SHARPSHOOTER WITH A SHARPER MIND
There used to be a detergent ad with the tagline ‘hard on dirt, soft on clothes.’ This dual approach to policing has made Najmul Hoda feared by criminals and loved by genuine petitioners. When I first bumped into him at a party, I almost conjured up the image of a stethoscope around his neck rather than the 9 mm pistol or lathi in his hand. Mild mannered and soft spoken, his personality seemed to reflect that trademark doctor’s demeanor. It was only in the middle of the conversation, when I noticed another officer saluting him, did I realise that he was a cop.
Recently transferred and posted as the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Kancheepuram, due to the Election Commission’s dictum that no officer should be in a post or area for more than 3 years before elections, Najmul’s response when I broached the subject of featuring him in this column was true to his unassuming self. “What’s there to write about me?” Quite a bit. Humility is obviously one of his virtues, although he has little to be humble about.
There was no proverbial silver spoon. Or any spoon for that matter. A native of Darbhanga in Bihar, as a young lad, seeing his mother Mobina Khatun toiling at home and his father Muhammad Manzoor, a voracious reader and literary figure, struggle to climb up the ‘sarkari’ ladder, as an Inspector in the Civil Supplies Department, Najmul often wondered that “his learning was not commensurate with his job.” Bihar was not well developed, especially in the early nineties when Najmul was just out of school. “There were few avenues for social mobility and the Civil Services seemed like the only decent route to come up in life.” The career goal was clear. That dictated his choice of History, in which he graduated from the Aligarh Muslim University followed by a Masters in Modern History from the premier Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The first crack at the Civil Services Examination landed him a berth in the Indian Railway Traffic Service in 2000. “I was initially happy but soon got bored.” A second attempt ensured that he changed tracks with his selection to the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 2001. Anyone who is remotely familiar with the exam will vouch for hardwork being a prerequisite. Najmul, however, attributes his success to the “Blessing of Democracy.”
In the first decade of his service, Najmul has had hard core Law & Order roles in six districts – Tuticorin, Madurai, Theni, Dharmapuri, Ariyalur and Virudhnagar. Dharmapuri, for instance was the main hub of illicit liquor. Najmul made it his mission to eradicate the menace. Then came a hotbed of caste clashes at Virudhnagar, where two communities were at loggerheads for over fifty years, resulting in mindless killings. The young Superintendent of Police took a bold decision of withdrawing the police post and “arrested about a hundred trouble makers in one go.” Soon, “we were able to sanitise the area.”
A cameo innings at the CB CID and a stint as the Deputy Commissioner of Police – Secretariat Security in Chennai preceded what could probably be the most action oriented phase of his career. North Chennai is notorious for rowdy gangs. And Washermanpet is at the epicentre of gang rivalry. In his three year tenure as the Deputy Commissioner of Police – Washermanpet, Najmul took on the gangsters head on. As many as five hundred rowdies were detained under the Goondas Act. “If the police means business, it can be hell for wrong doers and heaven for law abiding citizens.” I have seen Najmul helping citizens who have genuine grievances even if it doesn’t fall under his jurisdiction, as he is not averse to speaking to his counterparts in other places. On his recent promotion as DIG, Najmul was posted as the Joint Commissioner of Police, West Chennai, before being transferred as DIG Kancheepuram.
That Najmul’s best companions are books would be more than evident after a two minute conversation with him. He is like a walking encyclopaedia with an informed viewpoint on just about any issue. “I lap up books on Philosophy, History, Literature and Religion.” During the Global Investors Meet in Chennai, I was astounded by his knowledge of scriptures, even biblical parables and their interpretation. His facebook updates, all in his individual capacity, reveal his intellectual prowess. “I am opposed to fundamentalism in any faith.” Quite a polyglot, Najmul speaks Urudu, Hindi, Persian, Arabic, Tamil, and of course, English. “I often unwind with Sufi Music.” Not to speak with quality family time with his lovely little daughters Samreen and Afreen. I had no idea that his wife Amreen, a home maker, is the daughter of Shahid Ahmed, a top cop, scholar and author of the ‘History of Islam’, who recently retired as the Director General of Police of Manipur. But then, you don’t expect Najmul to ever brag about anything. That’s the hallmark of real intellectuals.
(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor and Former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7)