Special Branch Comes Calling

N K Singh in 1970


During late 60s and early 70s, Frontier had carved out a niche for itself among Left intellectuals, activists and academicians. At the same time, it had also become a necessary reading material for sleuths of various intelligence agencies.

The magazine offered a ringside view of polemics in radical Left groups. It also provided a rare glimpse into developments in the Naxalite movement. It was the kind of stuff the intelligence agencies would give their right arm for.

But it still came as a surprise when two intelligence officers visited my village in North Bihar to make inquiries about me. It naturally alarmed my father. He advised me to shift from Ranchi, as suggested by the ‘CID inspector’.

I loved Ranchi – not only for its beauty and climate. It was a civilised, clean, small town, unlike uncouth, dirty and unwieldy Patna, where I was being asked to move.

Captain Philip F. Reynolds

More than me, the news upset my patron, Captain Philip F. Reynolds, an Englishman settled in Ranchi. Probably he took it as a personal stigma because the sleuths visited my village soon after I started living in an outhouse of his bungalow.

Reynolds was one of those few Britishers who had decided to stay in India after Independence.

The ex-army man, a bachelor, lived in a small, crumbling bungalow with a few cats, one dog, a parrot, some books, a collection of tobacco pipes and a huge snake that was fond of crawling out of bushes even during daytime.

The place was set deep inside a vast orchard of mango, litchi and guava, alongside some vegetable plots and rose plants. It was famous in the area as ‘Angrez Ka Bangla’.

The tall, lean, stooping Englishman was in his early 50s then. He was an agreeable, kind man, although an introvert. He practised architecture for a living.

His bungalow at 26, Morabadi Road, shared its boundary with Ranchi College hostel where I used to live. That is how I came into contact with him.

He offered accommodation to me in an outhouse of his bungalow. I jumped at the opportunity. He took me under his wings, introducing me to English literature, Chinese food and western classical music. Even as I was staying with him, he came into some kind of inheritance and asked to come to London to claim the title of Lord D’Acre.

Learning of the police visit to my village, an enraged Reynolds hired services of a lawyer, who drafted a ‘title suit’ on my behalf asking the State to declare that “the plaintiff has no link with any political party or their activities.”

I was a minor. So, the ‘title suit’ needed my father’s permission. Lord D’Acre travelled 400 km to my village to seek it. But die had been cast. After a few weeks, I migrated from Ranchi to Patna University.

If you want to read my last article from Ranchi, please click here. The piece, carried by The Frontier, reveals what different Naxalite factions think about each other.


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