Dr Ajai Kumar Singh, former DGP, Karnataka, is best known for his investigation into the 2005 terrorist attack at the IISc, which he describes as the toughest experience of his career. His personal life is starkly different from his line of work, however. A staunch Gandhian and lover of poetry, he gives Aksheev Thakur a glimpse into the man behind the khaki
He may have spent his life being a tough cop, but there is more to former Director General of Police, Dr Ajai Kumar Singh. It’s hard to typify him as merely the police officer, who was hands on in the investigation of the blast at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in the city in 2005, or who spent grueling hours detailing the security for the SAARC summit in Bengaluru in 1986. As you dig deeper, you find a man, who is as much at home spouting poetry as he is in tackling criminals and terrorists.
Born in the remote village of Nagla Kothi in Uttar Pradesh, Dr Singh cracked the civil services exam in the first attempt and joined the IPS in 1974. Following a training of two years, he arrived in Bengaluru in January 1976.
Unlike some migrants to the state, who don’t bother to speak the local language, he took the effort to learn Kannada and is today so fluent in it that he has translated one of the works of modern Kannada poet, Gopalakrishna Adiga from the language to Hindi.
Making no bones about his love for Kannada literature, he recalls that it was during the early part of his training that he first met noted dramatist and Kannada writer, K.V. Subbanna.
“When I was DCP, traffic I used to do rounds of the city and sometimes drop in at his place. I also took leave to attend a film appreciation course that Subbanna conducted,” he smiles.
Despite police work taking up nearly all his time, his interest in literature and poetry did not diminish and in 1997 he did his PhD on a comparison between 12th century mystic saint, Allam Prabhu and 15th century mystic poet and saint, Kabir.
He may be a poet at heart, but he has shouldered enormous responsibility as an officer of the law too. The second SAARC summit in 1986 in the city provided him one of the most memorable moments of his career.
“We had the largest number of high security dignitaries like the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lanka Prime Minister, JJ Jayawardene who was under threat from the LTTE, visiting the city for the summit. As the DCP in-charge of security fell sick, I was asked to take over,” he recalls. But the event did not pass off without hiccups as Dr Singh mistakenly stopped Rajiv Gandhi’s convoy. But luckily for him it did no harm and he received a beautifully drafted letter from then Foreign Secretary, Muchkund Dubey, praising him.
But the toughest experience of his career has to be the terrorist attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in 2005. “I personally interrogated over 20 convicts arrested in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi for their involvement in terrorism. We knew that the mastermind of the blast was in Pakistan and the other was in Uttar Pradesh,” he explains.
But outside of his work, Dr Singh leads a Gandhian life and is known to be vocal about the rights of handloom workers. While living in the Police Commissioner’s quarters in the city, he cleaned his bathrooms himself once a week, often surprising visitors, who saw him with a broom in his hand.
Also, he was nobody’s chela, as he himself tells you. “I worked under various governments but never toed anybody’s line. I have not done anything illegal on someone’s instructions. And best of all, I got the love and appreciation of my subordinates, colleagues and the people,” he says.
It was in late 1976, when Dr Singh was pursuing a combined course in Mysuru that he met the love of his life, Tara, a 1975 batch IAS officer, who he married in 1977.
While he has crossed all the important dots in his career, he has had a few surprises along the way, especially where his postings are concerned. Happy to have been promoted as SP of Chitradurga , he was on his way to the district to take charge when the KSRTC bus he was on, was stopped mid-way by the police, who informed him that his posting had been cancelled. “I came back to Puttur,” he adds with amusement.
But this was not all. His posting as SP of Raichur was cancelled not once but twice. “When my name cropped up for the third time for the post I told the DIG to make up his mind and went to my wife’s place in Trivandrum. Sure enough I got to know there that it had been cancelled for the third time,” he laughs, displaying an ability to laugh at himself and a modesty belying his high rank....