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Calcutta Walks – The Scotland Yard of the East

Calcutta Walks – The Scotland Yard of the East

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Scotland Yard of the East

We share the intriguing history of the Scotland Yard of the East – the Detective Department of Calcutta Police, established in 1868 following the shocking murder of Rose Brown. Explore the foundation and evolution of India’s first investigative agency in this episode of Calcutta Walks.

Let’s talk about something different today in this episode of Calcutta Walks. I have shared many interesting facts about the city on the history of some roads, buildings, and even people in Calcutta Walks. However, what I share today is completely different from the rest. Today I share with you the story of Scotland Yard of the East – The Detective department of Calcutta police.

Today, we all know about the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the National Investigating Agency (NIA), the Research Analytical Wing (RAW) etcetera. These were formed over the course of our country’s history. However, do you know the first-ever investigating agency in India was formed way back in the year 1868 in the city of Calcutta?

Almost 156 years earlier on April 1, 1868, the city of Calcutta was rocked by the brutal murder of Rose Brown, a young and beautiful Anglo-Indian woman. Her lifeless body, discovered late at night by a patrolling constable, lay mere minutes away from the Amherst Street police station. The gruesome manner of her death, with her throat, slit almost ear to ear, and the positioning of her body suggested she had been attempting to flee her assailant. This tragic incident would unwittingly lay the foundation for one of India’s most prestigious law enforcement institutions: the Scotland Yard of the East – the Detective Department of Calcutta Police.

The murder of Rose Brown sent shockwaves through Calcutta. Though the city was no stranger to crime, the killing of a well-dressed young woman so close to a police station was unprecedented. The brutality of the crime and its proximity to a place of supposed safety led to widespread public outrage. From middle-class homes to upscale mansions, from newspaper columns to bustling markets, the city was abuzz with discussions about the murder and the apparent inefficiency of the police force.

The public and media backlash against the police was fierce. Despite publishing her photograph in all major newspapers, the Amherst Street police station failed to identify the victim for an entire week. Police Commissioner Sir Stuart Saunders Hogg, facing relentless criticism, realized that the failure to solve this case would severely undermine public confidence in the police. It became clear that a new approach was needed—one that would transcend the limitations of the existing police structure.

Hogg decided to create a dedicated team to handle complex and unusual crimes. He appointed Inspector Richard Reid, a young officer known for his sharp mind and diligent work ethic, to lead the investigation into Rose Brown’s murder. Reid’s remarkable skills quickly led to the identification of the victim and the formulation of a theory about her murder. His success in solving the case not only made him Calcutta’s first “police detective” but also confirmed Hogg’s belief in the need for a specialized detective unit.

On November 28, 1868, Hogg’s vision came to fruition with the establishment of the Scotland Yard of the East – The Calcutta police Detective Department, the first of its kind in India. Circular no. 149 announced the formation of this new unit, with A. Younan as superintendent and First Class Inspector R. Lamb as his assistant. The department comprised four darogas (local police officers), ten head constables, and a mix of twenty ‘second grade’ and ‘third-grade’ constables. The superintendent was tasked with overseeing all prosecutions and supervising crime work.

 

Hogg further refined the department’s role by categorizing serious offenses such as murder, culpable homicide, burglary, and grievous hurt as special report cases. In 1873, he reorganized the Detective Department, appointing Richard Reid as the unit’s leader, with Hogg himself maintaining overall control. Reid’s subsequent book, “Everyman His Own Detective!”, not only shared his experiences but also aimed to educate future generations of detectives, offering a fascinating read for the general public.

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Under Hogg’s successor, Sir Stanley Wauchope, the Detective Department embraced scientific methods, and officers like Richard Reid, Sreenath Pal, and Kalinath Bose gained fame for their investigative prowess. The department’s reputation grew so strong that its detectives were called upon to assist in investigations across India. For instance, in 1875, Kalinath Bose received a reward of Rs 2,000 from the Maharajah of Travancore for recovering stolen crown jewels.

The turn of the century saw the appointment of Jogendra Chandar Mitra as the first Indian chief of the Detective Department in 1898, followed by Kisto Chandra Banerjee. However, the rise of the revolutionary Swadeshi movement in Bengal led to the reappointment of British officers, with M.B. Ellis taking charge.

As Bengal’s political landscape evolved with the growth of militant nationalism, the Detective Department adapted to new challenges. The creation of the Special Branch to combat revolutionary activities marked a significant shift. Despite these changes, the Detective Department’s reputation as the ‘Scotland Yard of the East’ endured a testament to its foundational legacy.

The murder of Rose Brown, a tragic and senseless act, inadvertently led to the birth of an institution that would become synonymous with excellence in policing in India. Her legacy lives on through the continued dedication and achievements of the Scotland Yard of the east – the Calcutta Police Detective Department.

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