The ‘powerful’ men and their Punjab police

Manish Tiwari / Chandigarh

It is common knowledge that bureaucrats don’t like to indulge in ‘ugly fights’ with their brethren. Rather they like to stand by each other in an hour of crisis. This perception, however, is the reverse in the case of police officers. They may go to any extent to hit out at each other, and at times do their best to put behind bars a fellow officer.

In the past 18 years, I have been witness to numerous incidents when officers at the Punjab police headquarters took on each other. They did not even hesitate in washing their dirty linen in public either.

The on-going fight between some of the DGP-rank officers reminds me of those days in 2002-2007 when the then IG (Operations) Sumedh Singh Saini had a tiff with Punjab Vigilance Chief AP Pandey; the State DGP SS Virk fell out with his friend-turned-foe Saini, and the then ADGP (Crime) KK Attri and ADGP (IT&T) DR Bhatti and ADGP (Administration) Izhar Alam levelled serious allegations against each other, ultimately leading to a CBI inquiry against them in the purchase of wireless sets by the Punjab police.

 

Most officers who have made it to senior positions in Punjab police are professionally competent. Questioning their integrity, on one pretext or the other, would only open a “Pandora’s box”. For, many of them have fairly good knowledge about each other and no one should doubt their competence to “use or twist the facts”.

While some of the IPS officers sitting at the Headquarters worked out plans to arrest their fellow officers, when their time came, those on the receiving end at one point actually succeeded in putting their rivals behind bars. A few of the stalwarts were lucky enough to bury their hatchet and sort out differences well in time.

Battle lines have once again been drawn at the Headquarters. On one side are the two top IPS officers – State DGP Suresh Arora and DGP (Intelligence) Dinkar Gupta, and on the other is DGP (HRD) Siddharth Chattopadhyaya. Besides them, there are several others who are daggers drawn and would be waiting for the right opportunity to deal with their rivals.

After the recent fight came in the open, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, guided by his officers, tried to send a clear message to the top police brass to either fall in line or face the consequences. But it seems that it was not enough. The Chief Minister is required to first understand the genesis of the trouble and then take corrective measures. There seem to be many external forces at work who want the top police officers to fight among themselves. In a well-planned manner, selective information is being fed to the two factions, leading to a serious communication gap and further driving a wedge among the officers.

Most officers who have made it to senior positions in the Punjab police are professionally competent. Questioning their integrity, on one pretext or the other, would only open a “Pandora’s box”. For, many of them have fairly good knowledge about each other and no one should doubt their competence to “use or twist the facts”.

At one time, there was a feeling that the era of power struggle would come to an end after two batch-mates from the 1982 batch, and one-time close friends, a bonding now gone sour, the former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and the present Punjab DGP Suresh Arora, hung their boots in the next few months. Their other two illustrious batch-mates — Sanjiv Gupta who remained a powerful IG (Headquarters) for almost three years during the previous Capt Amarinder regime and the fourth in seniority in the batch — Rajinder Singh, have already superannuated. These batch-mates played a pivotal role in Punjab’s fight against terrorism. All the four were professionally competent to be the State police chief. The Punjab police bravely fought against militants as a cohesive force in the 1980s and early 90s. It may, however, not be easy for this ‘divided’ force to win the battle again if terrorism ever comes back to haunt the State of Punjab.

Today, instead of focusing on basic policing and the law and order situation, some officers seem to be more concerned about ‘controlling power’. For a few years during the previous regime, Sumedh Singh Saini clung on to the top position and now it is his batch-mate, Suresh Arora holding the fort.

The battle for the top slot is likely to get intense in the days to come. Needless to mention that DGP (Human Rights) Mohammad Mustafa, Dinkar Gupta, S. Chattopadhyaya, DGP (Law and Order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon and another DGP-rank officer, Jasminder Singh — all are in the queue for appointment as State Police Chief when the present incumbent Suresh Arora superannuates in August this year.

So far, Arora has done well but it may not have been easy for him to provide leadership to the “top heavy” department, especially his colleagues — some of whom have all kinds of opinion about others, including the State police chief himself. “Many of us in the IPS feel that we are born leaders. If that is so, who can give us the leadership?” quips an ADGP-rank officer.

Capt Amarinder is in saddle again. He proved to be a good ‘General’ during his previous stint and earned the respect of both civil and police officers. Then, the officers took liberty but also knew their limits. But in this tenure, the Captain seems to have allowed his officers to take their fights too far. A few days ago, the CM, who is also Punjab’s Home Minister, did try to intervene after the fight among top police brass became public, but he will have to look into the matter more seriously before it slips out of his hands. One way to deal with the situation would be to call the warring officers together and understand from them the “real solution” to their problems!

The sooner he does, the better it is for the State.

Manish Tiwari

(Editor-In-Chief, Dailyworld)

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