Himanshu Roy

The epitome of efficiency

Print edition : June 08, 2018

Himanshu Roy addressing a press conference in Mumbai in July 2012 as Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime). Photo: PTI

Himanshu Roy (1963-2018), who headed several high-profile police investigations that made national headlines, will be remembered as a fine officer.

Himanshu Roy was the “top cop”, the “super cop”, the “rambo man”. Possessing a strong physique and a larger-than-life personality, he looked like all his epithets. He was only 54 years old when he ended his own life with his privately licensed weapon. It was not the sort of ending anyone would have imagined for him. But then, when cancer takes over there is little a mere mortal can do.

Roy’s decision, in a sense, was true to character. He did what he thought was best for himself and, strange as it may sound, for his family as well. “He was depressed with the pain and with knowing it was terminal. He didn’t want to put either himself or his family through the prolonged agony and withering away that is the usual way cancer claims people,” said someone who knew him well. “What else was a man like him expected to do? That 104-year-old man [the scientist David Goodall who ended his life by choosing active euthanasia in Switzerland] is allowed to take his life and go in a dignified way. Why don’t we have that here… why should a man like Himanshu have had to suffer?”

According to a statement by the Mumbai Police, Roy in his suicide note explained his reason for ending his life as depression because of the terminal nature of his cancer. The cancer had initially been discovered in the kidney but later spread to the bone. He had been on medical leave since 2016, and according to news reports, his doctors felt his condition had improved. Clearly, Roy did not feel so.

The son of a Mumbai general practitioner who had a clinic in Mumbai’s red light area and had the old-world courtesies and grace of treating sex workers for free, Roy seemed to have inherited his father’s kindness for helpless people. He was known to have helped several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) unobtrusively. He also had a soft spot for animals and children. Within the police force, there seems to be a genuine consensus about the sadness of his death. That he was a “fine officer” with a “great career” and his death “is a great loss” to the police force is the general opinion. Roy had an impressive career graph. He was Joint Commissioner (Crime) with Mumbai Police, after which he headed the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), moved briefly to police housing and then was given what turned out to be his final posting as Additional Director General (Establishment). He had five and a half years of service left, and those in the know say he was “CP [Commissioner of Police] in waiting”.

A Bombay boy to the core, Roy initially trained and worked as a chartered accountant but then chose government service as a career. He opted for the Indian Police Service and was part of the 1988 Maharashtra cadre batch. In his 30-year career, he helmed some very high-profile cases. In 1991, still as a young officer, he was posted in Malegaon, a communally sensitive town. In the post-Babri scenario, there were riots and the situation was tense in Malegaon, but Roy’s handling of simmering communal tensions received praise and he was rewarded with a promotion. He was soon posted as the youngest Superintendent of Police in Nashik (Rural).

As ATS chief

As chief of the ATS, he handled the case of the seven bombs that ripped through Mumbai’s suburban train network killing more than 200 people and injuring over 700 in July 2006. While in the ATS, he was also responsible for the arrest of Anees Ansari, a software engineer who was accused of planning an attack on the American School of Bombay in October 2014.

Roy handled the case of Areeb Majeed, the alleged Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruit. Majeed was one of four young men from Kalyan (near Mumbai) who left India in May 2014 to join the ISIS. He was brought back to the country in September 2014 and is currently on trial.

Roy’s transfer to the ATS followed a case in which he garnered much public attention. He was Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) from 2012 to 2014 and led the investigation into the 2013 Indian Premier League betting scandal in which the actor Vindoo Dara Singh, son of the wrestler Dara Singh, was arrested for his alleged links to bookies in spot-fixing. In the same case, Roy arrested Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of N. Srinivasan, former International Cricket Council president and owner of the Chennai Super Kings franchise. Roy’s team put together call records of conversations between Vindoo and Meiyappan, which helped expose the betting scandal.

When the journalist Jyotirmoy Dey was shot dead in 2011, his killers were identified within a fortnight as members of the Chota Rajan gang. In this case Roy came in for some fire when he and his team pointed a finger of accusation at the journalist Jigna Vora, saying she instigated the crime. She was recently acquitted by the court.

The probe into the gruesome Laila Khan murder was also captained by Roy. The case involved the murder of the Pakistan-born Bollywood actor Laila Khan and five members of her family. They were reported missing in 2011, and their bodies were discovered a year later at a farmhouse belonging to the actor. At a press conference, Roy described how the bodies were found in deep pits with large rocks on the surface. Though this case is still in the courts, interrogation revealed at the time that Laila Khan’s mother’s third husband had killed them all in a rage because he believed he was going to be abandoned when they left for Dubai.

Roy is credited with setting up Mumbai’s Cyber Crime cell as well as establishing a special cell to handle crimes relating to women. He was at the forefront in the Shakti Mills rape case in which a young woman reporter was gang-raped while on assignment in August 2013. Within three days, Roy and his team arrested all five accused. In July 2014, the accused were convicted and the case was wrapped up.

The multifaceted Roy had interests as varied as spiritual philosophy, Hindustani music and fitness. Roy is survived by his wife, Bhavna.

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