The Legendary Punjab Police of HistoryMAJID SHEIKH
The following describes the prestige enjoyed by the Punjab Police when the British left India in 1947. The force took a nose-dive once the desis took over. Behold how far they've come in a mere 65 years, now adept at committing multiple Jallianwala Baghs of their own at a moment's notice ... with total immunity, courtesy of the corrupt senior officers who oversee them, and the politicians that rule India today.
Have you ever heard of Col Hallard?
My guess is a massive ‘No’.
But then Col Gordon H. Ramsey Hallard came to Punjab -- specifically, to its then capital city, Lahore -- almost a century ago, and his legacy is still with us, little that we know. Ask any policeman in the land if he knows who designed his standard operating procedures, and you will surely get a blank stare.
For that matter ask any policeman in London, or the entire British Isles, where his standard operating procedures and training manual came from, and he would, save the odd history buff, give a blank stare, or better still, tell you to ‘be on your way’.
But when Hallard started the legendary Hendon Police Training College in London in 1934, he set out to modernize the British Police. His first goal was to convert a coercive force into a strict, yet friendly and very competent, force, one people trusted, and still do.
The first thing Hallard did was to enforce the training manual of the Punjab Police.
“If you want to police, look towards Lahore,” he used to say. Amazing words for a force we have grown up to fear - the Punjab Police, both in West and East Punjab today -- and, to be honest, despise for very good reasons.
But who was this amazing Col Hallard?
I happened to come across his personal files in the archives of the University of Cambridge where I am researching on Lahore. It all started when I was searching, on the internet, the various medals that were granted by the British in India, and came across an auction of seven medals belonging to Col Hallard – the OBE, CIE, BWM, Delhi Darbar 1911 Medal, two coronation medals and a jubilee medal – put up for sale by his family. They went for a mere £850.
After reading his achievements I felt sorry for those disinterested in family history. Other medals on auction were of those who died in the Battle of Sobraon in 1846, in Waziristan in 1894, the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the Relief of Chitral in 1895, and so on. It was history on sale galore. But such are the doings of time. So back to Col Hallard.
Born on April 13, 1888, in the village of Witham-on-the-Hill in South Lincolnshire, he grew up loving the countryside, horses, tradition and good books. Connected to the famous Luard family of Cambridge, he, as the trend in those days was, wanted to seek his fortune in India.
It is the reverse these days.
Hallard opted for the Indian Police Examination, and after doing well, opted for Punjab. So it was that he was asked to report at Lahore. To India he set off in 1908, and after a long journey he reached Lahore on the first of January, 1909.
Jan 1, 1909, was a holiday and there was no one to receive him. So he took a ‘tonga’ - a horse buggy - and asked the happy driver to take him to the police chief of Lahore. Off this merry ‘tonga-driver’ sped and arrived at the house of the Deputy Superintendent of Police ("DSP") of Lahore, who quickly put up a tent for him in his garden to sleep the night.
The population of Lahore then was 282,000.
The next day, he met the Inspector General of the Punjab Police, C.G.W. Hastings, who sent him for training to the Police Centre at Phillaur. There Hallard excelled in every subject, and proved to be a keen cricketer and horseman. He mentions that the reason his first posting was Lahore was because he knew the Inspector General, Sir Lea-French, liked cricket, and he would strengthen the Punjab Police team.
The team stayed in the Lahore Gymkhana Club, and in 1923 played cricket with Wilfred Rhodes, the famed England cricketer.
But Hallard's sports included polo, hockey, cricket, fox-hunting, tent pegging, not to speak of bridge.
So began his career. He modernised the Roberts Club, having the world’s largest fingerprint collection then of over 200,000. It was Hallard who forced the British police officers to get friendlier with the local population, respecting their intellect which he thought “was grouted in thousands of years of wisdom”.
He was heading the Punjab Police Intelligence Bureau in Lahore when the terrible Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place in Amritsar - at the hands of British police officer. Hallard immediately rushed to Amritsar where he met the man responsible for the tragedy: Brig Gen Dyer.
The version given by Dyer “left a bad taste in the mouth” is how Hallard described their meeting. He did not like the infamous "crawling order" instituted by Amritsar Police's British officers in the days preceding the massacre, whereby local residents were required to crawl on all fours if they wanted to use a certain throroughfare.
Hallard returned to Lahore and met Gen Beynon, the station commander, but found that he did not want to interfere with the freedom granted to Dyer.
