Andaman and Nicobar is a cluster of hundreds of Islands situated towards the south east direction of Internationally strategic Bay of Bengal. Between the Southernmost tip of Great Nicobar Island, named Indira Point (Latitude 6. 45.10 N), and Indonesian Island of Sabag, is the busiest shipping channel of the world converging into Malacca Strait. Indira point incidentally is more south than Kanyakumari the erstwhile Cape Comorin, marking the beginning of Indian mainland.From north to south these Islands are scattered in about 770 kms. lengthwise.
The role of border policing on the Indian mainland is entrusted to central para military forces, designated by different names such as CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB etc.
Concept of LOP :
Whereas in Andaman & Nicobar Islands this vital job of securing inviolability of frontier Islands rested with the Andaman & Nicobar Police. The concept of Police Look Out Post’s (LOP’S) is unique in many respects. These police outposts are located at strategic isolated islands having a difficult approachability, with no shipping connectivity.
Our LOP personnel sometimes barely managed to reach locations of their posting after weeks of hard hitch-hiking sea journey.Depending on their ingenuity, availability of the water transport, further resting on the mercy of state of volatility of weather.
Important role :
Massiveness of scale of foreign intrusions violating sovereignty of Indian territorial waters extending upto 12 nautical miles being enormous. With zero marine navigability, this responsibility compounded the police culpability.
The designated position of officer-in-charge of LOP (I/C LOP) was of high accountability. Functioning of LOP was totally different from that of the normal working of a police station or any detachment of police unit.This police unit was not authorized to take cognizance of any reported crime. LOP’S additionally functioned as a sort of an “early warning system”, operating as “war watching stations” during impending contingency situations.
These specialized police units provided advance information about unusual movement of any unidentified marine or airborne hostile craft.They were also entrusted with the dispatch of information about occurrence of natural calamity, unauthorized passage of any alien ships or aircrafts in visible vicinity of their placements.
High powered radio equipment was provided to each LOP for notifying concerned authorities without loss of precious time.Police men were equipped with pistols, rifles, LMG and sets of high powered field binoculars.
LOP Incharge :
As ”senior representative” of the Indian government Incharge of LOP performed a crucial ceremony of flag hoisting and unfurling, on the auspicious occasion of Independence and Republic days. Some of these I/C LOP’S would get new costly dresses prepared for the ceremony, keeping as a proud photographic record for their posterity.
They would leave no stone unturned for arranging a local gathering for making these auspicious national festivals a grand success. In order to cut out any inordinate delay due to predominantly hampering by the prevailing unendurable hierarchical system, communication was in swift mode.
Incharge LOP was authorized to address all radio signals directly to the, Fortress Commander, Lt. Governor, Chief Secretary, Inspector General of Police and other senior officers.
Flottila of ships :
Incharge LOP Pillomilo Island (head constable) once exceeding his jurisdiction chose to send a signal directly to Station Director, All India Radio, Port Blair. This pertained to movement of an unidentified flotilla of ships moving menacingly towards the northern direction.
Station Director of AIR, who in all his innocence, not aware of the functioning of this institution, imagined I/C LOP to be some top ranking senior officer. He authorized broadcasting of this piece of information during the evening news in an uncensored manner.
This alarming news caused pointless panic among the perplexed Port Blair residents.The administration was bombarded with queries by the citizens regarding the nature of the unexplained movement of “warships”.
Boss of Pillomilo :
On being questioned about the highly irresponsible behavior, he shot back.
”Since I am the chief administrator of Pillomilo Island, being fully empowered to take independent decisions regarding the security of my Island”.
We dealt with him under the suitable provisions of police procedural code. Senior officers were of the view that, as a punishment for his folly, this Incharge of LOP deserved to be dispatched to another Look Out Post at Narcondam island situated in North Andaman. At this equally tough challenging locale he could spend some time under another LOP Incharge (sub-inspector), who happened to be a senior ranking officer.
(Author of the Article is a former Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police. Story is based on his real life experience when he was posted in the Andaman Nicobar Islands in early eighties. Incident is from old recollection between 1982- 85 )