Venturing to review an autobiography of a known person can turn out to be a daunting task. Especially when you have observed from close quarters. As events – political, security-related or developments that are still in public memory are recalled and narrated, one suddenly realises the rationale between certain decisions, which remained unanswered. How piquant situations were tackled and averted, pieces in the jigsaw puzzle drop in place, as one leafs through the 272-page autobiography of HJ Dora, former Head of Police Force (HoPF) of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
The autobiography titled Journey Through Turbulent Times gives fairly an accurate account of several developments in the recent history of undivided Andhra Pradesh. The narrative technique employed by Dora effortlessly transports the reader into the days of yore. Some events one could have personally witnessed and some, one would have read or heard about.
As is customary, the initial chapters deal with the writer’s childhood, his college and university days and then Dora begins narrating his determination to join the Indian Police Service (IPS).
He recalls vividly his training days and what he learnt from his seniors about clarity of thought in communicating with the subordinates, how effective communication is the key to success and how a police leader is expected to be conversant with the law he is expected to enforce, et al. Needless to say, the personal experiences of an officer of the caliber of Dora would be immense value to any police officer, as each and every development explained in the book, has a valuable lesson in it.
Be it the student unrest and agitation against Andhraites in Warangal or the incident of an Army officer shooting dead his superior in Hyderabad and threatening to shoot anyone approaching him in a bungalow. How this angry army man holding a weapon was tackled and convinced to hand over his loaded weapon to Dora is a text book example of how effective communication and patience pays off for a police officer. No wonder, such exceptional way of tackling a situation which would have led to many more deaths in the hands of enraged soldier, earned Dora a Gallantry medal later.
VVIP security is almost a nightmare for a police officer. And when the VVIP happens to be the Prime Minister, it adds tension all the more. Indira Gandhi’s visit to Vijayawada when Vengal Rao was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and how Mrs Gandhi insisted on travelling in an open car and the way he managed to convince the Communists to organise a protest but not obstruct the convoy, should be a lesson to the present-day police establishment which can only think of making preventive arrests to thwart any such protests during VVIP visits.
Dora’s keen sense of observation, patience to listen to everyone with trademark nod of his head, as if agreeing with the narrator, enabled him to tackle many a ticklish and dangerous situation too. Be it the killing of Siva Reddy of Cuddpah district in Hyderabad and how an enraged NT Rama Rao, then in opposition, marched to the Raj Bhavan with the body of slain Cuddapah leader or the killing of Vangaveeti Ranga in Vijayawada or any other law and order issues, Dora’s narration makes one believe that his learning curve continued throughout his career.
His days in APSRTC as its Managing Director were entirely different. This was a civil organisation with huge manpower and credit must go to him for introducing several welfare measures for the RTC workers, which he later introduced in the police department. He makes a mention of how his initiatives to introduce CNG run buses and introduction of a Light Rail Transit System in Hyderabad did not fructify. But this only showed that he was far ahead in his thinking, as everyone is now talking about mass transit system and CNG run pubic transport.
His stints as the Commissioner of Police, head of CID and later as the DGP of the State saw several changes in policing being brought. As the CP of Hyderabad, controlled the rise of anti-social elements with an iron hand. The importance of quick communication among different police units and stations, or how Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) or specialised small units would be effective rather than dumping of police force were effectively proved by Dora. As the chief of CID, he recalls how small teams of crime control squads had achieved excellent results and how the CID could keep track of the criminals let out of the jails on bail or after serving their jail terms. When he took over the reins of the State police as the DGP, his biggest contribution to the State was the control of Left Wing Extremism (LWE).
Any reader of his autobiography would have expected a more detailed account of his experiences as he took on the most powerful CPI ML (People’s War) and how he devised his strategies. For obvious reasons, he merely narrated some of the sensational Naxalite attacks and how the police force which was at the receiving end turned the corner and hit back. Ultimately, it was during his tenure that the PW leadership had rolled back all its squads from Andhra Pradesh and moved them into neighbouring Chhattisgarh State.
A detailed account of strategies and tactics employed in fighting the LWE in Andhra Pradesh, particularly in Telangana region would have been more interesting. There are many instances, which still are like mysteries wrapped in enigma, on how the police managed to track the Naxal teams or how they infiltrated the most secretive organisations of our times, or how the police managed to win the hearts and minds of people. Or, did he deliberately leave out all these details in this book, so that he could deal with the counter insurgency strategies he devised and employed effectively in another book? Let’s wait for that.
Title: Journey Through Turbulent Times: An Autobiography
Author: HJ Dora
Publisher: Prism Books Pvt Ltd
Price: Rs 495