Police Patriarch of Odisha: Biswakesh Tripathy

Police Patriarch of Odisha

By Anil Dhir

He joined the Indian Police Service in 1954 under the Odisha cadre and was a part of two paramilitary forces in his long career. Having tackled insurgency in nine different states which included the   Naga Rebellion, Mizo uprising, Khalistani terror, underworld in Mumbai, Naxalites in Kolkata and you’d think retired IPS officer Biswakesh Tripathy has seen it all.

The riveting career of Odisha  ‘Supercop’ starts with his  short stint as a lecturer in a remote college in Assam where he got to see the quirky underside of small-town life and its people. Thereafter, he joined the IPS in 1954, and his first six year stint in Odisha was eventful and full of adventure before he joined the paramilitary forces.  After that, we had a continuous career being in the centre of turmoil, including in its worst form, communal riots, separatists movements, insurgency, underground rebels, left wing extremists, border conflicts etc.

He began his career in the Central Reserve Police in 1960 and was soon sent to the Naga Hills where terrorism was in full force. The Naga rebels, under Phizo were well armed and well organised, adept at jungle warfare. He spent the next three years, fighting alongside the Army and also underwent a Commando course. During his stint in NEFA, the Army was removed from the Naga Hills and sent to the front due to the Indo-China war 1962. He and his small force were left alone to handle the growing menace of the violent Nagas, which he successfully ensured.

He returned to Odisha after three years at Nagaland and was posted as the Principal of the Police Training College at Angul. He was sent to Rourkela as the Superintendent of Police with the task to control the simmering discontent that prevailed after the bloods communal riots of 1964, which he successfully did.

He returned to the C.R.P in 1967 and was   immediately sent to deal with the Hill Tribes Agitation in the Khasi and Garo Hills.  The fight for Mizoram under Laldenga’s “Operation Jericho” was at its peak. The Assam Rifles battalions and the Police forces were defeated by the Mizo National Volunteers and more than 300 security personnel had been killed. Laldenga declared the Lushai Hills to be independent territory. The Government of India sent the Army and Air Force, it took a full two months to regain the territory and drive away the rebels. All through the operations, Tripathy was in the centre of the storm.

Post Assam, he was in charge of the battalion which was sent to Hyderabad when the Telengana movement went out of control. He then left for Gujarat to quell the Hindu Muslin riots which happened in October 1969. Later his battalion was shifted to Chandigarh when the Punjabi Suba agitation spread all over Punjab.

His role in Calcutta during the height of the Naxal movement is a lore in policing lexicons. The urban terrorism witnesses in Calcutta had never been seen before.  His role in getting the nearly 5000 strong CRP contingent into the city under utmost secrecy is legendary. Under him, the CRP played an important role in controlling the bloody violence. He was a marked man, the Left Wing rebels had declared a bounty of Rs 10,000 on his head, and the reward was chalked on the walls of the city.

He was in Gujarat at the height of the Nav Nirman agitation and also did a clean-up of the smugglers haven of Daman. He was in Odisha when the Police Strike happened in 1979. During the height of the Khalistani Movement, he was posted as the IG of the Border Security Force in July 1983. During Operation Bluestar, he was in charge of cordoning off the Golden Temple when the Army operation began.

Initially, it was believed that Bhindrawalan has escaped to Punjab with his close group, and the BSF were blamed for the lapse. He stood his ground and said that not a single person had crossed the BSF lines, a fact that was vindicated when the bodies were found in the debris. His troops were the first to enter the Golden Temple after the operations were over.

In his chequered career, he was handpicked and sent to conflict zones as he had the ability of   bringing a turnaround in what appeared to be a lost situation. In his retirement, as in his life, Tripathy continues to challenge established notions through his writings. He had a fine sense of humour, cracking jokes and narrating engaging anecdotes regarding his varied experiences. He has a no-nonsense quality which has won him admirers.

During his career as a top cop in troubled areas, and after his retirement, he authored more than a dozen books, of which six are collections of poems. His book on Terrorism and Insurgency in India is a must read for all internal uprisings and separatist movements in India.  In his autobiography “My Life and Times in the IPS” he has written about   his experiences in handling various volatile situations all over the country with deftness.

Tripathy’s service towards the society, devotion towards the service and some moments of childhood have also been reflected in the book. The book also speaks about his interesting encounters with personalities like Indira Gandhi, Gyani Zail Singh, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, and film-maker Raj Kapoor.

According to A.B.Tripathy, former DGP and the Convener of Intach Odisha, Biswakesh Tripathy is a patriarch, being the senior most retired IPS Officer in the State. He is a multifaceted personality, a highly distinguished officer who spent a major part of his career in the Paramilitary Organisations, CRPF and BSF. Besides being a strict disciplinarian, he is   fond of music and art and a prolific writer, penning books in Odia and English. His novels were trend setter in fictionalising History.  He was never a man seeking publicity enjoying his life in the pursuit of creativity and learning.

(Writer Anil Dhir is a renowned historian and writer of Odisha)