A frustrated Hallard went to his Cecil Hotel room on The Mall and typed out a detailed report. Using a confidant in the Telegraph Office opposite the General Post Office, he sent a report to the commander-in-chief at Delhi. The result was that Gen Beynon was ordered to Amritsar and the ‘crawling order’ was withdrawn.
Many of Brig Gen Dyer’s admirers, who thought he had saved India, did not like the rumours that Hallard had ‘disciplined’ Dyer. But then Hallard had used his Sikh constables to get a graphic picture of what had happened. From that moment onwards, he was like a ‘demi-god’ to every Punjabi. The detailed report of the Jallianwala Bagh incident is given in his own words in the documents he handed over to the University of Cambridge in 1980, a year before he died.
I certainly do not claim to be the first to read his graphic description, for he was a man who kept to himself, but the condition of the sealed files do point in that direction.
In 1911 when the Delhi Darbar took place, he was trusted as one of the bodyguards of ‘His Majesty’, as he terms them.
When the First World War broke out, he was seconded to the Punjab Regiment’s intelligence cell and posted to the General Staff Headquarters in Delhi from 1915 to 1919. By the end of 1919 trouble broke out in China, and Hallard took his entire Punjab Police intelligence team to Shanghai, where he soon cracked the Chinese mafia who were in the forefront of the troubles.
He always called his Punjab Police men as his ‘eyes and ears’ and very level-headed.
He returned with his team and was made head of Delhi Police. But then his ‘Punjab Team’ soon cracked the Delhi gangs and found British officers on the take. Barely had he started his work there that he was made head of Punjab Police Training at Phillaur. His men, all of them, were sent back to Lahore. They were always known as “Hallard Sahib kay Deewanay”.
He saw to it that all of them were promoted and decorated, and till they retired, and even afterwards, he kept in touch with them.
At Phillaur he brought about amazing and revolutionary changes that transformed the Punjab Police into the most modern in the world, as he liked to believe. In 1931, he returned to England where he was made Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police.
Though the old man was back on home turf, his heart was always, as he writes, ‘in Lahore’.
In 1931, the British government decided to modernise the British Police, and who better than Gordon Hallard. He immediately called over Lt-Col Reggie Senior, seconded from the Indian Police Service, from Lahore. They set up Hendon Police College, which still functions as the premier police training centre. In his first address to the college, he asked everyone to “look towards my brothers in Lahore if you need to learn anything. That is where real men live”.
I would grant the man a little emotion, especially if he loved my city.
Col Gordon H Ramsey Hallard died in 1981, the most decorated police officer of the British Empire, an intelligence genius, a kind-hearted officer, an amazing problem-solver, and a man who loved Lahore and its people. I have not been able to trace any family member. But what I do know is that all his medals were auctioned on May 12, 2005, for £850.
I took an immediate liking for this man, who I had myself never heard of before I opened his tightly sealed personal file last week.
[Courtesy: Dawn. Edited for sikhchic.com]
August 21, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Ari Singh (Sofia, Bulgaria), August 21, 2012, 3:58 PM.
One of the most interesting articles I have read on this site. Thank you, Majid Sheikh ji. Although I was born in Kenya, one heard of the Punjab Police as the most feared institution on the subcontitnent. Amused to know that the London Police is trained on the lines of the Punjab Police.
2: N. Singh (Canada), August 21, 2012, 10:47 PM.
Interesting article! It is safe to assume his 'men' in the Punjab Police were the locals, i.e., Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus who had enlisted? Hard to believe the famous Hendon Police College was patterned on the Punjab Police!
3: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), August 21, 2012, 10:55 PM.
Punjab police is now a mercenary arm of Indian Government agencies and has been converted into an organized gang of criminals, mass murderers, black-mailers, and drug dealers who torture their own Sikh brothers and sisters to get an extra stripe on the shoulder or for a few left over crumbs which their Hindu masters throw at them. Sikhs in Punjab police have lost all self respect and shame and are largely responsible for the slavery of the Sikh nation.
4: Raj (Canada), August 22, 2012, 10:35 PM.
In our college days, during strikes, we use to have slogan, "Keemat police Punjab di, bottal ik sharab di". Once, we were protesting something and used that slogan right outside police lines. Well, you should have seen what they did to us. In Punjabi, they call it "hashar".
5: Jagdeep singh (Punjab), September 06, 2012, 7:58 AM.
They no longer live up to the original ideals and standards. They have become thoroughly corrupt, like the rest of India.