Time Present & Time Past (Memoirs of a Top Cop)

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Item Code: NAG617
Author: Kirpal Dhillon
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9780143417330
Pages: 352 (16 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8 inch X 5 inch
Weight 250 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description

About the book


As a member of the Indian Police Service, Kirpal Singh Dhillon served as director general of police in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, and as joint director, Central Bureau of Investigation, among other challenging assignments. After retirement, he served a tenure as vice chancellor of Bhopal University and has also been a hockey administrator and a human rights advocate. He is the author of Defenders of the Establishment, Police and Politics in India and Identity and Survival: Sikh Militancy in India 1978-1993, and has written essays on the Indian Constitution, human rights, minority issues and the Bhopal gas disaster. He is a fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.




Kirpal Dhillon, the author, a former policeman, combines the traits of an academic, a public servant and a sportsman, who has distinguished himself in every phase of his long and active career. The memoirs of such a person should be of interest to everyone.


Professor J.S. Grewal, an eminent historian, former vice chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and former director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, describing him, said: ‘Mr. Dhillon started his career as college lecturer and ended up as vice chancellor; in between, he did some three and a half decades of policing.’ As regards the in-between period, the assessment of two distinguished policemen-one, his senior and the other, his junior-is highly significant. K.F. Rustamji, a doyen of the Indian Police Service, staunchly affirms that Dhillon has never done anything that can even remotely be construed as failure of duty, which he has fulfilled to the best of his ability and which he rates highly. Chaman Lal, who had worked under Dhillon as SP in Madhya Pradesh and as his DIG (Administration) in Punjab, speaks highly of Dhillon’s leadership qualities: ‘He supports police autonomy but with accountability-to ensure strict adherence to the rule of law.’ The author’s role as police chief in Punjab in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star alone is ample testimony to this assessment. Besides, his active post-retirement involvement with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative for police reforms is well known.


Chapter 13 describes the most significant phase of the author’s career in the police force. Its title, ‘Punjab: The Ultimate Challenge’, is very apt. Kirpal Dhillon was hand- picked by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from outside Punjab to rejuvenate the demoralized Punjab police after the traumatic Operation Blue Star, which had deeply hurt the Sikh psyche. He initiated the process of revamping the Punjab police and made considerable progress till he was unjustly removed in 1985 through political machinations, leaving the task to be completed by his successor and friend, Julio Ribeiro. An official recognition of the major role he played in combating militancy in Punjab is still awaited.


Dhillon asserted that militancy in Punjab was not merely a law-and-order issue but the consequence of various deep- rooted factors-such as a feeling of injustice-which needed to be eradicated for achieving lasting peace. His message was that police brutality could not be as effective as a humane approach that factored in the root cause of hurt, and strived to gain public cooperation. This method had a positive impact and was among the core measures he employed to curb militancy in Punjab. His approach continues to have relevance in similar present-day situations, but, unfortunately, this message has not yet been fully implemented at the level of governance.


Dhillon’s post-retirement activities as writer, vice chancellor, fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shirnla, and as hockey administrator-which are described in the book-highlight his credentials in addition to those as a policeman. In the present context, when all institutions are losing their sheen, and public service is seen as having degenerated into ‘personal service’, the life and career of a distinguished public servant, notwithstanding its vicissitudes, should motivate the youth and help men in public service to retrospect.


I do hope this autobiography will be received with the appreciation it truly deserves.




I suppose every writer, at some point during his writing career, harbours a lurking desire to compile a chronicle of his life and times. I am no exception. My ambition grew stronger with each passing year until, greatly heartened by the positive response to a sample chapter that I had sent to the editorial head of a renowned publishing house, I decided to write this book. Finally, it was a chance meeting with an exceptional individual, then serving as a top executive in an important UN agency in India, which proved to be the catalyst in hastening the process. Peter Delahaye, a remarkably supportive individual with a subtle blend of refinement and eclecticism, pushed and prodded me through his very entertaining daily emails, urging me to get going right away with my ‘magnum opus’. He also sent me many books of the same genre-biographies, autobiographies, memoirs-from whichever part of the world he happened to be in.


