The story of struggle and success of Kanchan Chaudhary, the first woman DGP of India

What do common people do if the system is not performing to the mark?! And what do we do in response to whatever harassment we face by the corrupted system?!

We blame the system, we accept defeat saying-‘it’s India, things works like this’.

Some determined people take a different path. They enter the system, be a part of it, change the working pattern and improve the over all impression.

These people prove that nothing will change by just pointing fingers at the system, being in the system to improve it will only work.

This is a story of Kanchan Chaudhary Bhattacharya, India’s first woman Director General of Police, the second Indian Police Service officer after Kiran Bedi and a true trailblazer.

Kanchan Chaudhary passed away on 26th August in Mumbai after a prolonged illness at the age of 72.

She was a 1973-batch IPS officer, she was appointed DGP of Uttarakhand in 2004, before retiring from service on 31 October 2007. a salute for life of service.

Born in Himachal Pradesh, she grew up under very difficult circumstances. Kanchan’s parents were thrown out of their house over a domestic dispute when she was just seven years old. Her parents, however, worked hard to cultivate a small piece of farmland, which was their ancestral property.

Once the land had begun to yield an income, her grandfather’s family sold it to notorious local smugglers.

Once in an interview she had narrated their plight “These thugs came armed to the land and threw dad and his helpers out. My father almost lost his life to these thugs. Dad went to court against it. From then on, I remember my father going to different courts to follow up on his increasing number of legal cases. I too started going from office to office, trying to get the police to register a case against my father’s aggressors. I appealed to senior police officers, the governor of the state and also the then PM – Mrs. Indira Gandhi.”

Following this experience, she had a burning desire to join the Indian Police Service to serve justice. She did her schooling from Amritsar and college from Delhi.

She was the only woman amongst 90 men during her training, and her instructors thought she would soon quit. But nothing could shake her determination and made it through the strenuous training.

In fact, she had always said – that being a woman and possessing the qualities of patience and empathy helped her police better because people trusted her more.

in 1975, when she took over as Additional Superintendent of Police at Malihabad in Lucknow district, an area famous for its Dasheri mangoes and  dacoits.

Within a year, 13 of them were nabbed by the police, including a certain Makhan Singh who had evaded the police for over a decade.

One of the major cases that she handled included the brutal murder of seven-time national badminton champion Syed Modi, who was gunned down by unknown assailants in 1987 in Lucknow. As the Superintendent of Police at the Crime Branch, CBI, she investigated the case. Kanchan went onto investigate other high-profile cases like the Reliance-Bombay Dyeing case, besides other white-collar crimes. For her efforts, she was awarded the Police Medal for Meritorious Services in 1989.

She took help of the position she held to help other women in distress, particularly those suffering from domestic violence and sexual assault.

One day, a badly beaten up Muslim woman met her. The lady told that her husband had been assaulting her. Kanchan looked into the matter and followed it up for several weeks. A few months later, she saw the same lady breeze into her office with a smile on her lips. Kanchan says It gave her so much of joy. And she experience goosebumps whenever she thinks of that particular incident because her efforts had made an impact someone’s life.

Subsequently, as the first woman DGP of a state i.e Uttarakhand, she battled the bias against women in service. She took the initiative of giving women home guards the responsibility of manning traffic points in cities. Kanchan’s parents supported their daughter throughout and also helped her in raising her two daughters. Her father had once said, there are many children waiting for you out there. Go look after them we will take care of your children.

In 1989, her sister Kavita Chaudhary made a very popular television series called ‘Udaan’ which was loosely based on Kavita’s life. The show aired for a few years on Doordarshan. For an entire generation of women, she became an icon for thriving in a male-dominated profession.

Post retirement, she entered politics, contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha election on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket, which she lost. But yet again, her motive here was to serve.

This is how union minister paid her tributes,

In losing Kanchan Chaudhary, the country has lost an icon of the Indian Police Service. In the words of the IPS Association, she was an officer with “sterling qualities of head and heart” who never felt the need to impose physical violence upon suspects to get answers. One can say this for very few police officers in this country. Her life touched and transformed hundreds of others.

May her life story inspire many young women and men to join the system and bring about a revolutionary changes.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth