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Our History

Nagpur was ruled by Gond kings and later by Maratha Bhonsale before the British East India Company took over the city. The Gond Kingdom and Bhonsale Raj had five elements based on ancient Indian and medieval police tradition, viz. police under revenue authorities, village kotwals and city kotwals. Kotwal was the cornerstone of Police establishment. There used to be a large establishment of Harkaras scattered over the Nagpur Province. Along with See bandies a small army at important places. The duty of Harkaras was to contact Kamavisdars and Patels to prevent crime and apprehend offenders.

Nagpur Rural Police Was Formed On 01-11-1956. The First Superintendent of Police Nagpur Rural Was S. G. Shasrabhojane (IPS). Nagpur Rural Police Currently Has 6 Sub Divisions namely Ramtek Sub Divison, Kamptee Sub Divison , Katol Sub Divison, Nagpur Sub Division, Umred Sub Division and Saoner Sub Division Which Contains Overall 22 Police Stations. The Current Superintendent of Police Nagpur Rural Is Shri. Rakesh Ola(IPS).

Three Hundred Years of Policing in Nagpur

Those who say that Police as an institution had been started all over India by the Police Act of 1861 and therefore, was a gift of the British Raj, need to read our ancient texts. In ancient India, there used to be 'Swadanda' (King's personal army) and 'Oandabal' (State Police). The latter received orders straight from the Sabha (representative body) and not the king, to punish criminals and prevent the king from interfering with the liberty of the people. Indians had the ingenuity of coining specific terms for specific function or office.

'Nara' (as different from Purusha, Manushya etc.) were local police and 'Narapati' was Magistrate in Vedic Constitution. The problem of balancing state power and individual liberty has been a perennial issue and the ancient Indians had their own peculiar solutions. 'Paripalan' (protection) was the very basis of a state. Its power was tolerated because it 'hindered the hindrances' to good life, including self realization and 'swaraj'. Even today, we are struggling to transform Ruler's Police to 'People's Police', emphasizing that police is an essential instrument of society for its development and maintenance of human rights.

The purpose of this small article is to examine the police organization and structure in the City of Nagpur for the last 300 years. History of Nagpur Police has been divided in three parts. Nagpur Police upto Bhonsale Raj and Annexation, Nagpur Police after 1861 and after 1903, these being the important landmarks.

Police in Gond and Bhonsale Kingdoms:

'Policing in Gond Kingdom and Bhonsale Raj had five elements based on ancient Indian and medieval police tradition, viz. police under revenue authorities, village kotwals and city Kotwals. community responsibility, penal provisions suitable to social structure and espionage. Medieval political structure was feudal in nature, and economy was purely agricultural. Society was hierarchical with little religious or caste conflicts. There was a practice of dividing the whole territory into Parganas consisting of a number of villages. In each of them Gonds had zamindari establishment of Deshmukhs and Deshpandes. Bhonsales had replaced them with their own revenue administrators called Kamavisdars and Patels including 'Bara Baluties' with a Kotwal. In big villages Havaldar was appointed under Patel to deal with police matters. There used to be a large establishment of Harkaras scattered over the Nagpur Province. along with 'See bandies' a small army at important places. The duty of Harkaras was to contact Kamavisdars and Patels to prevent crime and apprehend offenders.

Kotwal was the corner stone of Police establishment. He used to be employed by the Patel though, normally, his post was hereditary. His services could be terminated if any default was committed by him. He knew the name and rent of each field, house owners and could identify strangers coming to his village. He was also utilized to call people to feasts, marriages, etc. He would invite people for 'panchayat'. wait on the travelers, arrange supplies they needed and, also report to Patel. He used to summon the people if and when Patel so required. He or some member of his family was expected to be on night watch to protect people from thieves. He was adept in tracking thieves from one village to another and catching them. He was given assistants in larger villages called Tarar. Emoluments of Kotwal were mostly in kind, i.e. he was given a small piece of land as enam, a 'Kudao' grain from each plough. 'Khursoot' or the privilege of collecting sweepings from Khallas or thrashing floors, as well as hides and carcasses of dead animals. In some districts he used to get some pies at festivals or marriages and enjoyed the right of taking a handful from each basket carried to Bazar.

