Assam’s Iron lady, the feared cop who has shot down over 16 terrorists and arrested several in a span of 15 months in Assam- these are some of the ways one can introduce IPS officer Sanjukta Parashar. Currently appointed as the Superintendent of Police at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) since 2017 for four years, Parashar started her journey in 2008 when she took the command as the Assistant Commandant of Makum.

An officer from 2006 batch, Parashar hardly interacts with the media. She opens up about her journey, ideas and thoughts on Indian Police in this exclusive interview with SheThePeople.TV. Read on as she also reveals the toughest case she has cracked in her journey so far.

Where did you grow up and did you ever in your childhood think that you would become a police officer?

I grew up in Assam. I was there till I finished my twelfth standard. But I really grew up in Delhi. The first three years doing my undergrad from Delhi University was the best. I got to learn about myself and what I was capable of. I learnt to be independent. I learnt to take care of myself as well as how to take care of others. But in all those years, I never imagined myself to become a police officer.

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Did you know any women officers while you were growing up? If yes, who were they and what were your thoughts about them?

When I was in the tenth standard I was asked along with another student to interview Manorama Kakati of the Assam Police Service for the school magazine. She was the first woman in uniform that I met in my life. I can’t really say it made a huge impact on me, but I was struck by her straightforwardness and her focus. Sadly though, by the time I joined the service and reached Assam, she had passed away and I never really got to work with her ever.

IPS Sanjukta Parashar
IPS Sanjukta Parashar (Pic by NewsBugz.com)

How old were you when you first decided that you want to join the force?

I was 23 years old when I finally made up my mind about sitting for the UPSC exam. I’m sure you are aware that we don’t really decide to join the police in the IPS. Service is what we are allocated after we clear the same exam based on factors such as rank, preferences, caste, vacancies in the state, etc.

How do you process the recognition that came your way after you dealt with the Bodo land case?

Number one, please change the query from Bodo to militants. I have worked against all groups and it would be wrong to single out a community. To be respected as a police officer is a huge honour and privilege for me. I feel humbled and at the same time pressured to keep up with my own image.

I have a feeling that the media attention comes from the fact that I am a woman, but this is exactly what we want to change. I don’t think male officers have been singled out for this. Policing is gender-neutral. Terrorism is just five percent of the work that an SP does in a district, but I guess it’s not very glamorous to be seen sitting behind a desk and crunching numbers. I am very uncomfortable with media recognition. It is very unreal and most times it feels like I am reading about someone else. I just try to keep my head down and carry on with the work that I am assigned to do. That’s what we can do after all. Do the best according to our abilities to accomplish the task at hand.

IPS Sanjukta Parashar
IPS Sanjukta Parashar (Pic by Syskool.com)

Which case do you consider was one of the toughest to crack and why was that?

The murder case of a businessman who was entrapped and kidnapped by a gang that included gun runners, hitmen and call girls was the toughest to crack because it was initially blind. The menace of issue of SIM cards in fake names was a hurdle which took all of our energies and intelligence to surmount. What was even tougher was the fact that despite all our best efforts, we lost the person who was kidnapped. Speaking to his family, still makes me very nervous because it still feels like a huge failure on my part.

IPS Renuka Mishra talks openly about how women are treated differently than men in the services, what is the kind of treatment you have got in your time as a police officer?

Isn’t ma’am the coolest? She is one of the best officers we have. It’s true that women are treated differently than the way men are in the police force. Somehow, being a local Assamese woman I didn’t have a hard time being part of the Assam Police. The society in the North East is much more accepting and accommodating of women in professional roles and I guess I was lucky.

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What has your experience been working with the NIA now, how is it different from your previous posts?

Working with the NIA has definitely been a great experience and one I wish to continue for as long as I can. For one, I have learnt so much more about the investigation which is invaluable. This is not the same as a field posting as it was for me in the cadre.

Do you think women officers have to work harder to gain the respect of their male counterparts?

Yes, there is a saying that goes around in our sub-culture: Women have to work twice as hard to be considered even half as good as the men.

IPS Sanjukta Parashar
IPS Sanjukta Parashar (Pic by Marathi.TV)

What would you say about the growing crimes against women and children in the country? Past few months have seen some of the most brutal crimes against children despite strengthening of laws for child abuse. How do you think we can tackle the situation?

I think it takes a peculiar sort of mindset which has already de-humanized women and children to be able to perpetrate such kind of crimes on them. I think sensitization and education can be the only way forward. We have to make it impossible for any man or woman to do such acts and think that it is okay at whatever level.

Do you think there is an environment of impunity which is why we don’t see a dip in such crimes?

We are a very populous nation. The crime numbers will always be high. What we do not have is a quick dispensation of justice. I believe that is the real problem.

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How can we motivate young girls to join the forces and basically tell parents that women can also become great police officers?

I guess by making an example of success stories of women in the police at all ranks. Half the population can not ignore their responsibilities to society.

We are a very populous nation. The crime numbers will always be high. What we do not have is a quick dispensation of justice. I believe that is the real problem.

What are your thoughts on gender-friendly measures in police stations for women police constables and women in other posts in the police? Do we have well-equipped police stations and facilities that cater to women too?

We are progressing towards a more gender-friendly environment in the police force. Every day there are more and more measures undertaken to equip the police stations and other places of work for the women in law enforcement.

How have you dealt with sexism at the workplace over the years?

Firmly and immediately.

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