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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The top cop from madrasa

By Rizwan Ullah

In Calcutta after the long and sultry summer, October is the most pleasant month of the year. That is the time when pujas and other social preoccupations take precedence over political activities. It is a time of great relief for Calcuttans. In October nights are neither too long nor too short. 

In a month of October about 9 pm in 1960s while going to the press on the night shift I came across Tayyab Khan strutting through Zakaria Street area, a sort of Wall Street of Urdu press. 

To disengage himself he uttered with his usual giggle: Those people open the Madrasa at “midnight” on Fridays so I am in a hurry to steal few hours of sleep. He was a teacher at a Calcutta Madrasa. He told me that the Madrasa opened at 6 a.m. on Fridays and closed before Friday prayers. On the other days of the week the Madrasa opened at 10 a.m.

Tayyab Khan later appeared for the IPS examination. He was selected and sent to Dehradoon for training. After a year he returned to Calcutta. Despite the strict discipline of the police training he had retained his giggles. Khan had expanded his vocabulary by the phrases with which a police officer must be conversant. I asked him whether his days began at 10 a.m in Dehradun, he shot back saying they forced him to get up before “midnight” (that is, 6 a.m. for him).

His first posting was as SSP of the 24 Parganas district, the largest district of West Bengal. Those were the days when the Naxalites had shifted their activities from the rural to the urban areas, especially to Calcutta. Rashid Khan, another Muslim IPS officer who was selected for IPS before Tayyab Khan, was given the charge of North Calcutta as DC. It was the most disturbed area of the city. 

Tayyab Khan’s next posting was in Tripura where tribal uprising synergised with the Naxalites. The performance of these two Muslim officers was appreciated by the government.

Tayyab Khan’s next posting was as DC Traffic in Calcutta. Those who have been to Calcutta must be aware of how terrific is the Calcutta’s traffic. Once I was in Calcutta, and had an appointment with him at the Lal Bazar Police headquarters. It took a long time to reach there from my hotel in the New Market area. I told him what a mess he had made of the city traffic. He giggled in his usual way and said that only due to that one way traffic system I was able to reach him. He was entrusted with other important positions as the security of the state of West Bengal and the railways. 

Now he is at the top position as the DIG of West Bengal. Tayyab Khan has encouraged Muslim youth in West Bengal to compete with others to carve a niche for themselves. 

There is another aspect of the story of which I often think about: how police officers with such a professional exactitude develop a fine literary taste. Late Rashid Khan was an eminent poet, Tayyab Khan has keen literary interests, another IPS officer Shoja Khawar, was also a poet. There are other police officers of various ranks who have literary aptitude. How come that people trained to become hard nuts nurture a soft heart?

Before my retirement in March 1992, I received a telephone call from Tayyab Khan promising to see me at home after the retirement. I presumed he was referring to my retirement, but after years gone by I have reached to the conclusion that he talked about his own retirement which should be approaching after a bright career of over three decades.

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