A police officer’s work is crucial for the smooth functioning of any region. Their task? To enforce the law in a fair and just manner, to intervene in cases of rights violations, and, above all, to keep citizens safe. Members of the Indian Police Service have to prove their mettle by confronting a number of major crimes, both within and without their places of work. To shoulder these responsibilities as a woman in a male-dominated force takes even more gumption. In 1972, Kiran Bedi became the first woman to set off on that journey. And since then, we’ve had more kickass female IPS officers follow suit. These are their stories:
Currently posted as the District Chief Police in Telangana, she became the first female IPS officer from her home town, Munnar in 2008. She writes regularly about sexual harassment, rape culture, and the need for gender-friendly workplaces. And her ideas carry over into her work, as she organises sensitisation trainings for fellow officers. Not only this, her crucial interventions have given trafficked women and children a new lease on life, they have rescued child brides and joginis from abuse.
And now, Rajeshwari is at the helm of fighting a new evil – fake news. At a time when rumours on WhatsApp and other social media platforms are abound, without bothering to verify sources, citizens have taken to brutalising and even murdering people suspected of a crime. The trend poses a significant challenge to law enforcers, but Rajeshwari is on the case!
Also the first IPS officer in her state, Karnataka, she holds the position of Inspector General Police. Two-time President’s Police Medal awardee, Moudgil played a key role in exposing the VIP treatment given to politicians like Sasikala while serving their jail terms. For going against powerful figures, she even faced privilege motions for this, but didn’t let it get in the way of doing her job.
Another pursuit of Moudgil’s is the fight against sexism in the bureaucracy. She notes that the few women in the IPS are kept from prestigious positions. And, because the idea that women aren’t as competent as men is widespread, even those women who do hold high ranks face insubordination from male officers.
As soon as JNU graduate Sanjukta Parashar became a part of the IPS, she made an indelible mark. Not only is she the first and only woman officer in Assam, but her first assignment as Assistant Commandant of Makum in 2008 made her the bane of militants’ existence in the area. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, she made 64 arrests.
In her capacity as an officer, she encourages more young people to join the IPS and make a difference. She also has a particularly interesting way of law enforcement, when it comes to traffic safety in Jorhat. Anurag Kotoky tweeted, “Sanjukta Parashar, the popular SP in Jorhat, now apparently offers candies to two wheeler riders who wear helmets.”
A Lokayukta, or public ombud, is appointed in every state to combat corruption and maladministration. In Karnataka, things started going horribly wrong when the Lokayukta Justice Y. Bhaskar Rao’s son Y. Ashwin was exposed as a kingpin in a big extortion scam. Narang played a key role in Ashwin’s arrest.
Not one to kowtow to the absurd belief that women can’t do policework, Sreelakha became the first woman Director General of Police, the highest rank, in her home state, Kerala. This was in the ‘80s, a time when women were particularly resentful of IPS, following several incidents of officers sexually assaulting or raping women. And so, she set off on the path to change the police force’s relationship with women. Along with this, she also pushed for the police force to recruit more women.
Sreelakha has braved the sexism inherent in the police force. A senior officer in Kerala once remarked, “A lady has come to pollute the department.” And many people told her that becoming a police officer meant she wouldn’t find a husband. But she was determined to overcome all this, and is now batting for more women to have the opportunity she had.
In 2016, IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram became the first woman to be appointed as the Director General of the Sashastra Seema Bal, India’s paramilitary force based at the Nepal and Bhutan borders. At present, her job is to monitor and intervene in trans-border crimes like trafficking. Under her direction, four new checkposts in West Bengal and Bihar have been erected.
Since her appointment, female personnel have also found it easier to approach a superior for leave and transfer requests.
Now retired, she was the first woman IPS officer in Maharashtra, and the first woman Police Commissioner in Pune, Meeran Borwankar made headlines when she investigated the shocking Jalgaon sex scandal in the early ‘90s. Women and girls in the area were picked up and raped by influential men (some with political backing), who then blackmailed them into silence with photos and videotapes. It was an eye-opening moment for her, and she said: “The Jalgaon sex scandal also convinced me of the need to sensitise police officers/staff about the issues of girls/women and to have many more women officers and staff, if we wish to cater to the needs of women in distress.”
No matter what line of work you’re in, as a woman you will run into all manner of patriarchal and sexist rubbish, and it’s something Vijayanta Arya doesn’t stand for. As Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi), Arya has spoken up about the many ways in which women officers are made to feel unsafe or vulnerable on the job, whether it is within the police force, or out on the streets during work. Fighting sexual harassment and making public spaces safer for women is her top agenda right now.
She is an example for thousands of IPS aspirants and young people wanting to be the change they wish to see.
1091, the women’s helpline, four digits that so many of us have committed to memory. Did you know that it was introduced by IPS Vimla Mehra as the head of Crime against Women Cell? The 1978 IPS graduate has continually worked for the cause of women. In 2013, as Director General of Delhi Prisons, Vimla Mehra decided to introduce foreign language courses and vocational training for women inmates and undertrials in Tihar Jail.
In another similar bid for reformative justice, Mehra started a fashion course in 2012, for inmates to learn to design clothes, which were then sold by TJ, Tihar’s brand. Her goal is to make jail a more human place, that encourages inmates to pursue good, honest work after release.
Last year, she became the first woman Special Commissioner of Police.