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Rat, pig, bed bug: the unkind lexicon of cop abuse

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:21 IST

A Delhi policeman has filed an FIR against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for calling him a 'thulla', a derisive term used by Delhiites to refer to their friendly khakhi-wearing, laathi-wielding neighbourhood cop. The term appears to have its origin in the slang thulla, meaning a jobless or a lazy person, but that's open to verification.

Nicknaming, or abusing, policemen is not unique to Delhi or India; the tradition, in fact, transcends national boundaries.

Here's a list, more indicative than exhaustive, of the special terms people in different places have for their law and order enforcer.


A Kashmiri's term of abuse for the cop, not exactly the most popular character around. Some prefer the term "1500 ti bath", a freeloader essentially; 1,500 being a reference to his salary.

Mama or Mamu

Probably one of the more harmless terms, used in Kolkata, Chennai, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Assam, everywhere really.


'Pandu Hawaldar' appeals to the celluloid-magnified stereotype of the fat, pot-bellied cop - lazy, over-fed and, of course, shamelessly corrupt.

Tholcha or Thola

The source of the term used in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh isn't confirmed. Similar to 'thulla'.

Mamagaru or Maavayya

Calling someone father-in-law in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has a similar connotation as saala, or brother-in-law, in Hindi, an abuse with explicit sexual insinuations.


Literally, the term means bed bug, but delivered in the colourful Deccani dialect of Hyderabad, it's a piercing insult. As a proud Hyderabadi puts it, "We can use it as, 'Arrey chal baap yahaan se niklenge, khatmalaan arrey (Let's get out of here, the bed bugs are coming!)"


If you thought only the Indian cop has it unkind, here's a sampler from across the border: In the Pakistani Punjab, they insult the policeman by hinting how his cheap Khaki can easily be peeled off. Chillad is peel.


The real nickname of the 19th century Tory prime minister Sir Robert Peel, who founded the Metropolitan Police, is used for his creation as well, not kindly either.


Americans aren't really famous for subtlety: Bacon is, of course, an offensive reference to pigs. In a better mood, they might say Popo, affectionate term for a grandfatherly figure. There is also the rather harmless Copper - the origin of the word 'cop' - which is someone who captures.


The Argentinians calls their cop Rati, which is derived from Rata, or rat. No points for guessing why.

First published: 20 July 2015, 11:48 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.