Police in ancient Kerala

There is no authoritative record on the history of Police in ancient Kerala. To a great extent one has to rely upon the earliest literary documents starting from the Sanghom period (200 AD). The literary works of the Sanghom period, namely Akamkrithikal, Pathittipattu and Chilppathikaram, depict the ancient policing system. These works refer to the appointment of Sentries and watchmen who were posted on the highways to protect the travellers and caravans of merchants, etc. Chilappathikaram gives a detailed account of investigation of cases by a special group of people. The literary works of Sanghom period also describe various types of ''Kaval' (guard), Kanchukil (who had kanchukam or uniform), Harrikaran (Officer with designated duties), Souvidithon (one who attends Court duties), Vetradharan (Bodyguard of the King), Dwarapalakas (Armed men guarding the gates and entrance) and Darsaka or Prathihara (Personal assistant to the King, and Kolkaran (man armed with a stick). Those who were posted in the secret service section were described as 'Charan', 'Doothan', Apasarpakan and Goodapurushan.

The feudal system which existed in ancient Kerala gave way to a new structure under the Cheras, comprising Thara, Desomand Nadu ruled by Madampi, Desavazhi and Naduvazhi respectively. They were entrusted with the job of law enforcement, including awarding of punishments. The said rulers awarded stringent punishments even for trivial offences and hence there was substantial decline of crime rate. Foreign travellers who visited Kerala during 13th century had admired the structure of the Police-judicial system which existed during that period.

Police in Travancore

As said above, there was no unified geographical entity as 'Kerala' before 1956. The present Kerala State was formed in 1956 by re-organizing and merging of former Travancore-Cochin States and the British Malabar State. Within the Princely States, Kerala had several regions, zones and semi-sovereign territories which were ruled by Chieftains, big and small. The Travancore State formally came into existence in the middle of 14th century but there is no detailed historical description available on the working of the Police system until 18th century. Historical evidence discloses that the country was divided into many small kingdoms which were ruled by Desavazhis assisted by Nattukootam. There was no central or apex authority to govern the autocratic functioning of Desavazhis. During the period of King MarthandaVarma (1729-1758), the need for an enhanced armed force to maintain the law and order system was found necessary. King MarthandaVarma engaged the services of 'Marava Force' to suppress local rebellions from time to time. The duties of the Police were carried out by the said Armed Forces. The written records regarding the Structure, Strength and various other details on the Armed Forces in the erstwhile Travancore are available from 1757 AD onwards. They revealed that the Kingdom was divided into various divisions and several new posts such as 'Sarvadhi-karyakar', 'Karyakar' and 'Pravarthyakar' were created. These officers were responsible for enforcing the law and order. They were also responsible for judicial functions. All major law and order issues, cases of murder, robbery and theft were handled by the said local authorities with the active participation of the local people.

The semblance of a modern police force was created in the late 19th century under the British rule. Oliver H. Bensley became the first Superintendent of Police for the state of Travancore in 1881. William. H. Pittwas appointed the Police Commissioner of Travancore in 1921

In 1939 there was a major re-organisation of the Police System and the post of Inspector General of Police was introduced.

Mr. Khan BhahadhurSayid Abdul Karim Sahib Suhrawady was appointed as the first Inspector General of Police of the Travancore State. The strength of the Police force during 1939 is shown below:

  • Inspector General of Police 1
  • Deputy Inspector General of Police 1
  • District Superintendents of Police 3
  • Assistant Superintendents of Police 6
  • Inspectors 81
  • Head Constables 236
  • Police Constables 2337

Significant changes were made during 1939 in the General Executive Wing, Criminal Intelligence Wing, Reserve Force, Special Police and Traffic Wing. The total strength of Police personnel in 1947 was 3626. N. Chandrasekharan Nair was appointed as Inspector General of Police and he took charge on 21st of August, 1948. He continued as Inspector General of Police even after the merger of Travancore and Cochin in1952 and he was appointed as the first Inspector General of Police after the formation Kerala State in 1956.

Reputation of Travancore Police

Sir. T MadhavaRao in his Administration Report for 1042 M.E.(1867 A.D) praised the Police System, commenting that"A very high degree of security of persons and property has now been attained in Travancore. Men and Women, the latter with costly ornaments, travel by the highways night and day without apprehension. Isolated bazaars are often found in charge of mere boys and girls."

The Travancore State Manual by T. K. VeluPillai (1882-1950) (first published in 1940) mentioned that only literate persons were recruited in the Police Force. Men of high education are frequently chosen to fill places in the subordinate ranks.The document further states that "Prominent persons like Mahatma Gandhi have been so much impressed with the discipline and courtesy exhibited by the generality of the Force that they have thought it fit to give them high compliment by comparing them with the London Police.

Police in Malabar

Before the occupation of Malabar by TippuSulthan, the Malabar area was administered by Naduvazhis and Desavazhis with the help of local chieftains. In the early decades of 18th century there existed a primitive Police force, which comprised 'Kolkar', which was maintaining the duties of law and order in the Malabar area. After the invasion of Tippu, the situation changed as many Naduvazhis left Malabar resulting in utter chaos. When British started ruling Malabar in 1810, Captain Watts trained 500 Armed Policemen. They took over the Police duties from the then existing wing (comprising Kolkar, Defedars and Jamedars).An additional 1600 Kolkars were trained and added to do work for the Police.

In 1816 a new system was introduced in Malabar by the British Rulers. As per the system the control of Police in a village was vested with the village Adhikari, the control of Taluk Police was vested with the Thahasildar and the Control of Police in important cities was vested with Police Amins. All the above functionaries had to work under the control of the District Magistrate. In this system, the sepoys who were under the control of Revenue Department also had to perform the duties of Police constables. British India Government wanted to rectify certain loopholes in the above system. Therefore the then Government sanctioned the post of Military Officers and in order to assist them a Police force was constituted which consisted of 31 native officers, 150 Sepoys and 2 buglers.

The then South Malabar Police SuperintendentMr. Hitchcock organised a new Police force on the model of the British Army which came into existence in 1921 as Malabar Special Police. Hitchcock himself was the first Commandant of M S P. In 1932 the strength of the force was increased to 16 companies.

Police it the unified Travancore-Cochin State

Travancore-Cochin State was formed on 1st July 1949. Though the pattern of the Police setup was similar in both states there were minor differences with regard to the Station House Officers. When the Travancore-Cochin State merged with the Indian Union, the State Force lost its independent authority and existence as it had become part of the Union Forces, which could be deployed even outside the State. As a result, the internal security of the State was vested with the Union Armed Reserved Force. The recruitment to the higher level posts was routed through the U P S C after the UPSC was formed in 1950. In 1951 the representatives of the U P S C selected N. Chandrasekharan Nair, M. Gopalan, SrinivasaIyer, K. SreenivasaRao, M. Krishna Pillai and T K BhaskaraMarar to the Indian Police Service Cadre, for the State of Madras.