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A Police Officer From a Different Era

A Police Officer From a Different Era

Baneswar Hazarika

In a sort of tribute to his grandfather, the writer reminisces about the great personality whose thrilling tales and anecdotes are always a well-kept treasure for him

By Joydeep Hazarika

Recently on the occasion of Assam Police Day, I shared an old photo of my late grandfather Baneswar Hazarika on Facebook.

Full photo of Baneswar HazarikaIt was an old regal photo of my grandfather in his younger days in a proper uniform as an officer of the British Indian police force. I have personally known my grandfather as an old, frail and ailing man, with a lot of grit and determination though.

But that image of the young man in the photograph had always stuck in my mind ever since I was a young boy.

Looking back at such old photos takes me back to my childhood days when I was around my grandfather and had lots of conversations with him. Most of those talks veered around his younger days and about his various experiences.

Those stories and anecdotes have kept the memories of a bygone era alive inside me.

My grandfather was born into a poor family in Sotia in present-day Biswanath district. He toiled hard daily in the paddy field in order to provide two decent meals for his family.

The second among four brothers, Baneswar Hazarika managed to clear matric(the then Class X) exam, which, for a boy from a poor family, was considered a big feat in those days.

His entry into the police had a lot to do with the conditions of the family.

Back in those days of the ‘Gora Sahib’( White British people), a job in the police force meant both prestige and power. And very soon, he earned a reputation for his honesty and efficiency among his British seniors.

This was despite the fact that my grandfather more than once refused to take stern action against freedom fighters.

Recalling an incident in Sylhet where freedom fighters had taken out a rally in the town market, he was asked by his British seniors to resort to baton charge to disperse the rally; if that failed, he could even resort to firing.

But he simply refused to comply on the plea that it was a peaceful protest and there was no question of submitting to any pressure from his seniors.

Interestingly, the British officers did not initiate any action against him. Not only that, they respected the fact that Baneswar Hazarika was still faithful towards his people and their cause.

Grandfather spent quite a few years in Sylhet before its merger with East Pakistan in 1947.

I still remember him narrating how bad the situation had become right before the partition. Tears would well up in his eyes when he talked about how people had become insane out of hatred, and how fast the situation turned from bad to worse.

People who were friends and neighbours, had suddenly turned against one another. Since our family was not native to Sylhet, he was transferred back to the Brahmaputra Valley where he was given postings at various places.

He kept on feeding me with stories from the post-independence era. My grandfather was posted in Barpeta for a few years where he ended up achieving the most memorable feat of his life. And this is one of my most favourite tales, reminding me of Jim Corbett.

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It was the tale of his hunting a tiger-turned-man eater. Grandfather was never a hunter though, not even had the experience of knifing a chick!

The man-eater had been on the prowl over a large area of Barpeta, terrorising the people. The situation had become so critical that he had no option but to hunt it down.

Artistic impression of the tiger hunting scene
Artistic impression of the tiger hunting scene

And it was simply a miracle that one night the tiger fell to his bullet.  The gun with which he killed the ferocious animal still remains with us.  It’s a rare American rifle that he had bought from an American soldier during the time of the World War II.

Rifle

There were instances when he and his colleagues had to deal with the Naga insurgents. Then, he talked about the chaos that prevailed all over Assam during the 1962 Indo-China war.

From the 1960s, our family has shifted to Guwahati. But memories of my grandfather linger in me as vividly as ever. In fact, his tales and anecdotes raised visions of history before me which are indeed so precious.

 

Joydeep Hazarika
Joydeep HazarikaJoydeep Hazarika is a Guwahati based journalist. He has done his graduation from Hans Raj College and his masters in journalism from MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia. Also an illustrator and a musician, Joydeep takes keen interest in the politics and culture of Northeast India and the surrounding region. He is currently working on his first novel.

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