Last action hero: Why Kolkatans should be proud of police commissioner Soumen Mitra

Let's start with an easy question. If the hunter's bullet manages to hit one bird among 10 sitting on the branch of a tree, how many will be left?

Mathematics demands that the answer would be nine. Common sense explains that when a shot is fired and hits one, the other nine will fly away in fear, leaving none.

It can't be easy being Soumen Mitra, the new top cop of Kolkata who has been at the receiving end of Chief Minister's barbs for the cardinal error of staying true to his rulebook and uniform.

It is widely accepted that Mitra, who took over from incumbent Rajeev Kumar on 13 April following a directive from the Election Commission, has restored the self-esteem of a demoralized police force struggling under the yoke of political oppression.

The fourth and fifth phases of Bengal assembly polls showed what Kolkata Police is capable of when there is no one to hold it back by the collar. The genie of violence was bottled. Goons of all shapes and sizes were either taken into custody or stayed under strict vigilance, outsiders were chased away and the baton came down hard at even the slightest hint of trouble.

After the horror of last year's civic polls, voters were pleasantly surprised to cast their own ballot in a largely peaceful atmosphere. Of course, Mitra was aided by a vast number of central forces but the difference this 1988 batch IPS officer made was clear.

Soumen Mitra. Image Courtesy: Facebook

Soumen Mitra. Image Courtesy: Facebook

Which is why after just a couple of days of the fifth phase, a shot was fired by the Chief Minister during a campaign rally in East Medinapur. And her thinly veiled target was Mitra.

"If someone is given a responsibility for just 15 days and starts thinking their life's dream of wearing a gold crown will be fulfilled, that is the biggest mistake.

"Those who are doing all this should keep in mind that they will have to suffer in the coming days."

This wasn't a one-off though. Mamata had dropped enough hints that Rajeev, her favourite officer, shall be reinstated as CP if TMC returns to power.

If the seniormost officer can be browbeaten into submission, the rest of the pack will automatically fall in line. But Mitra is thankfully made of sterner stuff. There is every possibility that he may be removed from his job if Mamata is back at the helm but he didn't let that fear cower him down.

During a poll debriefing session on Tuesday at Kolkata Police headquarters in Lalbazar, Mitra gave a simple message to his force: “Do your job. I am there."

“Do not ignore calls. It can be anyone (from any political party). But act only according to the merit of the case. There is no need to listen to everyone who claims to have political links. Behave like a professional."

West-Bengal-300x77The EC had appointed Mitra without consulting the state government, a departure from usual practice. Mitra has served Kolkata police as the deputy commissioner (detective department), deputy commissioner (north), and special commissioner of police and commands the respect of the rank and file.

Even as he asked his force to follow the letter and spirit of rulebook, Mitra reminded them during the meeting yesterday that handling of post-poll violence could have been better. There have been reports of violence in mainly four areas of the city — Haridebpur, Ballygunge, Kasba and Patuli — where mainly polling agents of the opposition have come under attack.

The cops have embarked on a slew of steps to tackle the violence. It includes setting up more checking points, keeping a night force handy and identify troubled spots for round-the-clock vigilance.

He may not keep his job beyond 19 May but in this very short time, Mitra has already demonstrated the difference one upright officer can make.

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Updated Date: May 18, 2016 19:07:23 IST

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