Scientific Racism faced by Indian Fingerprint Scientists during Colonial Rule: Need to correct a Historical Wrong

SODHI, G.S. ; KAUR, JASJEET

Abstract

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, two Indian officers of the Bengal Police, Sub-Inspectors Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose worked out a mathematical formula for classifying fingerprints. This formula was soon adopted by all the nations across the globe for cataloguing criminal records. It is still being used worldwide. Unfortunately, due to the imperialist policies of the colonial rulers, the Indian policemen were sidelined and their English officer, Sir Edward Richard Henry shrewdly gave his name to the classification methodology. The world’s first fingerprint bureau was set up at Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1897 mainly by the efforts of Haque and Bose. In addition, Bose invented the telegraphic code system for fingerprints and published it in 1916. Sir Charles Stockley Collins of Scotland Yard, who is worldwide recognised as the originator of the fingerprint telegraphic technique, published his findings in 1921 — five years after Bose’s publication. Likewise, Bose devised the single-digit fingerprint classification system three years prior to Harry Battley who stole the credit for this invention. The then British government reciprocated the sagaciousness of Haque and Bose by awarding each of them an honorarium of Rs 5000/- and by conferring the titles of Khan Bahadur and Rai Bahadur, respectively on them. (After India became free these decorations were rendered meaningless, for all titles were abolished under an Act of the Constitution). However, this is not enough. Justice has been denied to Haque and Bose. Now that the colonial clouds have dispersed, it is pertinent to highlight the contribution of these police officers so that they may officially be recognised as pioneers of the science of fingerprinting.

Keyword(s)

Azizul Haque; Bengal Bureau; Classification system; Fingerprints; Hem Chandra Bose; Henry system; Telegraphic code

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