation for not succumbing to political pressures. He has provided an extensive piece of advice for dealing with the politicians. He believes that it is through tact and determination rather than hate and alienation that the politicians can be tackled effectively. He minimised the political interference in the postings of the police officers by devising an innovative transfer policy whereby he asked his junior officers to give their transfer requests directly to him rather than to the politicians and then keeping in view of their past performance he transferred the officers suitably. This significantly cut down the undue political patronage enjoyed by some of the police officers and at the same time provided an incentive to honest officers. Despite his apparent repugnance for the politicians, his theory of dealing with them is firmly rooted in the democratic ideas which put representatives of the people at a higher pedestal and there are many of them which have earned his rich praise in the book. Throughout his career Ribeiro dealt with many incidents of communalism and it was his staunchly secular stand that helped avert many tragedies. It was due to his efforts that Mumbai was spared of the heinous anti Sikh riots of 1984. For him a riot is like a storm and not much can be done once it has started so the best measures that need to be taken are preventive. The initiative to form Mohalla committees, which have been instrumental in defusing communal tensions in Maharashtra, also goes to him. He thinks that a riot (communal or otherwise) is an organised activity that can t be carried out without express support of the political class, so police alone can t root out the menace of riots. Due to Ribeiro s expertise in dealing with riots he became Government s handyman to deal with them both within and outside his state. During his tenure as DGP of Gujarat(1985-86) he proved his mettle by putting an end to wide spread riots in the state.

The most common law and order situation that troubled him was related to mob control but over the time he devised a strategy for effectively handling the mob. He advises restraint to the maximum extent but in the time of need he doesn t rule out use of fire either. He believes that a mob is violent because of the anonymity it enjoys, so it can be controlled by making its members think as individuals. He has condemned the go-slow approach of the political class to deal with such situations due to politically expedient reasons because people have to unnecessarily suffer when things go out of hands and it is the police which bears all criticism. He has cited the riots during Gnaesh Utsav as a point in the case where due to home minister s political expediency a lot of loss of life and property was caused. One very disturbing aspect of police department highlighted in the book is about the tussle with seniors who are very strong by the virtue of their positions. At one point of time Ribeiro himself was targeted by the IGP of the Maharashtra and the situation became so bad that he seriously thought of quitting the service. There are many more incidents which depict the intense rivalry between colleagues too and there s is a mention of an incident when another officer replaced Ribeiro as Commissioner of Delhi Police even before he could reach Delhi to join. This shows the extent to which police officers approach the politicians for important postings consequently putting themselves under obligation. During his tenure in Maharashtra there s a mention of two SIs who got so powerful that they had started managing the transfers of other officers too. One of Ribeiro s many important assignments was that of Commissioner of Mumbai police where he amply showed his personal and professional skills to deal with the Shiva Sena and the problem of labour unrest that had almost crippled Bombay s cotton industry. It was during the 80s that Mumbai s underworld was also making its presence felt and gang wars had become order of the day. A very tough task as Commissioner of Mumbai Police was to curb the menace of Police Unions which had started to hold the state ransom to their demands. It was achieved deftly with only one firing incident. Although Datta Samant,the legendary labour union leader, was giving a lot of troubles to Ribeiro yet at many times he convinced the former by the dint of logic and rationality. Despite all apprehensions to the contrary Julio Ribeiro turned out to be among the longest serving Police Commissioners of Mumbai and successful too. Ribeiro has been a maverick of sorts and the book cites many examples to that point. So at times he keeps his DCPs in his house to ensure better coordination and at other times he alone is chasing the mob of Shiva Sainiks with nothing but a baton in his hand. He very happily takes up the odd jobs whether it is helping another officer deal with the railway strike or taking over as DGP of Punjab police at the height of insurgency. He used to attend the monthly review meeting called by the Collector even when he was the Commissioner of Thane, a post of DIG rank. In another incident he even went to attend the funeral of a rickshaw puller who got accidentally killed by the police. The most important position that Ribeiro ever occupied was perhaps that of DGP of Punjab. He never believed in use of raw force against the people so in Punjab also he authorised use of force only for surgical operations. He maintained contacts with the local people and his approach aimed to form a good rapport with them. Probably that s why the Operation Black Thunder didn t attract the protests from Sikhs as seen after Operation Blue Star . Ribeiro and KPS Gill were two most important officers during the insurgency but their approaches were in stark contrast to each other s. Whereas Ribeiro relied upon change of heart strategy to end terrorism in Punjab Gill advocated ruthless suppression of it even if human rights are violated in the process. Despite staunch opposition to Gill s views Ribeiro gives him the credit as the best operations man he had ever seen. He also confesses that he never led the men from the front like Gill. Post retirement he became adviser to the governor of Punjab and later on Ambassador to Romania. Ribeiro rues government s lack of appreciation of his hard work as he was almost sidelined after his retirement. Romania during those days was an inconsequential country for India so Julio didn t consider it to be a befitting reward for him. It was during this diplomatic assignment that taking advantage of the political turmoil in Romania, a few Sikh extremists made an attempt on the lives of Ribeiro and his wife injuring the former. After this assignment when an offer was made to him for

Governor s post in J&K, he rejected it despite urging of Vajpayee and Farooq Abdullah. As of now his association has largely been restricted to social organisations and the private sector notably the Indian music industry. Ribeiro s account is replete with the frankness and honesty unknown of a former government officer who decides to pen down his memoirs. He openly calls Shiva Sena as an anti Muslim organisation and that it derives a lot of its cadres from anti social elements of the society. He has not shied away from mentioning the areas in which he failed miserably like eradication of alcoholism and adult illiteracy. He strongly recommends stricter accountability of the police and need to maintain a lean and mean force. Another striking feature of the book has been the humble and unassuming manner in which the author mentions his achievements. At no point of time did I get the feeling that I m reading story of a super cop. To me it appeared as if he s a usual cop just doing his job with sincerity. Maybe that s what is needed to be an outstanding officer and it s just that we re often led by mental images that make us want to see something out of the world. This book is slightly bulky but the lucid manner in which it s been written makes it an easy read. Author s language is metaphorical at times adding literary value to this book. Although It has been written in autobiographical style but it covers mostly the professional life of the author and there are just a few glimpses of his personal life. This book presents a ringside view of policing as witnessed by Julio Ribeiro. Chiefly, this book has been written in chronological manner though there are occasional jumps in the time line which cause a bit of confusion. One thing I didn t like about the book is its title which seeks to project an image contrary to that of the author. Ribeiro himself mentions in the book that he never uttered this phrase and it was ascribed to him by a journalist and Ribeiro had to face a lot of flak for apparently saying so. But then why did he keep this as the title of his book is confuses me. The only explanation I can think of is that this phrase is quite catchy so maybe it is due to marketing considerations. For me, the book was not just about reading and appreciating the author s life and style of work but also a lot about learning as I m going to be a police officer for the most significant part of my life. Before reading the book my opinion about policing was that of a derivational job which even the author subscribes to. But after reading it I m of the view that there s definitely much more to the job of a police officer. The erudition imbibed from this book is going to illuminate my career path for the time to come. I d strongly recommend this book to not just the budding or aspiring police officers but to everyone as it presents a candid an objective account of policing in a rapidly changing society of India

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