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Down with the lookbook

Sandhya Ravishankar | Updated on January 08, 2018

Fresh takes: DCP Kozhikode Merin Joseph is only the third Malayali woman officer in Kerala police

Kerala’s youngest IPS officer, Merin Joseph would rather that people focus on her work

“Nyc pic”.

“Wow aap IPS h?”.

“So smart #Mam”.

“Why cut your hair? U suitable length hair”.

“Wow so pretty”.

IPS officer Merin Joseph is no stranger to such comments on her looks on social media. She’s equally used to headlines, both in print and online articles, slotting her among the ‘10 most beautiful female IAS, IPS officers’. In May last year, Joseph (27), the youngest IPS officer in the Kerala cadre, took to Facebook to vent her ire against the casual sexism behind such “news articles”:

“This perfectly sums up what is wrong with the press in India, especially the vernacular press. Shameless objectification of women and propagation of patriarchal structures, reducing a lady’s worth to her face value. These are bold and brave officers working in the complex bureaucratic system in India, negotiating their way through the good, bad and ugly of our body politic- and here we have a list of officers whom people can ogle at. It’s seriously disgusting, constricting and very very demeaning to our identities as smart, intelligent self made women. Have you ever wondered why we never see a list of the most handsome males in the IAS and IPS??”

Such niggling annoyances notwithstanding, the deputy commissioner of police, Kozhikode, is keen to get on with her job.

“Social media allows everyone a voice and also gives them anonymity, so people think they can get away with saying just about anything,” Joseph told BL ink in a phone interview. “As far as my controversies are concerned, I see it only as the work of a few media channels who sort of utilised me to get their TRP ratings up... Having said that, I don’t think it has affected me professionally.”

Born and bred in Delhi, Joseph is an alumnus of St Stephen’s College who cleared the UPSC exams in her first attempt. She then underwent rigorous training at Hyderabad’s police academy. Only the third Malayali woman officer in Kerala police, that too after a gap of 24 years, she was just 25 when she joined duty. She went on to become the first woman commandant of the Kerala Armed Police Battalion - II in Palakkad this January. In August she moved to Kozhikode.

Joseph refuses to allow either her gender or age to come in the way of her professional goals. “If you’re constantly hung up over being a woman then you can’t win the respect of your peers and juniors,” she said. “In a department such as the police, people tend to think that a woman won’t be as competent as a man. So you have to exert yourself more. I don’t try to be a woman in a man’s world... I continue to be who I am and I have crafted my own style of working.”

And when she does things her way, success is not very far away either. “Of course, there are people around me who tend to think ‘she is young and won’t be able to perform’. I get a special satisfaction from proving them wrong,” she added.

The Independence Day parade of 2016 had Joseph leading from the front, making her the youngest Kerala officer to achieve that.

“Age tends to be a limitation to the extent that you don’t have the experience like others; and because you are young, others tend to take you lightly, like a kid — a slightly dismissive attitude. Even your juniors are slightly older, and there are officers in their 50s, and suddenly you come in as their boss. But this lack of experience is compensated in other ways — we are good managers, knowledgeable in other ways and have leadership skills. Those are the things you are supposed to bring into your IPS work.”

The controversies, lewd messages on social media and the negative media attention have only made her stronger, she insists. “The fact that they are making news out of little things about me shows me that I am being watched. That means I have the leverage of publicity, which can be used constructively. I can use all of that to convey a good message to youngsters. I look at it as a positive thing. I try to bring out the more humane side of the police, which I think has struck a chord with the public, especially youngsters.”



Published on October 06, 2017

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