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The Rediff Interview/Prateep Philip, Tamil Nadu IG

'We are trying to humanise the police force'

November 11, 2008

Prateep Philip

From the brink of death, Tamil Nadu Inspector General of Police Prateep Philip came back to life twice. The first incident was when he stood barely three feet away from the spot where former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi died after a blast.

The second time was off Tuticorin post where he went swimming near the Rabbit island. His 'body' was found floating in the sea and everyone thought he is dead. Anup Jaiswal,  the then superintendent of Tuticorin, gave him artificial respiration and brought him back to life.

Recalling the incident, Philip says, "It was faith that saved me".

He is now the Inspector General of Police, Human Rights and Social Justice, Tamil Nadu. He spoke to's Ganesh Nadar on a wide range of topics.

You are also the director of Friends of Police. Tell us more about it.

The Friends of Police is a formula for sharing responsibility with the police. We are trying to humanise police. People are generally afraid of the police. I wanted to change that and thus this concept was born. This designation is given to a citizen who is willing to share police work. I started it. Every citizen can become FOP. 

One  can apply at any police station and also directly to the district superintendent of police. There is also a multi-media centre on Nelson Manickam Road, Chennai where one can register. In 2002, I got the Queens award for innovation in police training. That award had a cash component of Rs 15,000. There germinated the seed for this concept.

We trained 20 policemen and 20 citizens in nine urban districts of Chennai in 2002/03. In the next workshop, we trained 40 policemen and 40 citizens at a time. It's the only place in the world where police and public are trained together. Our trainers go to each district and so far we trained 40,000 cops and 40,000 citizens.

FOP can accompany the police on its beat. They act as a bridge between the police and the public. They are not informers, but partners. Crime detection is enhanced. After a year of joining they are given identity cards, that is if we are satisfied with their work.

People's Watch, a Madurai-based NGO, has come out with a report that says that 22 villages in Tirunelveli still practice the two tumbler system in tea shops?

We have given instructions to police officers that this has to be eradicated. Only 15 percent have declared that their district is free from this menace. Thirunelveli has not declared yet. We will investigate and cases will be registered immediately. Even if the victims do not complain we can take suo moto action.

We will talk to both groups and make them understand that it's against the principle of human rights. We will not do anything to inflame the issue. We are organizing tea parties for 20 lakh people in the state. We have already covered 3 lakh people in the last few months. In these parties all communities and castes come together. There are 37,000 tea shops in Tamil Nadu to cover.

In an engineering college in Coimbatore, a student was brutally ragged by his seniors. What are you planning to do?

The local police have taken action and they will follow up. We come into the picture only if the victim belongs to the SC/ ST list. The state human rights commission looks at all the other cases.

What about case of teachers beating up students. In the last one year, two students lost their sight because of teachers caning them.

Corporate punishment is against the law. Violence against students cannot be tolerated. They can be booked under the IPC for causing grievous injury. We are arranging sensitization courses for all schools and colleges.

Most people do not know that the police department has a human rights wing. Most complaints of human rights violation is against the police. How do you deal with this?

The police are the greatest champions of human rights. They guard everybody's rights. Human right activists are concerned about the rights of accused only. We are concerned about everybody. We have a human rights campaign through FOP.

Any violation of the civil rights of anyone belonging to the SC/ST group, we come to know automatically. When a police complaint is filed, we are informed immediately. We follow it up. We do not need a separate complaint.

If they are not satisfied with the police action they approach our inspectors in every district. Some even come here. People are aware of  the work we do.  

Tribal women complained that they were sexually abused by the STF in their operation against forest brigand Veerappan. This was vindicated by the Justice Sadashiva commission. The tribals have not received any compensation either.

We come into the picture only when the Protection of Civil Rights Act is invoked. That act was not used in that case. 

The Mumbai Police started practising encounter killings and now the  Tamil Nadu police is doing the same.

Any encounter that is not genuine is not under the frame work of law. We cannot play the role of executioner, judge and police all together. That is not correct. We must not take on the burden of that responsibility of protectors of society by playing the role of judge and hangman.

In Madurai [Images], one community the Kal Ottars (stone-breakers) complain that they are being targeted by the police of Tamil Nadu and Kerala [Images]. They allege they are being picked up for every unsolved case.

 We are aware of that complaint. Our officers are probing. Our law says 'innocent until proven guilty'. That applies to all. Individual cases that have been reported will be investigated. An entire community cannot be criminalised.

Anything else, you would like to tell us.

Every crime starts in the brain. We have to tackle it at that level. We must teach police, teachers and students to tackle problems at the mind level. I have prepared a CD on 'equilibrium thinking' that is played in all prisons of Tamil Nadu.

In the last two months, it was taught to 3 lakh people in 6,000 villages.

In simple language, it is 'be at it' to positive thoughts and 'beat it' to negative thoughts. For more details you can visit

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