Mike Lynn Parson, the American Republican politician once famously said “Police Officers know that each time they put on their uniform, they are taking on risks to protect others. In every country, police are formed to make themselves a law system. This is the police, because of which we all sleep in peace. There is no festival, the day or night the police are always stationed for our safety. Usually, we identify the police only with their uniform.”
On Tuesday (May 10), Union Home Minister Amit Shah presented the President’s Colours to the Assam Police at the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati. The history behind conferring colours to a force is an interesting episode of human emotions in general and the uniformed forces in particular.
If one goes through the trendsetting book “Sapiens -A Brief History of Humankind” by celebrated Jewish author Yuval Noah Harari, one can understand how homo-sapiens started forming cultures and society through a series of evolution and moved forward in groups under some leaders. The same process can be thought of for the evolution of military, armed and police forces.
In the Indian context, during the Vedic period instances of dhwajas or banners/flags carried by different warring groups were found in abundance. If an army loses its flags to the enemy, then it means disgrace and if the army captures the flag of the enemy, then it means a national honour. Similarly in the modern-day contexts, sportsmen or adventurers carrying the flag of the country in international events or climbing to the top of a pinnacle is an honour that all of us cherish. So far as military organizations are concerned, though the origin of the practice of carrying flags/colours is unknown, historians are of the view that it can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian or the primitive Assyrian Empire when this tradition was prevalent.
On the eve of India becoming a republic, all the Colours of the British King (33 in all) were handed over to the Indian Army and the nomenclature of the ceremony was changed to the President’s Colours in conformity with the Head of the State as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Similar traditions of presenting Colours to the Indian Navy took place in May 1951. The Indian Air Force also followed suit.
Assam will be the tenth state to receive the President’s Police Colours. The others are - UP (1952), Delhi (1954), Maharashtra (1961), J&K (2003), Tamil Nadu (2009), Tripura (2012), Gujarat (2019), Himachal (2021) and Haryana (2022).
Mumbai Police is the only Commissionerate to be awarded President’s Colours. (01-12-1951).
The President’s Colours is bestowed on a military unit in recognition of their exemplary and exceptional service rendered to the nation. Delhi Police officials have started wearing the insignia culled from the Colours on their uniforms only from February 16, 2022, though it was presented the Colours way back in 1954. It is expected that Assam Police start wearing uniforms in conformity with the President’s Colours at the earliest opportune moment and take pride in their rich traditions.
The process of gaining the President’s Colours is an elaborate one. It is heartening to know that the IIT professor who is credited with the designing of the Indian rupee sign, Udaya Kumar Dharmalingam is also involved in the entire elaborate process. We must also remember Jayanta Narayan Choudhury who initiated the process and obtained the colours during his tenure as Assam’s Director General of Police but could not organize the function because of his transfer to the NSG.
Pradeep Kumar and AK Sinha Casshyap (both retired DGPs) had taken commendable steps in the entire process of obtaining the Colours. We, as retired officers of the Assam Police, are grateful to the above three officers and specifically incumbent DGP Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta for pro-actively ensuring that the programme sees the light of the day.
A well-thought exercise under the name “Ride of Pride” for spreading the awareness and significance of the award of President Colours to Assam police throughout the length and breadth of the State, with intermittent hiccups notwithstanding, has already been started with its proposed culmination on May 10.
The next goal of Assam Police should be to obtain the Colours for Guwahati City Commissionerate if it satisfies all the criteria for the President’s Award. However, each and every member of Assam Police must also keep in mind that with the conferment of President’s Colours the expectation of the general public towards them will increase manifolds. The enormous responsibility they face to cater to the new and ever-increasing aspirations of people and challenges that they are going to face in the days to come require a collective mindset change and periodic training which, I am sure, the top brass of the police force and Government will take care of.
Society should also acknowledge the words of Tom Cotton: “Police officers put the badge on every morning, not knowing for sure if they will come home at night to take it off”.
(Pallab Bhattacharyya is a former Director-General of Police, Special Branch, and ex-Chairman, APSC. Views expressed by him are personal.)