A truly creative person, Peter turned everything he touched, whether a blank canvas, a stone or a piece of wood, into pieces of rare beauty. His bachelor apartments, in Delhi and Brussels, furnished with choice fabrics and objets d’art, and piles of books of all kinds strewn around, testified to his mazing sense of discernment and elegant style. I was to spend a delightful week with him a few years after he was posted to Brussels. There were several others too-long-standing close friends as well as casual acquaintances-who provided both the stimulus and the drive to make this book possible. To all of them, I express my deep gratitude.


An inevitable corollary of a writing career is the denial of a writer’s time, attention and companionship to his spouse and family, and no writer can ever adequately compensate them for such deprivations. It is in this context that I acknowledge my profound sense of obligation to my wife, Sneh, and daughters, Preeti, Arnrita and Sonali, Preeti, a student of English literature, suggested the title of this book. Preeti and Amrita also rendered invaluable assistance in the final proofreading of the manuscript.


This book tells the story of a life, less than ordinary in many ways, and whether it needed or deserved to be told in such detail remains uncertain. During the course of his life, every human being passes through high and low phases, which, in fact, shape and define his unique and distinctive persona. Also, no autobiographer is in a position to break up and pigeonhole these so-called highs and lows into separate sections for a fastidious reader to engage with the product as an integrated read. If at all this is to be done, it is only fair that the responsibility should lie with the reader. Also, many assumptions in this kind of writing are by nature tentative and imprecise, and a perceptive reader might often be tempted to find them questionable. Writing an autobiography is in itself a daunting task, its course marked by diverse blockages and dilemmas of conception, composition and articulacy, not to mention issues relating to the felicity of expression and holding the reader’s interest. Among the more complex decisions that an autobiographer has to take at every stage in the narrative is the one which pertains to what to reveal, to what extent, and what to hold back. The disclosures, such as they are, have further to be suitably dressed in an objective and, as far as possible, judicious vocabulary, which is a far more difficult job than is commonly realized. Not all writers possess the ability to express their innermost feelings, desires and susceptibilities in an uninhibited manner. Still fewer are capable of clothing the product in an emotionally neutral terminology, which adds immensely to the value of such writing. I do not know if I have been able to meet these various criteria that I had set for myself while attempting this narrative. Nor do I need to know, I suppose. What I do know is that I have done the best I could to be true to my calling as a writer and as a person who values truth and honesty above all else.


Speaking of truth and honesty, I must admit that I have chosen not to include in this narrative some major episodes in my life, special and personal to me, which I found difficult to handle in a candid and forthright manner. Maybe, someday, I will find it in me to exorcise the ghosts of still-poignant memories of relationships which went awry, without becoming tongue-tied at the very idea of sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings with my readers. The least that I can do at this point of time is to dedicate this book to the tender memory of star-crossed liaisons, if only as a small gesture of contrition.


As I prepare to lay down my metaphorical pen to conclude this narrative, the urge to keep on writing stays strong and vibrant, and my brain continues to teem with ideas, dreams and desires. The concluding lines of T.S. Eliot’s long poem East Coker continue to fascinate me even though the poem belongs, thematically and contextually, to a different age:


Old men ought to be explorers

Here or there does not matter

We must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,

The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters

Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Indeed, in my end is my beginning. Let us leave it at that.




Foreword by Former Chief Justice J.S. Verma




List of Abbreviations









A Freedom Soaked in Blood



Discovering Myself



Young Pups and Pregnant Ducks: Mount Abu



In the Land of the Vindhyas



Coming of Age in the Police 108



Bhopal: The City of Lakes



Among the Creme de la Creme: Mussoorie



Going Up the Ladder-I:Jabalpur



Going Up the Ladder-II: Gwalior



Delhi: Serving the Federal Government



Punjab: The Ultimate Challenge



Back to Academics







Sample Pages

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