Punjab acted as 'military state' under KPS Gill

Jaspal Singh Sidhu | May 31, 2017 10:45 AM
Jaspal Singh Sidhu

India’s most decorated and retired police officer Julio Ribeiro remembered KPS Gill, former Police chief of Punjab, who breathed his last in Delhi on May 26,2017 as ‘the best operations officer ..who ended Khalistani terror.… who hunted terrorists down single-mindedly with spectacular success’.

Naturally, Ribeiro was supposed to give such tribute to his departed colleague who was second to him in hierarchy when the former was DGP in Punjab. And the occasion also demanded that Ribeiro should not speak of his ‘true mind’ when Gill was being hailed as a ‘national hero’ for his sincere contribution to the Indian Establishment’s onerous task of ‘preserving nation’s unity’.

Enjoying a free hand from the Central government with absolute impunity, Gill; who succeeded Rebeiro, fought against ‘Sikh terrorism’ from the front and was acclaimed as a ‘nationalist Sikh professional ’ whose expertise was sought after by  many and used in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and other troubled states for bringing about peace there.

Unlike Ribeiro, Punjab’s ‘Super cop’ Gill who himself belonged to the Sikh minority, continued to flaunt about his mastery in ‘ eliminating terrorism’ till his last and did not seem to have spared a moment for his soul-searching about ‘why India’s Centralized Authority is branding all sort of political dissidence – ranging from regional, ethnic to Maoism – as ‘terrorism’ ? And how come the Indian democratic polity has turned into a majoritarian regime with aggressive Hindutva consolidating itself by minority bashing and inching towards the establishment of Brahminical religio-cultural hegemony?

Over the years Ribeiro, however, felt the pinch of prowling Hindutva — rather intensely – that he , belonging to the Christian minority, realized that he was used as an ‘instrument’ for fighting against another minority’s upsurge which was rooted in the denial of political accommodation to the Sikhs. He writes in Indian Express in March, 2015:

“When only Christian was chosen to go to Punjab to fight ‘nation’s battle’ against separatists ( me ) accepted demotion from the secretary in the Union Home Ministry to become DGP in Punjab.”

“Today in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country …. The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them, condemn me for practicing a religion that is different from theirs….. I am not an Indian anymore , at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra..”

Those who were hailing Gill and his ilk and celebrating the ‘return of peace and democratic politics’ in Punjab till recently, should ponder over that ‘unscrupulous politicking always begets immoral and fascist political dispensation’.

Pertinently, Ribeiro is awfully aware about the minorities’ predicament in the present dispensation when he referred to the followers of RSS ideologue MS Golwalker, gau-rakshaks and anti-Romeo squads as those who, enjoying impunity, are hunting for the OTHERS whom they conveniently brand ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘non-Indians’. And he puts questions to those who sent him to Punjab to restore peace and ‘rule of law’ there: “Minority may be forced to being second class citizens. But will there be better life if the rule of law is forsaken by those mandated to uphold it ?”

Though Gill claimed to be a student of literature and connoisseur of Urdu poetry, he was definitely immune to the political subtleties in practice which have now dawned upon Ribeiro.

On the other hand, Gill was known for his boastful blurbs and he used to say that he himself being a Jatt Sikh knew how to handle the Jatt Sikhs who formed the backbone of the militancy in Punjab.

A ‘national icon’, Gill remained a highly despised person among the Sikhs in general. During and after he left his coveted office of DGP Punjab police, Gill always remained a target of the Sikh militants. Apprehending a security threat to his life after his retirement too, the Central government allotted an official bungalow to Gill in the Imperial zone of New Delhi with a tight security umbrella and where he breathed his last.

In Punjab, he was said to have used every conceivable crude method for the elimination of gun-toting Sikh militants which included extra-judicial killings, raising of private army of vigilante groups and floating ‘police killer squads’.

Incensed with ‘unbridled power’, Gill led a licentious life and even misbehaved with a senior lady IAS in an official meeting in Chandigarh. When her complaint was ignored by the government, Ms Rupan Deol moved to the court and after a protracted 17-year long struggle succeeded in securing Gill’s conviction in her case.

But all human and civil rights violations and other excesses of KPS Gill seemed to have mattered nothing for the Indian Establishment pursuing a bigger agenda of building an Indian Nation.

This was New Delhi’s agenda from day one when the British quit after transferring power to Congress leaders Nehru, Patel et al. In search of ‘political accommodation’, leaders of the Sikhs who had chosen to side with India, first launched an agitation for carving out a Punjabi language based state –Punjabi suba. But Nehru suspected their struggle for the suba (for separate state within the country ) as ‘Sikh separatism’ and vowed not to relent at any cost. And he remained firm on his word and did not budge a bit during his life even as the Sikhs’ political outfit– the Akali Dal– continued to intensify its fight for 16 years at a stretch.

After Nehru's death, his daughter Indira Gandhi continued to oppose the Akalis’ demand which was reluctantly accepted by Lal Bahadur Shashtri who had succeeded Nehru when India was facing a war Pakistan in 1965. But the Indian Establishment saw to it that the demand should not be accepted in toto and created a ‘truncated suba’ keeping its capital and river water head works out of the newly created state. New Delhi also introduced 78,79 and 80 clauses in the Punjab Reorganization Act retaining crucial powers like distribution of river-waters in its hand.

With Indira Gandhi coming to power in the Centre, the Indian polity became further centralized to the chagrin of other regional political outfits including the Akalis.

The Akalis launched a morcha (agitation) in the 1980s for regional autonomy and acceptance of their other demands, including fair distribution of river waters between Haryana and Punjab. Like her father, Indira Gandhi too portrayed the Akali demands as ‘Sikh separatism’ and dubbed it as an attempt to dismember India for the creation of ‘Khalistan’. And, the media became a ‘willing tool’ in demonizing the Sikhs as ‘aggressor, unreasonable and communal’.

The protracted Akali agitation traditionally launched from the Golden Temple complex brought in its wake a full-fledged army attack on the Sikhs' supreme religious shrine followed by mopping operations by the army and clamping of curfew in the whole state of Punjab.

This was the beginning of the whole-sale repression of the Sikhs as a community followed by their genocide in November 1984 and a decade-long blood-letting in Punjab.

Resorting to immoral tactics like getting  Sikh militancy crushed under the command of a Sikh officer like Gill while keeping the all-out support of Hindutva force hidden, the Indian State’s repressive machine was strong enough to eliminate the gun-toting youth along with their sympathizers.

Undemocratic and shady handling of the so-called Punjab problem by New Delhi has not only changed the texture of Indian politics but the suppression of the Sikh minority paved way for the rise of Hindutva force also. Thus, in the repression of the Sikhs, Indira Gandhi created a fertile ground for the Bharatiya Janata Party and Modi brand of politics.

Those who were hailing Gill and his ilk and celebrating the ‘return of peace and democratic politics’ in Punjab till recently, should ponder over that ‘unscrupulous politicking always begets immoral and fascist political dispensation’.

*Jaspal Singh Sidhu is an author and journalist and can be reached at jaspal.sdh@gamil.com


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