Meet Inspector Dhoble., Sporting a moustache, hockey stick and a hunger for justice, he’s Mumbai’s Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP). Whether it is nightclubs, news headlines or twitter trends, Vasant Dhoble is making his mark on all and with great authority too.

Meet Dhoble. Mumbai’s Nightmare Cop

It’s almost as if he’s materialised from a Bollywood script.

Dhoble heads the Mumbai Police Social Service department, He also happens to be the disdained name hanging on every young Mumbaiker’s lips, for his strict enforcement of night club curfews and innumerable raids on restaurants and pubs. His recent reign under the provision of the Bombay Prohibition Act (1949) and the Bombay Police Act (1952) has ruffled the nerves of quite a few nightlife-loving citizens and bar owners. Under the Bombay Prohibition Act, which critics are calling archaic, people are required to hold paper permits if they wish to consume or carry alcohol at home or in a bar. A lifetime drinking permit costs Rs .1000; anyone caught without the permit faces imprisonment for up to 6 months and/or a hefty fine of Rs. 10,000. The same Act has been used to intensify the clampdown on drunk driving in Mumbai.

Police escorts party-goers outside a hotel in Juhu.
(Picture Courtesy: https://www.timeoutmumbai.net/bars-pubs-clubs/features/closing-time)

Dhoble’s stringent enforcement of these laws has earned him the reputation of a“Taliban cop”. He justifies his actions by saying that he needs to protect young people. However he often stays out of the media spotlight as much as he can by constantly declining to comment on his moral crackdown.  He rose to national infamy when he was caught on camera armed with a hockey stick while arresting foreign tourists under prostitution charges during one of his raids.  The suspects, two women, turned out to be sisters celebrating a birthday. They took him to court and sued him for a crore each. The Bombay High Court, however, ruled that Dhoble was doing his job and dismissed the defamation case against him.

Mumbai’s Police Commissioner, Arun Patnaik, has also defended Dhoble. as He recently told NDTV that “He is an officer of impeccable integrity.” He added, “If he had not done these things, he could have made hundreds of crores in a place like Mumbai”, referring to Dhoble’s strict stance against accepting bribes. In fact, Dhoble has conducted some 60 raids on nightclubs and launched a fierce campaign against prostitution, rescuing an estimated 650 girls in the process. However, it seems that in a city where other archaic laws are still passed and corruption is still rampant, Dhoble’s actions have caused something of a backlash.

In June, a protest was held in Mumbai by a group wearing black to symbolize the death of the city’s entertainment scene. So destructive is his force that a “Dhoble effect” was set into motion causing the Lakhme Fashion Week to cancel its after-party. The party was supposed to take place in early August.

Dhoble is making his mark all over social media as well.

A Facebook page called “Dhoble – Oppressor of the Innocent Public” has over 20,000 members. It towers in comparison to a Facebook page called “Support Mr Vasant Dhoble” which has only 223 members.

On Twitter, #dhoble is trending like mad. Here’s a selection of the top trending tweets on the commissioner:

Satbir Singh @thesatbir

You think U19 lads will drink tonight? #Dhoble

Ashwin Mushran @ashwinmushran

#DHOBLE likes beating up Mumbai citizens at night….He calls it a Night Club

Pritish Nandy ‏@PritishNandy

@VikasAgarwalll Rumours are they will now unleash a e-Dhoble with an e-hockeystick to teach errant tweeters a lesson.

Anish Trivide @anish_trivedi

Couldn’t the govt have promoted Patnaik and Dhoble to the Indian Hocket team instead?

The Oddfather @sureshontwitr

You say Dhoble I say Diablo

Zenny @zennmaster

I bet ACP Dhoble has claustrophobia. Makes ALL the sense in the world doesn’t it.

Rishi Alwani @slackerninja

ACP Vasant Dhoble is to nightlife what Kapil Sibal is to the internet.

Recently, party-goers saw glimmers of hope when the new Mumbai Police Chief Satyapal Singh asked Dhoble to report to the Crime Branch instead of reporting to him directly. Many upset citizens are hoping that rerouting him so that he needs to gain permission from the top orders instead will slow down this hockey-wielding vigilante.

In the process of uprooting Mumbai’s buzzing nightlife Dhoble has also proved that it is  difficult to tow the line between effective, moral policing and harassment. While doing so, however, he has managed to shine a light on the many gaps that exist in India between law and order.

So should Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan be looking to immediately soothe the naysayers of Mumbai’s Vasant Dhoble currently reeling under his reign? Or should he address the details of the Act itself and opt to amend it, so that it meets the rapidly changing standards of the 21st century?

Lastly, in 2005 a Committee headed by Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari was mooted to recommend amendments to the Bombay Prohibition Act. Where has that disappeared? It seems that it is now needed more urgently than ever…