Tarar had a petty grain allowance from each Kisan. Patels were responsible to see that these officials were not careless and that they were punctually paid for their services. Patels used to have shares in the revenue collection. Kamavisdars used to receive Rs, 200 to Rs. 500 per year and also received Nuzzurs and various contributions from their Parganas. In particular the collections and disbursement of Burguns were a great source of profit to him. Havaldars and Harkaras were paid by the Government.

About the police machinery, Richard Jenkins, the Resident at Bhonsle's Court remarks, that there were "ample means for preventing crimes and apprehending offenders, had they been properly supported by their superiors, in this branch of their duty". This is a remark coming from the Imperial ruler who was more interested in taking over the reins of Bhonsale power. On various other testimonies. even from British agents, it can be said that the people of Nagpur province in general, were satisfied with the prevailing law and order and dispensation of justice. People enjoyed liberty of their times under the feudal and hierarchical system.

Jenkins has favourably commented on the prevalent criminal justice and has given a list of crimes and the nature of punishment. It seems, in times of great need and in exceptional cases, Bhonsles exploited rich people. They were orthodox believers in the caste system so much so that if a Brahmin was found in public place without applying the 'Gandha', i.e. Tilak on forehead, he was fined Rs. 5. Once in 1771, a Sahookar (Money lender) named Naroba Naik Kanade had employed a cook in his house who was later found to be an untouchable. Naik used to make offerings to his deity from the food so cooked, perform the rituals of 'Vaiswadev and Naivedya' before taking meals. When this news reached the Raja, Naik was fined Rs. Three, to hush up the matter. George Foster, a visiting British Diplomat, narrated another story. The kingdom was highly indebted to one Udepuri Gosai to the tune of Rs.50 Lakhs. When Udepuri started nagging for the return of loan, one of his disciples was deliberately implicated in the murder of his keep. Mudhoji sent sepoys to arrest him and in the ensuing scuffle the disciple was killed. Mudhoji threafter threatened Udepuri of dire consequences and demanded back the promissory note to settle the matter. The note was returned unpaid and Udepuri had to leave the City. Such tactics to fill in the empty coffers of the State were certainly objectionable but the same diplomat also described Mudhoji as "known to be highly judicious and very popular amongst the farmers, the entrepreneurs and the traders. But in politics he was very cruel and treacherous."

The Problem of Pindharies :

In Indian history, mention of Pindharies is found as early as 1689 but they attracted attention quite later. They were so called due to their plunder of shops of intoxicating drink Pinda. Marathas, mainly Scindias and Holkars, used these freebooters to annihilate their enemies by giving them grants of land north of Narmada river. Pindharies proliferated by recruiting men with the sole qualification of having a horse, a sword and united with the sole purpose of looting. They used to suddenly attack weaker states and plunder wealth. In Nagpur territory, mud forts were built in most of the villages to ward Pindharies off. In 1809, a Pindhari Chief Karim Khan with 15000 men and 50 guns had moved towards Nagpm, and only the combined army of the British and Bhonsale could repulse them. They continued to attack Nagpur every year. Many a time, markets in Nagpur were plundered, houses burnt and territories devastated. In 1817 the Governor General decided to curb the evil with the help of Scindias and Bhonsale. A big cavalry operation was launched and by 1819 Pindharies were exterminated.

Pindharies had created a law and order problem that had to be settled with the help of a combined army. Their menace was one of the causes that forced Bhonsales to sign Subsidiary Alliance with the British in 1816. Jenkins, the first British Resident, suggested reforms in administration including introduction of Police to tighten the grip over Bhonsale Raj. Appasaheb Bhonsale revolted but was defeated in the Battle of Sitaburdi in 1818 and had to flee from Nagpur to continue his fight against the imperial power from outside.

British 'Superintendency' and Police Reforms (1819-26) :

Thereafter for about 7 years, the British Resident Jenkins took over the reins of administration. The Company Government in England was not in favour of immediate annexation of the territory for political reasons and directed the Resident to look after administration pending take over by Raghuji the III who was a minor. Bankabai was recognized as the Regent and guardian of the adopted son during his minor status. The Resident was advised against "sudden innovations". Officers of the Bhonsale regime in the Paraganas were retained but British officers called Superintendents were appointed to supervise the woking of the districts including that of the Patels. For imparting criminal justice, Kamavisdars continued trying offences, but of minor description with specified powers. Superintendents and the Resident's powers were also specified.

