By Johnson T A
Bangalore, Aug 21 : For 57-year-old Lalrokhuma Pachau, the flight of hundreds of people belonging to the Northeast from Bangalore has been a particularly painful experience. As Karnataka’s acting police chief, the 1977-batch Indian Police Service officer from Mizoram is sad that even his presence and assurances were not able to stop 28,000 people of his region from leaving Karnataka’s capital in fear between August 15 and 18.
“I feel really bad for what is happening,” he said with pain etched on his face at the sidelines of a press conference last week where he tried once again to send out the message that the Karnataka police under his leadership was doing all it could to ensure the safety of people from the Northeast, who were fleeing from fears that they would be targeted by Muslims after Ramzan.
“I have been sending letters and talking to the DGPs of Northeast states telling them that all the people of the Northeast who are here for various reasons will be protected. Anybody spreading messages against them, posing threats to them or indulging in verbal or physical threats will be arrested,” Pachau who has been the acting police chief of Karnataka since June 1, said.
A soft-spoken, reticent man compared to another Mizoram police officer who served as Bangalore’s police chief, H T Sangliana, Pachau is little known outside of police circles. Sangliana’s high-profile, publicity-driven tenure, in comparison, had seen him all the way to a Parliament seat.
Pachau in fact returned to Karnataka only early this year when the opportunity to become the state DGP opened up following the retirement of his seniors Abdul Rehman Infant and Shankar Bidari. In October 2007, he had taken an inter-cadre transfer to go to home state Mizoram to become the DGP there.
A legal battle being fought by Bidari over his removal as DGP — currently in the Supreme Court — has meant that Pachau has only held concurrent charge as the Karnataka police chief along with a regular position as head of the Criminal Investigation Department in the state. Bidari had been removed over alleged human rights violation during a special operation in the 1990s against sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
According to officers within the Karnataka police, Pachau, who will have three years of tenure if made the full-fledged DGP and IGP, has been hindered in his functioning due to the temporary nature of his appointment. This lack of full authority has played a role in the police chief not being able to come out with authority in the media and other forums to assure safety of people of the Northeast in the current crisis, a senior IPS officer said.
“With full authority, work efficiency can increase by 25 per cent. In the present condition, Pachau is hesitant to come forward fully because he may worry over the government applying the brakes on his moves. Until he is declared the police chief, it is natural that he will have apprehensions,” a senior police officer said.
Over the last week, many people have suggested that Pachau should have been more voluble in addressing the fears of the Northeast people. The acting police chief however has always acted within the chain of command at his disposal.
Known to be a clean, upright, non-controversial officer, Pachau is also known in the police ranks as someone whose mettle has never really been tested in Karnataka.
“He is a very nice gentleman. He holds no bias. He adheres strictly to chains of command. He is perceived as being soft however. He would not like to get into complex problems and he likes to see things go smoothly,” said an officer who served under Pachau in a posting a few years ago.
Another reason for Pachau not engaging with complex problems may be a lack of grip over the local language, culture and politics, with local caste affiliations playing a major role in all realms. “When you are not from the state, you cannot be perceived as being too harsh and strict and that works for and against people like Pachau,” the officer said.
However, the chances of Pachau being made a permanent DGP soon have increased since fleeing of people from the Northeast. Last week, the Karnataka government affected long-pending mass transfers of police officers. Appointment of a full-time DGP is expected to follow.
“It is a strange coincidence that since Pachau became the acting police chief, we have seen issues involving people from the Northeast being among his chief challenges. First there was the Richard Loitam case (involving the death of a Manipuri boy after a fight at his college hostel) and now there is this flight of people,” a senior police officer said.