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A Hero of Our Time

Biplob Kumar Sarker is an example of pro-people policing

Ahmede Hussain And Hasan Jahid Tusher
Biplob Kumar Sarker
Biplob Kumar Sarker

Tall, well built and media-shy, at first glance you might mistake him for a superhero, especially the kind who in the last scene rams the motorcycle hard into the villain's den and goes on fighting till the police arrive.
He is suave and always well-dressed; his words are carefully chosen, quite diplomatic when he has to dance around politically-loaded phrases.
Meet Biplob Kumar Sarker. From the boy-next-door to comic book superhero, you might imagine him to be everything but a police officer.
Sarker is the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Tejgaon Division, Bangladesh's most important and sensitive zone as far as maintaining law and order is concerned. It covers the Prime Minister's office, her official home, as well as some of the most respected and controversial media establishments of the country.
Yet Sarker is humble, and his office is open to everyone who has been wronged. In a May summer evening, as we wait in his office in Shyamoli to interview him, two bearded men turned up-- dacoits have snatched away a motorbike that belonged to one of them. They have filed a general diary with the police and the concerned thana is yet to take any action.
The incident irritates Sarker. He quickly turns the volume up of his walkie-talkie and asks the Investigation Officer (IO) if he has made the necessary steps to catch the criminals. A few mumbles from the other side has been good enough to understand that the IO did not do enough to retrieve the bike. Sarker 'closes' the IO to his office (that is the police version of suspension).
Next comes a short middle-aged man in a white shirt. At first his story sounds rather strange. He owns a plot of land whose value is counted in seven digits. A gang of criminals forged some documents and had used fake National Identity Cards to borrow a seven-digit loan from a bank that of late has been the centre of many financial scams.


To make matters worse, the bank is now asking for the first installment of the loan that he has never taken. The man hands Sarker over some 1,000-page document. Sarker says he will go through it soon.   
Sarker is running late though. He meets the Home boss at 12:30 midnight everyday to brief him about the security situation of his zone, and today the Minister wants to meet him a little early. Everyday Sarker goes back home at 2:30 in the morning and has to be at work again early. It's a tireless job. Why did he want to join the police? “I wanted to do something for the people. Whenever something happens, the first respondent is always the police. A direct relationship with the masses can happen only when one joins the police,” Sarker says.
He thinks that a police officer is always on duty. “If I get a phone call at three in the morning, I can't ask the caller why he has called me at such an ungodly hour. Even if I cannot help him, I should talk politely to him, at a time of crisis saying words of comfort to the victim is also a big help,” he says.
Sarker thinks the criticisms that police, as a force, suffer from are based more on perception than reality. “For generations we have been hearing that the police are bad, and the idea of the police as an inefficient lot has become engrained in our psyche. Only its users can judge the police,” he adds, saying the police, too, have to work hard to eliminate the negative image that it has.
He also says that in Bangladesh the police are overworked. “Here, the police people ratio is 1:1100, whereas in Pakistan it's 1:600, in India it's 1:700,” he says.
Sarker thinks his participation in the police action on Hefajat-e-Islam's (HI) May 5, 2013 Dhaka siege programme is the most memorable day of his life. “If we had failed on that night, if Dhaka Metropolitan Police had failed, it would have changed the course of our history, we would have stepped back at least 50 years,” Sarker says, “Dhaka would have become Kabul (after the Taliban takeover).”
He says that by the evening of May 5, it became clear that the helm of the programme had slipped from the hands of the HI leadership. “On that night when we swooped on the motley crowd of a few thousands, our aim was to establish law and order, not to kill anyone,” Sarker says, “We had a series of meetings on May 5, and the final decision was made at 10 in the evening. We kept an exit at the Sayedabad route and mainly used harmless sound grenade, blank fire and teargas to disperse the crowd.”
He says that in the history of policing, during such operations, it took his British counterparts 8/10 days (London riot) to clear an area, and the Egyptian security forces have acknowledged to have killed 800/900 people to disperse anti-Sisi protesters in Cairo.
“We have performed a miracle. I am proud to have actively participated in it; I consider it my greatest achievement as a police officer,” Sarker says.
He has recently been elected as the General Secretary of Bangladesh Police Service Association (BPSA), and he says that he will try his best to make the force people-friendly. “Ours is a disciplined force; even though we have a lot of demands, the BPSA can never act like a trade-union.   Police have a lot to offer to this country and to its people. I want to make this happen,” he says.
Sarker's father Ajit Chandra Sarker and mother Reba Chandra Sarker have been a great source of inspiration. When he finished his studies in Botany at Dhaka University and later wanted to pursue his career in the police, his parents gave him an important piece of advice, “Whenever you try to do something, do it with honesty and dedication.”
Sarker says he always tries to follow this advice. “If people come to me for help, I consider myself lucky,” the super-cop says.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, May 16, 2014

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