When the going gets volatile, the docile don’t get going. That’s when the Election Commission steps in and posts officers who don’t genuflect when asked to bend by their political bosses. On four occasions during the polling season whenever officers came under a cloud, Abhash Kumar got a call from Nirvachan Sadan to pack his bags. The country’s Election Commission had handpicked him for some of the most sensitive assignments – twice as the Commissioner of Police – Madurai, as the Inspector General Of Police (South Zone) and Inspector General Of Police (West Zone). These postings are often viewed as a barometer of neutrality, evident when many an incumbent get shunted out if the same party comes back to power after an assembly election ; or retained or given a plum post if there’s a change of guard!
Not the type to hanker after publicity, Abhash has maintained a low profile throughout his career. It’s a different matter that his fans have put up a wikipedia page on him. Now functioning as the Additional Commissioner of Police for South Chennai, Abhash’s foray into the civil services can probably be traced to his genes. Born and bred in Bihar, his father the late Satish Kumar Nidhi was in government service and had almost cracked the gruelling Union Public Service Commission examination. A graduate from the Patna College and a Post Graduate in History from the premier Jawaharlal Nehru University, Abhash was a topper throughout his academic life. A Bihari, an academic topper, a son of a government officer and a JNU product, in the late eighties and even today, is a natural contender for the Civil Services! After a short stint as a Probationary Officer with State Bank Of India, Abhash made it to the Indian Police Service in 1990.
For some reason, most of his postings have been in Southern Tamil Nadu, right from his maiden role as Additional Superintendent of Police – Paramakudi, followed by a city posting as Assistant Commissioner of Police (Law & Order) in Madurai. For the next seven years, Abhash cut his teeth into district policing as the Superintendent of Police – Kanyakumari and Virudhnagar. At an epicentre of caste clashes at the time, with firing and lathi charges a regular feature, the young SP of Virudhnagar was instrumental in setting up Human Rights Cells in Police Stations. The idea gathered such momentum that Madurai Kamaraj University sought his inputs to make Human Rights a Post Graduate Course. But his most ‘concrete’ feat was the construction of what is still called the ‘Police Bridge’ in Virudhnagar. Forty feet long, it was to ease traffic congestion. The catch is that it was built entirely by the police with raw materials contributed by the public. “I myself carried bricks to the site.”
A seasoned hand in city policing, Abhash was the Deputy Commissioner of Police – Adyar, Deputy Commissioner of Police – Traffic and even had a stint as the Aide-De- Camp to the then Governor of Tamil Nadu – Rama Mohan Rao, a retired IPS officer himself, with whom Abhash still maintains “a very close rapport”. The retired Director General Of Police from Andhra Pradesh who made it to the Raj Bhavan in Chennai “has been more like a family member.”
From Law & Order to Traffic to Training, Abhash served in the Intelligence Wing as the Inspector General of Police (Internal Security) for three years. The Q Branch, under his command, managed to zero in on top naxal leaders “even though we didn’t have many of their photographs”. Another milestone was apprehending an ISI spy “who was recruited by a Pakistan High Commission agent in Sri Lanka to collect information on India’s nuclear submarine project”. It was a “joint operation” by the Tamil Nadu Police and the Intelligence Bureau.
Quick to give others credit for their work or leadership, Abhash is all praise for his boss – Police Commissioner S.George, whom he describes as a “tough task master” but “very devoted” to his work. “Once you get to know him well, you will find him to be a very warm person.” Manpower utilisation for hard core policing has gone up considerably under his watch and that’s something “I marvel at.” At any spot, “we can mobilise 150 policemen and officers in about 10 minutes.” Abhash claims that the Commissioner’s “buzzword of ‘visible policing’ with LED lights, lurking patrol vehicles at shopping malls, red patrol vehicles at crime prone areas, the midnight surprise checks on the functioning of the control room as well as other proactive measures have resulted in a 20% drop in the number of murders in Chennai over the last year.” How does he build a different bridge – of interface between the police and the public? “Apart from meeting petitioners regularly, our beat system involves keeping tabs on the local community, especially senior citizens.”
An officer always on the move, Abhash has a strange way of unwinding that he prefers to call “solitary walking”. After dinner, close to midnight, “I make it a point to walk alone for about an hour. This is when I introspect, take stock of situations and get fresh ideas. I carry my lathi and mobile phone with me. My driver and constables know where I will be so they can reach me for any emergency, especially if there is any important communication on the mike.” The senior cop is a voracious reader of non-fiction, particularly books on Physics (I’m reminded of the recent drone controversy!) and can be heard humming songs of Kishore Kumar.
Married to Minaxi Nigam, a doe-eyed post graduate in Zoology from a distinguished family in Bihar, Abhash is proud of her entrepreneurial venture in plastic granules. Their sons seem to have inherited their academic brilliance. Their elder son Anubhav Nidhi who topped the Matriculation, Plus Two and Engineering Examinations is studying MS (Computer Science) in the United States of America. “Anubhav got a scholarship and a job as a teaching assistant. He even pays income tax and I don’t need to support his education.” A student of PSBB, the younger son Neil Nilay Nidhi is now bang in the middle of his Class 10 CBSE Exams. But will his hectic city police posting give him the luxury of staying beside the little boy as he revises his lessons? The police wireless cracks. “Mike 7 to Control.”
“Control to Mike 7, Ayya. Good evening, Ayya. Receiving Ayya.”
“ Ask the night rounds DC to speak to me on the mobile.” There may not be time for his moon walk tonight.
Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Author, Public Speaker and former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7