Meet the soft-spoken cop with tough principles - Bijan Kumar Dey Sawian (IPS retd) who eventually rose to the post of Secretary (Security), Government of India. Known to this writer as a thorough gentleman who gave a new twist to the Meghalaya Police's fight against the militants during the height of insurgency in the State, Sawian dwelt at length on his life as an individual and a policeman.
In 2001 when two policemen were killed in an encounter with the cadres of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), as the Director General of Police (DGP) he motivated his men with the strongest of words. I recalled before him his words, "It's time to adopt the policy of an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth". Sawian rekindled his own statement that did not go down well with the political leadership but stated, "It was my duty to instil confidence in the minds of the people of the State and that battle cry helped motivate my officers and men in our fight against the militants. He added that he did not want to make any further statements on the issue as it may have political implications now.
It was during the heights of the HNLC that he displayed his courage when he would walk from his residence in Upper Shillong to his office which is located at IGP Point without any Personal Security Guards (PSO) or gunmen. When asked about those daring evening walks when Shillong would shut shop by dark, Sawian said that he wanted to lead from the front and demonstrate before his men and the people on the need to have the nerve to take on the criminals.
Sawian was relieved as the DGP of the State in April in 2001 and joined as Addl. Director General & Chief Stadia Administrator, 1st Afro-Asian Games Secretariat, New Delhi' before taking over as the Inspector general (IG) of the BSF, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland Frontier. Even though I reminded him that there were talks in certain circles that he had joined a post that was two ranks below what he was supposed to be, Sawian spoke with a sense of pride and satisfaction about his stint as an Inspector General of the BSF, commanding almost 20,000 troops who were deployed along the international borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar and the four sensitive and troubled States of this country.
Coincidently, it was during his tenure as IG of the BSF Frontier and two years after he left the State Police that the proscribed Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) entered into a peace pact with the government and the Hynnietrwrp National Liberation Council (HNLC) was neutralized.
For a young man who was keen to join the Indian Army rather than donning the Khaki uniform, it was his father, the former police chief of undivided Assam, Lala B K Dey who packed him off to the presitigious St.Stephen's College, New Delh to pursue his graduation. His mother Lisimon Sawian Dey, however, never held any grudges against her husband's decision to pack off their eldest son to New Delhi.
Bijan completed his graduation in 1971 and made it to the IPS in his first attempt. He joined service in 1973 and was initally allotted the West Bengal cadre. His stint in West Bengal as a young officer provided him with a variety of experiences on policing having had to deal with the immediate post-Naxalite era and the political expediency of the Marxists.
Notwitstanding his tryst in several spheres, Bijan K Dey Sawian, also known as 'Jahuk' to all his childhood friends kick-started his school days from Seng Khasi School in Mawkhar, Shillong before joining the prestigious St Edmunds School in 1957. His old time friend remembered "Jahuk" as a classmate who studied together at a Khasi medium school, Class A (nursery) and Class B ( primary), and as one who shared every mischievious moment at Seng Khasi Primary School. He and his younger brother started their formal schooling in a Khasi medium school as their mother Kong Lisimon Sawian felt that her children should remain strongly rooted and that they should "not forfeit their cultural and traditional roots".
Sawian spoke about his elder son Atiar Singh, a young Barrister from England, who is proud to be the first Khasi Barrister at Law and as one who had used every opportunity to propogate the name of a true Khasi in the United Kingdom.
This writer vividly solicited views of his near and dear ones. At peace after reconciling with the hard reality of losing his dear wife when his carreer was on the upswing, Jahuk recalls the challenges he had to face in West Bengal and the Northeast in his numerous appointments where his wife was always besides him. Sawian said that she was his strength during those pressing times.
The other aspect to this professional policeman was his interest in the the promotion of sports. Sawian was instrumental in advocating sporting activities amongst the youth as he felt that this was a good way of focussing their minds in constructive and healthy interests. As the president of numerous sports bodies, Sawian played an active role in developing such sports as archery, atheletics, tennis, golf and equestrian sports, not only in the State of Meghalaya but the entire country.
However, there was no denial to his deep and inherent love for horses. An avid rider, a hobby he inherited from his father who was known in Shillong as "SAHEP BA NIAH KULAI", Sawian states that he is most comfortable on the saddle. When once asked by a scribe as to how long he feels he will be on the chair of the DGP Meghalaya, he mischievously stated that "Being a horsemen it is I who will decide when to dismount and not the horse".
Not only, a keen polo player in his younger days, Sawian commanded the mounted platoon at the passing out parade at the National Police Academy at Mount Abu on being awarded the Tonk Cup for equitation. His father's horses can still be seen grazing on the sprawling lawns and gardens of the family home in Mawprem.
