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India’s most decorated and retired police officer Julio Ribeiro remembered KPS Gill, former Police chief of Punjab, who breathed his last in Delhi yesterday (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 KPS Gill was being hailed as a ‘national hero’ for his sincerely contribution to the Indian Establishment’s onerous task of ‘preserving nation’s unity’.

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

Unlike Rebeiro, 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 the minority bashing and inching for the establishment of Brahminical religio-cultural hegemony?

Over the years Rebeiro, however, has realized the pinch of prowling Hindutva — rather intensely– that he , being a Christian minority 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..”

Pertinently, Rebeiro is awfully aware about the minorities’ predicament in the present dispensation when referred to the followers of 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 but he was definitely immune to the political subtleties in practice which have now dawned upon Rebeiro .

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 Imperial zone of New Delhi with a tight security umbrella where he breathed his last.

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

Incensed with an ‘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 she succeeded in securing Gill’s conviction in her case.

But all human and civil rights violation and other excesses of KPS Gill seemed to have matter 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 the ‘Sikh separatism’ and vowed not to relent at any cost. And he remained affirm on his words 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 death, her daughter Indira Gandhi reluctantly accepted the Akalis’ demand. But she created a ‘truncated suba’ when India was facing an imminent war with Pakistan in 1965. But Indian polity became further centralized under Indira Gandhi’s regime to the chagrin of regional political outfits like Akalis.

The Akalis launched a morcha (an agitation) in 1980s for regional autonomy and acceptance of their other demands including fair distribution of river waters between Haryana and Punjab, both are parts of erstwhile Indian Punjab. Like her father, Indira Gandhi too painted the Akali demands as separatism and an open fight for ‘khalistan’ by dismembering India. 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 to be followed mopping operations by the army and clamping of curfew in whole state of Punjab.

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

Resorting to immoral tactics like getting the 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 repressive machinery was strong enough to eliminate the gun-totting 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 Janta Party and Modi brand of politics.

Those who were hailing Gills 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 : E-mail Jaspal.sdh@gmail.com

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  • K SHESHU BABU

    He might have been a ‘ supercop ‘ in the eyes of rulers but for common Punjabi, he was an oppressor and a stooge in the hands of rulers. His riole of massacre of sikhs ( his own community) remains a blot in history.