42 Mondays, Biting the Bullet and more: The books about khaki action heroes

From an insight into emerging technologies for law enforcement and the common man, to gripping memoirs, serving and retired police officers shed light on multitudinous aspects of policing in India
A policeman on duty.
A policeman on duty.

For all those sciency people out there, who also happen to love books, I have a strong recommendation for you: Grab this exciting piece of work, 42 Mondays by IPS officer K Jayanth Murali, a microbiologist-turned-law enforcer, that is a page-turner till the end. It is not an easy task to write on emerging technologies and futuristic science that will change the lives of every human being like never before. If it is tough to write on future technologies in simple terms that is easy to grasp for the common man, it is equally tough to explain them to technologists.

It is this sort of a challenge that the microbiologist in Jayanth Murali has handled well and has even excelled in through this 332-page book. The manner in which this book-shaped up for the author, despite an active police service in Tamil Nadu, too is a fascinating story of 42 weeks of writing a column for a news daily. The number 42 seems to have a significant meaning in the senior police officer’s life and it needs to be read in his own words, as he introduces the book to his readers. The topics he has handled are all futuristic, emerging technologies that have both uses for the law enforcement and for the common man. He has not only highlighted the manner in which the future technologies could shape policing, but also the pitfalls, including how the same technologies in the wrong hands—criminals and terrorists—could make it difficult for the world.

What I find interesting in the book is Jayanth Murali’s repeated reliance on introducing subjects through the themes of best-selling novels and films ranging from Michael Crichton’s 2002 book Prey that is about how nanotechnology is going horribly wrong, to the Hollywood sci-fi movie Rampage starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson that deals with CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats or Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise that is all about Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. These references to popular sci-fi novels and movies make it much easier for the readers to connect with the chosen topics of his book and provide the necessary context for understanding subjects like Brain Fingerprinting. All of these efforts of Jayanth Murali are to present to the discerning reader how policing could become more dependent on technologies in the future, not just for solving crime, but also in its administration and law enforcement.

Policing the Telugu-Speaking States

Forty years is a long time in a career in policing and HJ Dora, who has served as one of the youngest Directors General of Police of undivided Andhra Pradesh, has a lot of story to tell from those years. The autobiography is not just about what happened in his personal or professional life, but it also provides great insights into historical personalities, whom he came in contact with during those years as a police officer.

The 272-page book is part personal story and part history. While the life of the youngster from Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh and his years preparing to get into the civil services throw some interesting light on the times—like in India, just as the country got out of its teens and entered its age of majority—his policing career through those turbulent years of the Naxalite movement in the Telangana region of undivided Andhra Pradesh reveals a secret on how the menace was curbed with political blessing.

The writing, in simple prose yet lucid, also provides a rare glimpse into the nature and character of the changes witnessed by the state in the form of film star NT Ramarao’s entry into electoral politics. It helps understand the historical, political and cultural difference between the people of Telangana and coastal Andhra, which ultimately led to the failure of the state’s reorganisation on linguistic lines in 1956, and its bifurcation in 2014. As a social responsibility, the author also throws light on the life and inspiration of spiritual leader Sri Satya Sai Baba of Puttapurthi on his disciples. For those who want to understand the history, spiritual awakening, and politics of the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the years from 1960s to the present, this book from the present-day convenor of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust is a must-read.

Turbulence in the North

Another autobiography in the form of memoirs that has some interesting nuggets of historical information that could interest the readers has been penned by Ajai Raj Sharma, an Uttar Pradesh cadre IPS officer, who also had the distinction of being a successful Commissioner of Police in Delhi.
While his writing revolves around the lives of bandits of the Chambal region of western Uttar Pradesh, which has been described as the ‘Wild West’, and on how the exploits of big names in the world of crime such as Phoola, the book also highlights the supreme sacrifices made by brave police officers such as Mahavir Singh, the station house officer of Keragarh police station, who was shot dead by Phoola’s gang members when he fearlessly and single-handedly tried to prevent the kidnapping of schoolchildren.

What could be of greater interest to those keen watchers of contemporary politics and those interested in sensational crime stories are Sharma’s days as the Delhi Police chief. During his tenure, the police force cracked some of the biggest cases, such as the South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje’s match-fixing scandal, bandit queen Phoolan Devi’s dramatic and sensational murder, the Red Fort terror attack and the subsequent Batla House police shoot-out, and not the least, the 2001 Parliament House terror attack in which Afzal Guru and other members of the Pakistan-inspired terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed were caught, tried and subsequently sentenced to death. The Parliament House attack case continues to haunt Delhi, with slogans such as ‘Bharat tere tukde...’ and ‘Afzal Guru, hum sharminda hain...’ being raised on university campuses by forces that sympathise with the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Jayanth Murali has not only highlighted the manner in which the future technologies could shape policing, but also their pitfalls

HJ Dora, who has served as one of the youngest DGPs of undivided Andhra Pradesh, has a lot of story to tell from his 40-year career in policing

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