Sawian surprisingly said that he had never encouraged his two sons Atiar Singh Dey and Hanut Singh Dey to join the Police. Queried on this, the soft-spoken policemen, who twice held the post of DGP Meghalya, alluded to the fact that in this day and age the honour associated with being a policeman has been greatly compromised. Yet he did state that he wanted his younger son to volunteer for the Territorial Army (TA).
As a retired police officer, Sawian reflects on his career of 'firsts' with great satisfaction. He was the first Director of Sports & Youth Affairs in the Government of Meghalaya, he was the first IPS Officer to be appointed to a position in a civic body in the State as the Chief Executive Officer of the Shillong Muncipal Board, he was the first Khasi to be appointed as the Director General and Inspector General of a State Police force and was the first IPS officer to be empanelled for appointment to the Union Government as a full-fledged secretary, which is usually the preserve of the IAS cadres.
Having spent 38 years of his life in public service, it was only natural for Sawian to continue in that vein after he retired. Having joined the Indian National Congress Party, he states that "Being a party member allows me the freedom to interact and work for the development of the grassroots, rather than being confined to the four walls of an office".
This writer questioned Sawian, who was known to have taken many hard decisions counter to the wishes of his political overseers, as to why he has decided to take to politics. With a twinkle in his eye, and a mischievious smile on his face, he referred to the age old idiom," If you cant beat them, join them".
DETAILS ABOUT BIJAN DEY SAWIAN
Date of Birth : 17th March 1951, Address: Annesville, 3 ½ Miles, Upper Shillong, Meghalaya
Contact: Details: Ph: 0364 - 2220155
Mobile: (0) 9856094601
SERVICE CADRE & YEAR OF ALLOTMENT
Service: Indian Police Service
Cadre: Assam-Meghalaya Cadre (1984 - Present), West Bengal Cadre (1973 - 1984)
Yr. of Allotment: 1973 (RR)
Training: National Police Academy, Mount Abu, Rajasthan
SOME POSTINGS & DESIGNATIONS
Feb 2009 - May 2011, Secretary (Security), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India
Mar 2007 - Feb 2009, Director General & Inspector General of Police, Meghalaya
Aug 2005 - Mar 2007, Director General Home Guards & Civil Defence, Govt. of Meghalaya & Member, High Power Committee of Govt. of India to recommend amendments to the Civil Defence Act
Feb 2004 - Aug 2005: Director, BSF Academy, Tekanpur
Jan 2002 - Feb 2004: Inspector General, AMM&N Frontier, Border Security Force
Nov 2001 - Jan 2002: Inspector General, Intelligence, Border Security Force
Interim Period: Addl. Director General & Chief Stadia Administrator, 1stAfro-Asian Games Secretariat
Apr 1999 - Apr 2001: Director General & Inspector General of Police, Meghalaya,
Mar 1998 - Apr 1999: Commandant General Home Guards & Director Civil Defence, Govt. of Meghalaya
Jul 1997 - Feb 1998: Inspector General of Police (Hqs/CID), Meghalaya
Apr 1994 - Jul 1997: Inspector General of Police (Law & Order), Meghalaya, & Additional Charge:
(i) Chief Executive Officer, Shillong Municipal Board - (1995- 1996)(ii)Commandant General Home Guards & Director Civil Defence,Meghalaya - (1996 -1997) Sep 1988 - Sep 1992 Director & Chief Welfare Officer, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Govt. of India & Additional Charge Secretary, Civil Services Sports Control Board, Govt. of India & Member, Board of Governors of :-
(i) The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sargathan (Central Schools)
(ii) The Kendriya Bhandar (Central Govt. Employees Coop. Society)
(iii) The Central Govt. Em ployees Welfare Founding Coop. Society.
(iv) The Grih Kalyam Kendra (Govt. of India Rehabilitation Centre for Widows etc).
Sep 1986 - Sep 1988 Director of Sports and Youth Affairs in the Government of Meghalaya
Sep 1985-Sep 1986 Superintendent of Police, Jaintia Hills District, Meghalaya
1975 - 1985 Principal, Police Training School, Shillong, Meghalaya & Additional Charge Director Sports & Youth Affairs, Govt. of Meghalaya Addl. Superintendent of Police Midnapore District and Lalbagh, Murshidabad District, West Bengal, Sub-Divisional Police Officer in Tamuluk, West Bengal, Asst. Commandant 3rd State Armed police Battalion, West Bengal, Assist. Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling, West Bengal