John Wayne, the Hollywood icon, was known as the big guy on the side of the right. He was strong, could hit hard and would unfailingly stand up for moral values, fair play, justice, etc. The only other person I know who answers to that description is former police chief Julio Ribeiro. While John Wayne fought the baddies in the unreal world of cinema, Ribeiro had to do the same in a world rife with politicians, big money and the force of public opinion. He threaded his way skilfully through the minefield. It would have been tempting to settle issues by pulling out a gun and letting it speak in the language the bad guys understand. Cops who take that short-cut become folk heroes. Ribeiro did become a folk hero but he took the long and more difficult route: he dealt with criminals while staying within the four corners of the law.
Across the years, the articulate, affable, sometimes avuncular, Ribeiro has come to represent all that is good about the police. He has expressed his views frequently. His latest and second book, ‘Hope for Sanity’, is a collection of his published writings from 2002 to 2021. It covers a wide spectrum of issues and is drawn from a plethora of newspapers because Ribeiro could shame a journalist with his speed. You get his views on the dismal story of the rookie policeman who was made Salman Khan’s bodyguard. When the crap hit the ceiling, it was the young cop who lost his sanity and his life. In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput, the actor’s death set off a tug-of-war between warring political factions. Ribeiro talks as dispassionately about police brutality as he does about the hardships that the rank and file face.
Above all else, there is the issue of Punjab. He was appointed to lead the police force as DGP in a state pushed to the precipice by militancy in the 1980s. Ribeiro was then given sage advice. He was told the methods he had used to tame Mumbai’s underworld would not work against terrorism. But he proved them wrong. Refusing to change his methods, he soldiered on until we began to see light at the end of the tunnel. As if to reward him for his efforts, the authorities gave him a deputy: the quick gun K.P.S. Gill. In the chapter which describes interactions between the duo, readers are advised to concentrate on the message between the lines. A lot more is said there than in the lines themselves, because Gill was the antithesis to Ribeiro. But together the hastily cobbled partnership succeeded in ensuring that sanity returned to the troubled state.
Viewed in its entirety, the collection of Ribeiro’s articles brings out one characteristic clearly: his steel-plated integrity. He is on nobody’s side and his opinions are based on unchanging values.
Finally, a word about the title: ‘Hope for Sanity’ is plaintive, wimpy title for a book about a super cop whom even the ungodly respected. I wish this book goes into a second edition, and next time, I hope they then call it something in which John Wayne could have acted; something with the ring of Rio Bravo.
Title: Hope for Sanity - Selected Writings of Julio Ribeiro
Publisher: Yoda Press
Price: Rs 499