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Oldest police officer dies

Oct. 10: Bisweswar Chatterjee, the country’s oldest surviving police officer, passed away today at AIIMS after a brief illness. He was 95.

Bisweswar, who studied in Calcutta’s Presidency College, belonged to the 1940 batch of Indian Police, the precursor to the Indian Police Service, and its undivided Bengal cadre.

A batchmate of the legendary spy-master Ram Nath Kao, Bisweswar had served in the Intelligence Bureau and headed the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in the crucial post-1962 war period for a decade. He also served in Calcutta police.

Ranjit Gupta, 91, who had succeeded Bisweswar as the sub-divisional police officer of Serampore, shared his memories. “I took charge as SDPO of Serampore from him in 1946,” said Gupta, who belonged to the 1942 batch of IP.

Bisweswar had served as a deputy commissioner of Calcutta police, he added. “It was 1948 or 1949 when he had gone to quell trouble at the Allenbury Company in Hazra as the DC (security control) of Calcutta police,” Gupta said.

M.K. Narayanan, the former national security adviser and present Bengal governor, had served as a junior officer under Bisweswar in the Intelligence Bureau.

After his retirement in 1974, he devoted time to social work. He was a founder of the Satyanarayan Temple in south Delhi and chairman of Raisina Bengali School for over three decades. He was also associated with the Indian Mountaineering Federation.

Bisweswar is said to have played a big role in ELINT — a word coined for the electronic intercept and analysis of intelligence — operations in the Himalayas in 1964.

After China tested its first nuclear weapon on October 16, 1964 in Xinjiang, India and the US shared a common fear about its nuclear capabilities. The remoteness of Chinese testing grounds and the secrecy surrounding its nuclear programme made a human intelligence operation almost impossible.

So, the CIA in the late 1960s decided to launch an ELINT operation along with RAW and the Aviation Research Centre — the forerunner of RAW that is now a part of the intelligence agency — to track China’s nuclear tests. One such operation, in the garb of an expedition to Nanda Devi, involved celebrated climber M.S. Kohli along with Special Frontier Force and CIA operatives.

The objective was to place a permanent ELINT device that could detect and report data on future nuclear tests by China. The device was just planted on Nanda Devi, when an avalanche forced a hasty withdrawal. Another operation to retrieve and replant the device was aborted as the device was lost.

Bisweswar is survived by three sons and three daughters.

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