Mumbai Police stumbles upon its flag, 66 years after it was presented to force by then CM

Srinath Rao

The regimental colours

Mumbai Police recently stumbled upon its flag, called the regimental colours, 66 years after it was presented to the force by then Bombay State Chief Minister Morarji Desai.

Never once publicly displayed and lying all these years in the CID office in Pune, a 1954 article and photograph in a national daily, stored away in the newspaper’s archives, helped the police identify the flag correctly. From Republic Day onwards, the flag has been fluttering at the Mumbai Police Commissionerate in Crawford Market.

Senior police officers said what led them to the flag in the first place was a desire to find the origins of Mumbai Police’s emblem — a hand holding a baton, which in turn forms the spine of a balance scale. Unlike other police units in the state, Mumbai Police has always had its own emblem, distinct from that of the state police. In addition to Mumbai Police, the State Reserve Police Force is the only subsidiary police unit in Maharashtra that has its own regimental colours, which differ from the Presidential Colours — the state police’s dark blue flag.

The trail led the city police to the archives of CID in Pune, where a replica flag featuring the symbol was in storage. The Tricolour, the emblem and bands of gold and dark blue make up the flag. The dark blue caps encircled by a band of gold worn by Mumbai Police personnel are also thought to originate from the regimental colours.

“There was confusion in the CID over which unit this flag belonged to and debate about whether this was the regimental colours of the old Bombay Presidency Police,” an officer said.

That debate was settled earlier this month, when Mumbai Police stumbled upon a report in The Times of India, dated December 1, 1954. On that day, Morarji Desai, the then Chief Minister of undivided Bombay State, had presented the flag to the force in the presence of then Bombay Police Commissioner Kumar Shri Pravinsinhji during a parade at the Cooperage Ground. The article also featured a picture of the moment when a kneeling officer had received the flag from Desai. “That article helped establish that the replica was indeed Bombay Police’s regimental colours,” the officer added.

The flag then went to the Pune office of Bombay State Inspector General of Police M N Kamte, who is believed to have kept it in storage and to have never once displayed it in public. A year later, after Kamte moved the state police headquarters to Mumbai from Pune just before he retired, the regimental colours were among articles shifted to the state capital. Within the police ranks, the year when the regimental colours moved back to Pune CID is unclear. However, there is also a theory within the department that sometime in the 1970s, the city police adopted its baton and balance scale emblem from the regimental colours.

The flag predates that of Maharashtra Police, which was presented in 1961 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a year after the formation of the state. Since then, the state police flag — the Presidential Colours – has fluttered at the Mumbai Police Headquarters as well.

Following the discovery, the regimental colours of Mumbai Police has been fluttering at the Mumbai Commissioner’s Office in Crawford Market since Republic Day, alongside the Tricolour and Maharashtra Police flag. “As per the flag code, the flag will be fluttered in the office of the Commissioner of Police and also displayed at ceremonial parades like Police Formation Day and May 1,” said S Jayakumar, Additional Commissioner of Police, Local Arms.