For capital punishment a written order from the Raja was essential. Such punishments as mutilation which had been common in Bhonsale Raj were abolished. Provisions of criminal code of Bengal were adopted to define various crimes and prescribe punishments. Administration of the City as the capital was kept separate for revenue collections, policing and judicial matters.

There existed a system of 'Khansumari'. i.e. census in Bhonsale Raj. It was annual enumeration of houses in each district with the specification of castes, profession and other particulars for adjusting the Pandhari dues (House Tax) to Government. In 1819 the Resident conducted census and it is on record that mainly, the police officials were employed for the task. The Superintendent of Police. Nagpur was entrusted with census for Nagpur City.

Nagpur Police After Restoration of the Territories to Raja, Raghuji, the III:

When Raghuji III became major in 1826, he was seated on the throne and British officers were withdrawn. Raja appointed his own ministers and for Police Dept. he appointed Salauddin, who had worked in the same Dept. under British Superintendence and was “a very active man in that Dept." In the places of British Superintendents, natives of the rank, called Soobahs or Ziledars were appointed in Chanda, Bhandara. Chindwara and Chattisgarh Districts. The same officers who had worked under Jenkins were employed under.

them maintaining continuity in administration. Indian officers of status and capacity were appointed in the Courts for dispensing justice. The area where the Resident lived and the adjoining army area, viz. Sitaburdi was outside the jurisdiction of the Raja. They had their own police. The crimes committed in this area were tried by the Resident and his assistants, even if the criminal was from outside the jurisdiction of the Residency. There used to be large number of counterfeiting cases. There were deaths in prison, but no inquiry was ordered. However, old records show that a Fouzdar who had used third degree methods to obtain confession was terminated from service and fined on public complaints. There were cases of persons voluntarily approaching the British police and confessing crimes. Such persons were convicted and sent to jails without further enquiries.

The Raja did not disturb the police establishment. Nagpur Police received high praise from the British officers. On 12th March, 1833, the Resident reported to the Governor General. “It is to the credit of Raja's administration that the tranquility has not in any material degree - even partially disturbed. Security to person and property is better than Nizam's territory. The policing is very efficiently conducted and that the victims of public outrages within the Nagpur territories are very rare.” Later in 1839, Resident Cavendish wrote, "The police of this country is excellent... I have never seen a better Police even in our own provinces…” However he added that because of the sinking finances, the Police were not paid regularly and there was a danger of deterioration in the police force unless some corrective measures were adopted. It was feared that the Police might ‘recompose themselves at the cost of the people and might connive at robberies, when their own situations would not be worth holding for the wages'.

The forecast did come true and the police became slack and corrupt. The Sanskrit proverb, 'Raja Kalasya Karanam' explains the situation. Raghuji had almost become desperate for being unable to be get an heir to the throne. He fell into bad company, developed bad habits as well as sickness in later years and neglected administration. After his death, adoption of a male child by his queen was not accepted by the British rulers and the Company Government annexed Nagpur Kingdom.

The Thugee and Dacoity :

A French traveler in the 17th Century wrote that the 'most cunning' robbers in the world were living in India. It is believed that the thugee was introduced into India by some wild Mohammedan tribes of Persian origin. But it enveloped within its fold people of diverse religions and castes. The Thugs claimed divine origin from the order of Goddess Kali or Fatima, wife of Ali. They used to waylay travelers, strangulate them and bury in remote places. For eradicating this menace a special officer was appointed by the Govt. of India. Since these criminals did not necessarily belong to a particular state, they were considered as International criminals and their trial was taken over by the British agents. All the States were required to contribute to meet the expenses incurred on apprehension and subsequent imprisonment of the thugs and dacoits. In Nagpur, agent Frazer was appointed on a consolidated pay of Rs.390 for which sanction of the Nagpur Darbar was obtained. The Thugs and Dacoits were initially tried at Calcutta and after 1849 by the British agents at Nagpur. If the subjects of the Raja of Nagpur were involved, permission of the Raja was sought and granted "to hold sessions for the trial of Thugs and dacoits arrested and convicted at Nagpur".

The City of Nagpur had population of about 1, 40,000 and the police force (excluding the area of Sitaburdi directly under the Resident) about 700 in number, was divided into seven Companies each commanded by a Subedar. All of them worked under Kotwal or Daroga of the City. The City Jail under Kotwal was in the immediate charge of Subedar of the 2nd Company. The Jail guard was composed of 100 men deputed from the seven companies.

