Who dares outshout Arnab?

Sound, fury, bad manners – is thy name Maxwell Perreira?

WrittenBy:Dr. Ashoka Prasad
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“You know I can outshout you any time, Arnab.”


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This utterance could be heard last evening on Arnab Goswami’s show. The person who uttered it was none other than retired senior cop, Maxwell Perreira. He had seemingly forgotten that he was no longer a serving police officer and that he was not perched in his police station where truculent officers like him find succour.

Arnab has a reputation and perhaps a well-deserved one, for coming down very heavily on the participants in the debates he moderates. Different people react to him differently – Mani Shankar Aiyar was positively offensive, Aslam Goni made a fool of himself, Madhu Kishwar vowed not to appear on his show again. There are times when his overbearing persona can be counter-productive. By and large, though, some of the people he harangues richly deserve it and more often than not make a spectacle of themselves.

But on this occasion, much as I tried, I could not fault Arnab. Perreira was being gratuitously supercilious and obfuscatory. Arnab had just asked him to explain why the Delhi Police Commissioner, Neeraj Kumar, at the time the dirty three were arrested, had on different channels declared that no other person apart from these three were involved in this racket. Instead of answering the question straight, Perreira went on an ego trip and started a monologue on how wonderful the Delhi Police were and how inconsiderate the media was being – and actually accused Arnab of trying to scuttle the case. After this spat, understandably Perreira had nothing to contribute although his profile was visible throughout the show.

Perreira exemplifies the very worst side of policing. He hectors, he bullies, he yells, he resorts to disparaging gestures, he uses unacceptably condescending expressions – all in an effort to avoid answering questions about police accountability. What astounds and distresses me is that he is a regular on nearly every channel. You switch on Times Now, he is there. You move to Headlines Today, you find him hectoring Rahul Kanwal. Then on Rajdeep’s show, he usually spares Rajdeep but gets extremely offensive towards other guests. The only channel where he enjoys a convivial relationship is on NDTV 24X7 it seems – and Barkha never puts him on the spot for some reason which I cannot fathom.

The first time I came to know of Maxwell Perreira was way back in 1992 during one of my regular visits to India from the US. I was being interviewed by The Hindu and the interviewer made a very complimentary reference to the Delhi police traffic commissioner whom she referred to as “Maxi”. She also commented on how wonderful he was to all journalists and how they could meet him without an appointment. I wonder if this cosy bonhomie which he had built up with the Fourth Estate and their bosses is the reason for him being repeatedly invited to so many channels despite his egregiously insufferable conduct.

I have read some of the articles he writes for national newspapers and they all revolve around the same theme – how wonderful the Indian police force, and in particular the Delhi Police is. In one article he went on to state that the Delhi Police force was on par with the best in the world, which  was simply too absurd for me to comment on.

In another debate on Headlines Today, he was confronted by the academic/activist Madhu Kishwar who reminded him of the time she visited his office to plead on behalf of street vendors who were facing regular police extortion. He had, according to Madhu, declared that street vendors were “vermin” and deserved what they were getting. Perreira was compelled to deny the last bit on live television but he accepted that he regarded street vendors as nothing more than vermin. Well Mr Perreira, I have news for you. In poll after poll, the Delhi Police has emerged as the most corrupt force in India and many would be inclined to believe that Delhi policemen deserve the sobriquet more than the city’s street vendors.

In another debate, Perreira refused to take a stand on a custodial death which led to the death sentence being pronounced on an ACP of the Delhi Police. In yet another debate, he refused to take a stand on why a person was locked up for months on a murder charge when the supposedly deceased turned out to be alive. The last two incidents took place during the tenure of Delhi Police Commissioner, Radhey Shyam Gupta’s period when Perreira was till a serving officer. On yet another occasion, he had the temerity to state that the Delhi Police never uses violence or threats or third degree to the best of his knowledge. Was this just an exercise in “economy with the truth”? I think not.

The worst and most shocking Perreira performance though, was recently in a debate on Arnab’s show a few weeks ago when an ACP had slapped a lady protestor following the rape of a 5-year-old. Perreira accused the media of defaming the Delhi Police by not showing that the ACP was slapped by the victim. As Smriti Irani pointed out, even if that were true, the ACP had no right to behave in the manner he did.

Perreira clearly is a belligerent cop who does not believe in police accountability to citizens and does not feel under any obligation to extend even the most elementary courtesies. In all fairness, he is not alone. Last week, on News 24, I witnessed a grotesque spectacle of a thanedar belting an accused in full view of TV cameras. The ADG of Uttar Pradesh, Arun Kumar, unconvincingly tried to defend the beating of a courting couple in Ghaziabad. Even Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar is seemingly uncomfortable with being held accountable for law and order lapses. He got away in an interview with Barkha Dutt by asking her to name one instance where the Police Chief had resigned for similar lapses as his. It was his good fortune that Barkha was not aware of Darryl Gates who had to resign as Los Angeles Police Chief following the Rodney King beating – despite being the hot favourite of the then-US President George Bush Sr.

Journalists can do tremendous public service by helping enforce accountability of the police who at present are a law unto themselves. For that, they have to discard the cosiness which they enjoy with the cops and take a gloves-off approach. In this particular instance, Arnab gets my “thumbs up”. In fact, if anything, he should have been even more persistent.

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