Delhi is a jamboree of police personnel. Once they get talking, you discover there’s more colour to cops than one expects

Any visitor to Delhi, particularly New Delhi district, would be amazed at the number of different police forces found in the area. New Delhi district is the heart of the capital— home to the ruling elite and the offices of the union government. Besides the Delhi Police, the district is protected by innumerable central and state police forces deputed to the capital.

The metro railway and, many secretariat buildings are guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Other secretariat buildings have the Secretariat Security Force (SSF) whose uniforms are near replicas of the Delhi Police. The Rail Bhawan headquarters of the Indian Railways is manned by the Railway Protection Force and the Railway Protection Special Force— which distinguishes itself with its khaki hats and maroon epaulette straps. Also present, are the Central Reserve Police and Sashastra Seema Bal— who increase their presence when Parliament is in session.

Every state has a Bhawan in the capital. States like Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Bihar have their own police at these buildings. Among the state police forces on deputation, the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC) posts sentries at the gates of many Lutyens’ bungalows, the Nagaland Armed Police (NAP) guards the Reserve Bank and Sikkim's India Reserve Battalion was deployed on South Avenue, the last time I checked.

These forces have their idiosyncrasies and distinct behaviour. The CISF is calm and collected, the SSF is laid back and the RAC, sunburnt. The NAP are a ferocious lot, dressed in camouflage, sometimes with black bandanas. When deployed for crowd control they usually don’t bother with niceties like reasoning with irate drivers or boisterous youth. But if you catch them at the leather jacket shops at Yashwant Place or over lunch at Nagaland House canteen, they’re very sociable.

One of my earliest friends in the city was CISF constable Rakesh Kumar, from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur— known for its lichees. Rakesh was interested in journalism. He was curious about how we compose photographs. He’s often held up the queue at Central Secretariat metro station while debating the choice of news in the day’s papers with me.

Unknown to most citizens, a large number of constables are graduates and postgraduates. The reasons why they enlist, range from the security of a government job to domestic financial crises. Many of them attempt the civil service exams or study law while they’re in service. Everyone wants to move up in life.

I was quite close to Head Constable Rupesh of the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP), who was part of the security detail of Jharkhand’s previous CM when he visited Delhi. Rupesh, originally from Uttarakhand, is a lean man of stoic character and has an expressionless fair face. His stern stare was enough to dissuade his men from flirting with women constables of other forces in the vicinity. Sometimes, he would offer me a lift in his SUV, while escorting the chief minister’s car. Oh the thrill of racing through Delhi with sirens blaring!

Rupesh commanded a predominantly Gorkha section of JAP men, encamped in the South Delhi village of Said-ul-Ajaib. Their water supply was contaminated, which I offered to write about— to encourage the state to act and, the JAP men to tip me off if they came across anything newsworthy. Rupesh flatly turned down my offer, in front of his men to ensure they remained silent too.

“Gorkhas don’t talk too much. There’s a lot to talk about, a lot to complain. But our job is to do our duty regardless. It’s for him to talk, ours to stay alert,” he said pointing at the chief minister whose vehicle was ahead of ours.