Sir Charles Tegart India's colonial Irish police officer who curtailed freedom activities with brute forces

Sir Charles Tegart, Colonial police officer  iart uk

During the colonial rule in India directly under the British Crown in London soon after the famous Indian revolt of 1857-58, it became a necessity for the British Government to have an efficient police department with a separate section for detective work to keep an eye on the Indian nationalists and freedom fighters who wanted to get off the British yoke. In Charles Augustus Tegart, they found a superb police officer who was very particular about upholding Britishness and safeguarding Britain's quest for imperialistic ambition. Considering his temperament and natural ability, for the tough police work in India, no person was better qualified than Tegart who would never compromise on ethics and professionalism. Unfortunately, the black mark he had was his overwhelming enthusiasm and dedication in his work pushed him to  the extreme of brutality bordering on madness.

American Indian Chief Joseph AZ Quotes

 Son of a Church of Ireland clergyman, Charles Tegart (born in Derry), upon graduating from  Trinity College, Dublin,
joined the Calcutta Police in 1901. Later he headed the Detective Department and his continuous service in Calcutta police department for 30 long years gave him lots of experience  in the area of policing and tailing criminals. Later  he  became a member of the Secretary of State's Indian Council in December 1931.

Being the first officer of the Indian Police (IP) in the organization on his recommendation, the Special Branch was created to track revolutionary  activities in Bengal. After getting  the King's Police Medal in 1911 for his dedicated services to the Crown, his career saw upward mobility  and  Tegart's promotion was purely on merit. Finally, he ended up becoming  the Commissioner of Calcutta Police from 1923 to 1931.

AZ Quotes

When it came to official duty as a leading cop, at that point of time in colonial India, no police officer had  earned  more notoriety  and devilish image than  Charles. For the terrorists and opponents of British rule in India, in particular, ''Indian Nationalists'', he was a terror, a devil on prowl. In the eyes of Indian Nationalist, Charles Tegart had no sympathy for them, a staunch  opponent of Indian nationalism. Quite uncompromising and ruthless with Indian nationalists and other leaders, the very mention of his name gave them nightmares and jitters. In 1930, he had a special reputation for his brutishness and savagery  when arraigning the criminals and freedom fighters.

Map of India showing Bengal BBC

 During his time, Bengal was a hot bed of nationalism, India's quest for freedom had begun to take shape and native Indians had developed a sort of abomination for the English officials for their arrogance, open racial discrimination against various ethnic groups and, above all,  their dishonest wheeling and dealings with right from Maharajahs to poor Indian farmers. They ran the British administration and made money here  to improve the economy of Britain.  In a nut shell, they kept India for the benefits of the British back in England, of course, at the cost of India's depredation, a sort of thievery.

As for Sir Charles Tegart, he was doing his duty in a volatile situation and almost daily he was facing threats to his life as he happened to be cop with flint-hard courage and a stone heart.  His active involvement in tracking down the revolutionaries  in every place and the large scale detention of them won him bouquet  from the senior British officers, but on the other hand it won him brickbat from the Indian natives. This ultimately led to  a series of confrontations with hardcore revolutionaries  led by Jatindranath Mukherjee at Balasore in Orissa on 9 September 1915.

angry cop


That Tegart was reported to have come out unscathed  in six assassination attempts on him in India is itself a proof  that how much the Indian nationalists hated him and his guts. Unmindful and undaunted, he liked driving around  Calcutta in an open-top car.  Some years later on 12 January 1924, at Chowringhee Road in Calcutta, Tegart was  shot at by Gopinath Saha, an Indian revolutionary. He escaped unhurt as Saha erroneously shot down a white man, Mr. Ernest Day, whom he mistook for Tegart. It was a close call, but luck was on the side of this fearsome cop. He had yet another close brush with the death when, on 25 August 1930, at Dalhousie Square in Calcutta, a bomb was hurled at him by a revolutionary while traveling in a car, He escaped unhurt and he fired at the revolutionary. 

Tegart's efficiency and dedication in curbing the freedom-fighting activities of the Indians in Bengal left a lasting impression on Lord Lytton, then Governor of Bengal. He was awarded the KCIE in 1937. In view of his reputation as a tough police officer, to whom compromising and leniency were anathema, the British Government sent him to the ''British Mandate of Palestine'', to subdue the the Arab Revolt and  to advise the Inspector General on matters of security. He arrived there in December 1937. The rebellion was brewing in  Palestine in protest at the British decision to allow Jewish migration into the Holy Land from Europe. In the 1930s, Tegart  came up with a drastic and expensive solution - a network of fortresses that today stand as monuments to a lost empire. Those monuments are called Tegart forts, quite famous even to day.