Bengaluru: V.R. Lakshminarayanan earned fame among his peers and juniors as one of the country’s most distinguished IPS officers, someone who epitomised competence and integrity. But among the public at large, he will always be remembered as the man who arrested Indira Gandhi.
Lakshminarayanan, who died Sunday at the age of 91, was the brother of well-known jurist V.R. Krishna Iyer, and joined the IPS in 1951, rising to become the Director-General of Police (Housing) for Tamil Nadu.
However, his career wasn’t free of disappointment, most significantly when he missed out on the post of CBI director. Former CBI chief R.K. Raghavan wrote of him in an article for The Hindu a few years ago: “It was his unwillingness to compromise and bend while investigating corruption in the highest of places that cost him the coveted job. Eased out from his posting as additional director of the CBI, he was reverted to the state police.”
The arrest of Indira Gandhi
In his memoir, Appointments and Disappointments, Lakshminarayanan, or ‘VRL’ as he is fondly called, recalled the time in 1977 when he went to arrest Indira Gandhi, but decided that he would ask Rajiv Gandhi to urge her to surrender.
At that time, he was the joint director of the CBI, and was given orders by the Morarji Desai government to arrest Mrs Gandhi on corruption charges.
Raghavan, in his article on VRL, also brought up the incident as an example of his being a tough-but-respectful cop.
“I don’t want the rude hands of a policeman to be laid on the sacred person of a lady who was a former prime minister and who also happens to be Nehru’s daughter,” VRL told Rajiv Gandhi when he reached Indira Gandhi’s residence.
After a while, Mrs Gandhi emerged from her room and asked, “Where are the handcuffs?”
According to his book, VRL said, “I had served you loyally and well and got two medals from your hands for meritorious and distinguished service”, and added that he had since become lazy, and forgotten to bring the handcuffs.
Widely respected in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu chief minister M.G. Ramachandran was so impressed by VRL that he brought him to the state and gave him postings such as chief of vigilance and, later, DGP-housing board.
The state’s first woman IPS officer, G. Thilakavathi, who is now retired, fondly remembers VRL during the last phase of his police service in Tamil Nadu.
“He was a great man and people will always respect him for his unwavering fortitude and uprightness,” she told ThePrint.
Thilakavathi also said he was never given the top job of DGP because he would not agree to corrupt decisions or bending rules.
“He always had the welfare of policemen foremost in his mind, and he would advise all his juniors to remain truthful to the uniform,” she said.
VRL was also known for his generous attitude. He felt the pension given to him was more than the salary he earned, so he began donating for several causes, including last year’s Kerala floods.
Sense of humour
A senior former IPS officer recalled VRL’s quirky sense of humour, recalling an incident from a few years after his retirement, when his wife called a local police station to sort out an issue.
A junior police officer took the call and she mentioned that she was “Mr Lakshminarayanan’s wife”. The cop was not familiar with the name, and asked her who Lakshminarayanan was.
This made her livid. She went to her husband and complained that despite serving the police force for so many years, this junior officer was asking her who Lakshminarayanan was. To this, he replied: “Be happy he asked who Lakshminarayanan was, not which wife of Lakshminarayanan was calling!”