Built in 1860, Pydhonie Police Station is one of the oldest police stations in the entire Mumbai Police jurisdiction. Historians also claim that this structure is also the State’s oldest executive office.
The history of Mumbai deals with the growth of a collection of seven islands on the west coast of India that became the commercial capital of the country and one of the most populous cities of the world.
As one traverses through the narrow and busy lanes of Bhuleshwar in Old Mumbai, one will reach Pydhonie jurisdictional area – a commercial area wherein several wholesale markets, transport companies, steel, grocery, dry fruits, hardware, grain, sugar, oil seeds merchants carry on their business. What is special about this jurisdiction is its historical importance for the police. Pydhonie Police Station is one of the oldest police stations in the entire Mumbai Police jurisdiction. As one reaches the station, a heritage structure, one will see the testimony of its historical importance. Etched on the arch at the entrance of the building is ‘1860’ signifying the year the station was established.
Hand-drawn carts, narrow lanes with old structures, the sounds of adhaan (call to prayer) from Hamidiya mosque and songs from the Jain temple across the street surround the police station, reflecting the diverse population of the area. Though the predominant population of this area comprises Muslims, there are a few pockets like Cheeky Street, Narayan Dhruv Street, Narsi Natha Street and Keshavji Naik Road where there are pockets of Hindus clustered together. Sixty per cent of the business activity in this area is controlled by Hindus. This area has 28 mosques and 39 temples,” reads an unedited excerpt from Volume II, Chapter I of Justice BN Srikrishna Report.
The stone facade with its iron- railing arch balconies on every floor, the iron stairs with ancient grills that cover the sides and teak ceiling provide a glimpse of what the 154 year old three-storey police station may have looked like, despite its current modern interiors. “This is the oldest police station in the city from records,” said city historian, Deepak Rao.
Historians also claim that this structure is the State’s oldest executive office.
Having been built just three years after the first mutiny of 1857 could explain its unique design, said Rao. “Unlike most police stations where the Duty Room and Senior Inspector’s room are on the ground floor, at Pydhonie, all offices are on the first floor and second floors. It was designed in an era where officers were concerned about their safety in a city populated with locals. It is like a fort, such that officers could command the area and have control over who entered the station. Pydhonie station is part of the old Native Quarter,” Rao said.
Maybe it was intuition. More than 100 years later, this police station was where cases related to gang wars, smuggling, drugs and communal tensions were mostly filed. “Dawood’s aide Rajji (Mehendi), gangster Chhota Ghassu and famous outlaw Shakti Tufani had cases lodged against them. Even Jenna Bai, who used to settle scores between gangsters and was an influential woman among gangs, at times worked as an informer for Pydhonie Police,” said a former ACP.
In 1993, Pydhonie Police Station became the epicentre of the Bombay riots. “According to the police, the first major communal incident occurred in this jurisdiction near Minara Masjid on December 6, 1992. “The first bullet during the riots was fired near the Pydhonie Station and the first bus stoning during the riots also happened in this jurisdiction,” said Madhukar Zende, the ACP during the 1993 riots and famous for his arrest of serial killer Charles Sobhraj.
Nevertheless, for Pydhonie Police Station’s current officers who seem oblivious to its rich history, the ground floor holds an important piece of history. “The ground floor has one of the oldest lock-ups in the city; it was here that freedom fighter Veer Damodar Savarkar was kept after his second arrest,” said a police officer. The lock-up is a small room with no natural source of light and whose ventilation vents open into other rooms. “Though we do not have papers to prove it, this is what we have heard from our seniors,” an officer added. Although historians concede that this could be one of the oldest lock-ups in the city, they refute the Sarvarkar claim. “There is no evidence of this,” said Rao.
The ground floor now houses police records and the adjoining rooms with their heavy iron latches house stolen goods as evidence. Until recently, the Pydhonie police jurisdiction had the oldest police chowkie (Null Bazaar) in the city. This chowkie is now under the JJ Marg Police Station. “Nobody pays much attention to the heritage value of this police station. Only those who want to write books on the city’s heritage care to know. I have pleasant memories of this police station,” said Zende.
Source: Indian Express.
– by Mohit Naik