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Of Bandits and the B.S.F.

Keki N. Daruwalla

By P.V. Rajgopal
Wisdom Tree, Delhi, 2009, pp 387, price not mentioned


As a police icon, K.F. Rustamji can perhaps be compared only to B.N. Mullick although the latter was very autocratic and controversial, which Rustamji was not. This book will rank very high as a biography, culled as it is by the editor from three thousand pages of his diaries and seven thousand pages of his tour notes. Despite this, P.V.R. Rajgopal, a senior police officer himself and once Director of the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, has managed to compile the book so adroitly that at all times you hear the voice of K.F. Rustamji. (As a recipient of many of Rustamji’s tour notes, this reviewer should know.) The editor deserves the reader’s gratitude. I came in contact with Mr. Rustamji in 1963 when the DIG Agra, Mairajuddin Ahmed launched a joint operation in conjunction with the MP and Rajasthan police against the Chambal valley dacoits, during the monsoons of all seasons. This had never happened. The bandits disappeared into the Dang during the rains. Rustamji came, his police cooperated fully and the operation was a huge success. Later he kept me on his mailing list in connection with his terse, to the point, Tour Notes. Rustamji had an outstanding career graph. Joining the IP in 1938, he was involved with the integration of the princely states of Chattisgarh, annoyed the British rulers during the 1942 riots (sparked off by the Quit India Movement) by restraining the police from using extra force, and by safeguarding granaries against arson. He was surprisingly awarded the Police medal within four years of joining service (in 1942). The Brits realized he was right and they were wrong. He had moved to Nagpur with a convoy manned by the Mahar Regiment. ‘On the way to the Kotwali, a couple of stones were thrown at us, and the Mahars were so upset that they began to take pot shots at people in the windows. This “accidental shooting”, which Sullivan claimed had done a lot of good, was stopped by me.’ He moved into a grain godown, where another officer of the Mahar Regiment. Lt. Curtis, fired at the rioters (who were trying to burn the godown) with a Tommy gun, till Rustamji restrained him. At meetings he pleaded for restraint. ‘I was told I would be replaced by another officer who would “batter the bastards (rioters) into submission”.’ He writes: ‘my position with the ...

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