Dread of Uniform
Magnificent India

Dread of Uniform

Vijay Sanghvi

Lala Girdharlal Saraf noticed through the glass panels the Delhi Police jeep stop in front of his jewellry showroom in the main market of Meerut. As four men in police uniform, one inspector and three constables with rifles in their hands advanced onto the steps of his show room, Girdharlal pressed the push button at his feet for a red light flash to alert his staff. The uniformed police party came close to his table and the Inspector announced, ‘Lalaji, you have to come to Delhi with us.’ Without being disturbed Girdharlal asked, ‘Why do I need to go with you?’ But at the same time he tilted his head to indicate to his staff members. Two salesmen attending to customers with silver ware items rushed out. On a cue the gate guard also ran to the nearby district police superintendent’s office.

Even before the Delhi Inspector completed giving the reason, the Meerut SP was entering the showroom along with a few jewellers from the market. Lalaji told his local police chief, “Sarawatji, the Delhi Police party has come to take me away to Delhi’.

They all noticed the discomfiture of the Delhi police party as Sarawat extended his hand and demanded to see the summons or warrant issued by Delhi court. Inspector Bakhtiyar Singh told him he did not carry it with him. SP asked him then why he did not contact his office before reaching Lala Girdharlal, when he knew he had no jurisdiction in that district, even if he had carried the summons, unless the local police chief or his nominated officer was present.

The Delhi police party made an attempt to rush out but saw that the local police party had already surrounded their vehicle. Sarawat immediately ordered the arrest of the four uniformed men from Delhi for causing harassment to local businessmen. Other jewellers from the market congratulated Lala Girdharlal for his precautions as they sipped hot tea.

Lala Girdharlal explained that his precautionary approach was due to what he had heard a month earlier from Lala Hansraj as his experience only 40 days ago. Hansraj had told the meeting of the Meerut jewellers association that a party of four uniformed police personnel had come to his show room. They were not accompanied by any inspector from the local police Thana. They had asked him to accompany them to Model Town police station.

They also explained that they had arrested a man of forty years on suspicion of theft in a wealthy man’s house. The thief had confessed his crime and also told the police of having sold the jewelry worth Rs. Twenty lakh to Lala Hansraj. So they had come to take him to the police station for personal verification. Lalaji accompanied them but as soon as they reached the outskirts of Meerut, one of the constables proposed the deal for his release. They wanted Rs. ten lakh cash without being taken to Delhi police station where the local media was also waiting to take snaps of the big jeweller accused of fencing. Hans Raj was terrified. Dread of the police uniform had gripped his mind to allow him proper thinking. Petrified by it, Lala Hansraj haggled over the demand to bring it down to Rs. two and half lakh. The party came back to collect the agreed sum. Only later Lalaji realized how he was fooled in parting with Rs. two and half lakhs.

He straightaway went to the local district SP to share his terrible experience. The outside police party has to keep the local police authority in the know of their action. The outsider cannot arrest any local without endorsement of the local police chief. Above all Lala Hansraj had unnecessarily panicked and overlooked to see essential documents such as the court summons or the arrest warrant without which they could not have forced him to accompany them.

Lala Hansraj had expected a repeat of the incident. On goading by the local SP, he agreed to share details of his nightmare with other jewellers. SP Sarawat also attended the meeting to warn jewellers of the need for relevant precautions, demand to see documents and insist on notification to the local police. Lala Hansraj confessed of his fear of the news getting to the local media. He insisted that if outside police party ever came to the Market again, others need to standby in a show of strength against misuse of the police uniform. Then alone can such incidents be prevented in future.

Girdharlal Saraf was a friend of not only the district police chief but was also known in the Delhi press circle for having visited the Delhi Press Club. Sarawat had also kept him company. Both had experience that media is not as bad as it is painted to be by vested interests. Other jewellers in the Market had also come rushing to stand by Girdharlal Saraf. The fake Delhi police party never attempted any similar fraud in the past five years for they knew every jeweller in the western part of the state was alerted to such an attempt and the local police would standby them.

Lala Girdharlal often recalled the words of SP Sarawat in his address to Meerut Jewellers, “Let me tell you the reputation of an honest businessman cannot be bought from a market. It is earned from decades’ practice of honest business. One or two unsavoury incidents cannot destroy it. But you also have to learn not to get terrorized at the sight of a police uniform” His words keep ringing through the minds of Meerut Market of jewellers.

Lala Girdharlal realized that even honest traders are terrorized by the sight of uniformed policemen only out of ignorance of their rights than by the authority that uniform provides to the policeman. SP Sarawat had made him confident by explaining his rights. Ultimately it was the victory of honesty as a humane quality.