How Ajit Doval, the Centre's man Friday, suppressed a riot in Kerala in 1972

From riots in Kerala in 1972 to recent J&K unrest, Doval is the go-to man in crisis


National Security Adviser Ajit Doval may have had sense of deja vu when he walked through the violence-hit bylanes of northeast Delhi as a “messenger of peace” on behalf of the BJP government on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home minister Amit Shah had directly assigned Doval the task of ensuring restoration of peace in Delhi. Doval, immediately after US President Donald Trump embarked on his return flight, undertook a late night tour of the violence-hit areas, meeting the victims. He again visited the affected areas on Wednesday with senior officers where he met with locals and assured them that the situation is under control.

Doval, the 'Indian James Bond', had done something similar in far away Kerala way back in 1972. This Kerala Cadre IPS officer of the 1968 batch had played a crucial role in suppressing the infamous Thalassery riot which was the tenth major communal riot the country had witnessed and the first one for Kerala.

The skirmishes between two communities had started in the last days of 1971 and by the first week of 1972, the tension had flared up to a full blown Hindu-Muslim riot. It started on December 28, when a shoe was thrown towards a religious procession. The RSS was accused of targeting the Muslims and their mosques, and the CPI(M) sided with the Muslims and the clashes escalated. Realising that the situation was getting out of hand, the then home minister K. Karunakaran apparently looked for the “smartest police personnel” under him to assign the task of ending the violence, and found one in a junior IPS officer who was at that time working in Kottayam as the ASP. He was Ajit Doval.

Reaching Thalassery, the epicentre of violence, Doval visited all the affected areas immediately after taking charge. He had asked the victims to go back to their houses and promised to bring all the looters before the law. He also told the victims that all their looted stuffs would be brought back.

Doval, who was in the third year of service then, kept his word. The riot was suppressed within a week of his arrival.

Doval continued to be in-charge of the law and order in Kannur for four more months before he joined the IB. And the rest of his life is certainly an interesting chapter in the history of Indian espionage.

According to a 2007 home ministry report which had studied the major riots in the country, the first phase of the disturbance in the Thalassery riot “was pre-planned by Hindu communalists, the second phase was of the nature of retaliation by Muslims and the third was retaliation by the Hindus.''

One may or may not find parallels between the two clashes. But while walking through those narrow bylanes, Doval, certainly, must have known what he had to do.