On June 17, the incumbent chief of the Nagaland police, Rupin Sharma, issued an order restraining his subordinates in the police headquarters in Kohima from “conducting/attending” a meeting scheduled for the next morning. “Any violation in this regard shall be viewed very seriously,” the order warned.

But the meeting did take place. Sharma’s juniors defied his orders and participated in a signature campaign to put pressure on the state government to not replace Sharma as Nagaland’s director general of police.

Last week, local dailies had reported that Sharma was going to be replaced by John Longkumer, who is currently posted as the additional director general of the Chhattisgarh police. Sharma, an Indian Police Service officer of the Nagaland cadre, has been the state’s acting director general of police since November.

Support from colleagues

In what many claim is unprecedented in Nagaland, many police officials, across ranks, have come out in support of a campaign initiated by the state’s civil society groups to retain Sharma as the head of the state police. “We are all in support of the current DGP [director general of police],” said a senior Nagaland police officer. The reasons were several, he said. “Number one, though, is that he has completely stopped back-door appointments,” said the police officer, referring to the allegedly rampant practice of political appointments in the department. “He is not allowing any politicians to interfere, so that directly affects the ministers and politicians. That is why they seem to want him out.”

The officer added that Sharma also looked after the welfare of lower-ranking police officials. “He has made sure that they get their travel allowance, daily allowance, all other incentives like ration and uniforms on time,” he said. “That is why so many uniformed officers have come out in his support in spite of an order against doing so.”

According to the officer, more than 700 police officials participated in the signature campaign held in various parts of the city.

A banner bearing signatures in support of DGP Sharma in Dimapur. (Photo credit: Morung Express).

Online support

Facebook groups, which have recently emerged as a space for young Nagas to hold virtual conversations on socio-political issues related to the state, were also replete with posts in support of Sharma.

Rozelle Mero, an administrator of one such Facebook page called The Naga Blog, said that people’s support for Sharma flowed from the perception that he was trying to clean what was known to be a rather corrupt set-up. Mero cited the case of a Nagaland police officer, now retired, who recently came under the scanner for allegedly spearheading a massive scam spread over several years during his tenure in the police department.

Mero added that there was also public resentment against the culture of unlawful appointment of government officials by politicians for electoral gains. “All these political appointments are eating into the state’s finances, cutting into funds meant for development of the state,” said Mero.

A senior police officer from Kohima said that the Nagaland police department was overstaffed, and Sharma had refused to allow new recruitments in spite of multiple requests from high-profile people.

An anti-corruption activist from Dimapur said that Sharma had brought in transparency to the system, which was unpalatable to the state’s politicians.

Monalisa Changkija, editor of the Dimapur-based daily, Nagaland Page, said the public outcry against Sharma’s transfer had many layers to it. She said it was as much an outlet against institutionalised corruption of successive governments as it was an endorsement of Sharma.

Sharma told Scroll.in that all matters were “on record” and that as a “government servant” he would “abide by government instructions”.

A local resident signs the plea to retain Sharma as the chief of the Nagaland police. (Photo credit: Morung Express).

‘Malafide intention’?

Sharma’s fate has been the subject of much public debate and speculation for some time now. In March, soon after the current Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party-Bharatiya Janata Party government took over, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his deputy Y Patton wrote separate letters to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, requesting Sharma’s removal from his post as he was not experienced enough. The state’s Chief Secretary Temjen Toy also made identical recommendations in another letter to the Union Home Secretary. In his letter, Toy wrote that Sharma’s “inexperience led to challenges and issues in the conduct of the state Assembly elections in February…Somehow we were able to ensure the elections were conducted without any major law and order situation.”

The state government faced criticism even at that time. The Opposition party, the Naga Peoples’ Front, targeted deputy chief minister Patton, alleging that the move to approach the Union government to remove Sharma “exposes the malafide intentions of the deputy chief minister”.

On Tuesday, former minister Imkong L Imchen said there was “no credible reason to remove Sharma”. The way they are doing the current business is not right,” he said. “The dignity and integrity of the officer has also been denigrated unnecessarily.”

A spokesperson for Patton declined to comment on the matter.