Mofussil Police had more than 400 men distributed in 25 Parganas in the Nagpur Collectorate and presided over by a Kamavisdar, equivalent to Tahsildar on an average pay of Rs. 61.50 p.m. The District Police and the fouzdari duties of the collectorate were generally under the Daroga on a salary of Rs. 200 p.m. with a large establishment of Mutsaddies. Station houses and outposts were located at convenient places. There was near total lack of supervision which led to rampant extortion and corruption. Beams inform us, "the Daroghas of the old type, ruled as little kings in their own jurisdiction and reaped a rich harvest of bribes from all classes. He describes a good specimen of Darogha," a tall portly Mohammedan, grey beard, with smooth sleek look, crafty as a fox, extremely polished in manner, deferential to his superiors, but haughty and tyrannical to his inferiors. With his huge scarlet turban laced with gold, his sword, long riding boots, he bestrode a gaunt roan horse with gray eyes, a pink nose, and a long flowing tail". There were 112 Thanas and Nakas and the rates of pay varied from Rs. 5 to Rs. 15 a month. (Grains were sold at the rate 18 or 20 sears or about 14-15 KG for a Rupee).

Nagpur Police After Annexation: (1854 -1861):

The period of feudal rule ended in Nagpur in 1853 with the annexation of the territories to British empire. Office of the Resident was abolished after annexation and his place was occupied by a Commissioner. The first officiating Commissioner was Capt. E.K. Elliot, whose substantive post was that of Superintendent of Police, Nagpur Province. Posts of Kamavisdars and Zilledars were abolished. In place of 27 Kamavisdars, 10 Tahsildars were appointed. They enjoyed powers of Deputy Magistrates in Fouzdari matters. Each Tahsildar had one or two Naib Tahsildars to assist him.

Not much change was made in the Police structure. The Residency Police and Bazar establishment was discontinued and the divisions of the time of superintendency were restored under City Kotwal. (Pay Rs. 100 p.m.). Each division was under the Soobadaror Daroga as before (pay Rs. 30 p.m.) and was assisted by 2 Naib Darogas (Rs. 15 p.m.). 5 Jamadars (Rs. 10) and 50 Burkandza. (Rs. 4) with one Moharir (Rs. 10). Police strength was nearly halved. Besides the regular military, the defensive and protective force in Nagpur Province consisted of both, the Nagpur Irregular Force and the Civil Police. Hence, the risk of reduction of police force in the city was taken even though there was a possibility of revolt after annexation.

The District Police had 500 men with a Daroga (Rs. 50 p.m.) in each Tahsil and Naib Daroga and Jamadars posted in small Thanas and the Burkandaz (Sepoys) distributed as per requirements. The idea of combining the revenue department with the police department as prevalent in the British India at that time, was continued even after the reorganization of Police in Nagpur Province after annexation. There were Superintendents of Police in each District. The Irregular army had its own police battalions. Close watch was kept over the meetings and gatherings of local officers. Kotwals, Darogas and Tahsildars used to look after criminal justice.

It was the view of IT Prichard that inefficiency and corruption were eating into the very vitals of the police force and much of the disaffection which surfaced in 1857 was attributed to the extortion, intrigue and oppression exercised by the police. They could get any native convicted of any crime they liked.

Crime Situation in 1860 :

Crime statistics of Bhonsale period are not available. The first available report of 1860-61 informs that the crime rate had risen in that year. There were 8085 cases reported in 1860 in the whole of Nagpur territory, i.e. about one crime was committed per 462 souls. Richard Temple explained, "The old civil police were less effective. It may be anticipated that the ratio of crime will probably be somewhat high. The people are not indeed of a proud, sensitive, turbulent or fierce nature which prompts to crimes of violence. But, from its peculiar central position, the country is constantly traversed by wandering tribes of bad character. On many sides it is surrounded by wild regions which give shelter to criminals…" Figures of various crimes are not separately available. There were cases of murder, but as in other part of India, murders to avenge dishonor to women were rare. Murders generally proceeded from avarice. Horrid crimes were committed for small gain like murdering women for jewels, men for cash and children for ornaments. There used to be secret infanticide which was almost curbed. Maltreatment and even killing of women for witch-craft which was once common in the eastern district of Nagpur had almost been suppressed. Thugee incidence was nil. There used to be gang robberies but these were committed by men beyond the frontiers. Yet dacoities continued to occur. Some cases of high way robberies were also reported. There was a paucity of affrays which showed that boundaries of land were not contested. Cases of cattle stealing and burglaries and theft were large in numbers. Forgery and false coining cases had decreased considerably.

Comparing the crime situation of Nagpur territory during the Bhonsale period with that of British Raj, Richard Temple observed. "It is a general opinion of those able to judge, that under British Rule violent offenses and offences against persons have decidedly decreased, the less aggravated of the offences have not decreased, and have probably some what increased". Prosecution of crime during this period was not quite successful on the whole. The ratio of acquittals to conviction was almost 50% showing defective enquiries by the police and undue harassment.

In 1859 a very daring attempt was made by some convicts to escape from Nagpur Jail by overpowering the guards. After meals at 5 p.m. the convicts instead of going to their barracks picked up sticks and stones near the mess, attacked the guards and tried to escape. In the scuffle, firing was resorted to ten convicts were killed and 21 were wounded. Some bodies of the convicts were also found in the water tank with no gunshot injuries.

Nagpur in the Mainstream of Indian Police Reforms: (1861 - 1902)

In 1861, a new Province viz. Central Province was carved out comprising. Nagpur Province, Sagar & Nurbada Territories along with certain other tracts with the capital at Nagpur. In 1860 Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code were enacted and the police were given powers to arrest any person without magisterial order or warrant, though there were checks of the magistrates and superior officers. Prichard and Cox and others were critical of one of the clauses of Penal Code, which enabled a magistrate or a police officer, to enter the name of a person in a list of bad characters. They observed that in point of practice, it was not difficult for a native who had a grudge against his neighbor to get his name entered in this list. "A refusal to lend a policeman money, or a determination of a man to keep his wife to himself, will not improbably result in the money lender's or the husband's name going down in the book of bad characters".

The revolt of 1857 had shown that Indian military could not be completely relied upon for the protection of British Empire. Further, the military could be concentrated only in a few centers and at best, be used to curb rebellions. The need was felt to develop a sense of fear of authority in the entire country. For this purpose a new country wide police system was considered essential to serve as the first line of internal defense. The Indian Police Act of 1861 came into existence as per the recommendations of the first Police Commission of Sir Napier. He postulated, "Soldiers are instituted to fight declared enemies, not to be watchers and punishers of criminals. They should be, in thought and reality, identified with their country's glory -- the proudest of their sons - and never employed to enforce at the behest of civil administration, until the civil power is found too weak..."

The reorganization of police in the province led to a huge savings. The irregular force was disbanded while some men were adjusted in the police force. Reorganized Police consisted of 1 Inspector General (IGP), 2 DIGs, 12 Superintendents of Police (SPs), 7 Asst. SPs, 10 Probationary officers, 45 Inspectors, 6284 foot constable and 613 mounted constables, totaling 6974 men of all ranks for the province. Population of the province was above 83 lakhs with an area of 1,11.800 Sq. miles, i.e. there was one police for 1191 inhabitants and to every 5 Sq. miles. Considerations of economy were given more importance than efficiency. There was a stringent control over expenditure on police force; even payment of daily allowance of two annas to police constables for escorting treasure or traveling on duty had to be sanctioned by the Chief Commissioners. It was in 1898 that the IGP wrote to the Chief Commissioner for delegating this power to him.

The Act had provided for Municipal Police. As per the recommendation of Police Commission, every city and town should pay for its own police. In C.P. there were 57 cities and towns which maintained Municipal Police without any aid from the regular establishment. They were paid from the local funds of municipal taxes, town duties and house tax. In Nagpur, Municipal Committee was established in 1864, but it did not have any say in the administration of police. Lord Ripon's Resolution on Local Self Government in 1883, spared the Municipal Committees and local bodies from financing the Police organization. Police now became the charge on Provincial Government's Treasury. Till now, the character of the police was described as Burkandazee Police, but hereafter great care was taken in proper recruitment and training. (The word Burkandaz is Persian, meaning gendarme). This word had fallen into disuse in Persia, but continued in India though a very small number of arms were entrusted to police and were found in effective even for escorting treasure and quelling disturbances. When conservancy services were started in Nagpur in 1873-74, its supervision work was entrusted to the City Police. This arrangement could not succeed for various reasons and therefore the work was entrusted to a DSP who organized sufficient propaganda to spread awareness amongst the public. The work was taken over by the Municipal Committee when they established their own Conservancy Department.

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