Recruited as a constable in the Punjab Police in 1987, Gurmeet Singh Pinky rose steadily through the ranks in the next few years, his speciality being encounter killings. It wasn’t an encounter killing, however, that saw him getting a life sentence for murder in 2001, but the random shooting down of one Avtar Singh Gola. He was quietly released last year and reinstated in service this May, but the order was overturned. Now contesting the reversal in court, Pinky has, in a taped confession, spilled the beans on his years with the Punjab Police. Here is his chilling description of how fake encounters were routinely used by Punjab Police units to quell militancy and the individual cases he was involved in.
In March 1986, with militancy spiralling out of control in Punjab, Julio Ribeiro, a Maharashtra-cadre IPS officer, was brought in as the Director General of Police. To take the militants head-on, he framed the “bullet for bullet” policy. Things spun further out of control, and President’s rule was reimposed in 1987. K.P.S. Gill was brought in to fine-tune anti-terrorist operations. In a no-holds-barred campaign lasting over five years, police scored major successes. A number of police officers too fell to terrorists’ bullets. After the 1992 polls, boycotted by the Akali Dal and in which turnout was thin, a Congress government led by Beant Singh took charge. He supported the anti-terrorist ops to the hilt, which led to his assassination in a bomb attack in Chandigarh in August 1995. However, when Gill handed over the Punjab DGP’s baton later that year, terrorism had been crushed. Punjab Police were credited with achieving the unthinkable. Since then peace has prevailed. But there was always talk of the brutal methods used. These voices have become louder, especially in the Sikh diaspora, with charges of human rights abuses all over the internet. Now, with the SAD-BJP government facing strong anti-incumbency, radical Sikh groups have come together to raise a litany of grievances. There are rumblings in the police too. The moot point is: What was the extent of human rights abuses? Will there be closure to Punjab’s turbulent chapter, now brought alive by the sensational confessions of a former Punjab cop?
“In (the) name of fighting terrorism, utter falsehood was enacted day after day. Suspects were picked up in one place, taken to a second, kept in a third, and encounter shown in yet another place. What I have seen and was associated with would shock people.”
—Gurmeet Singh Pinky
On November 2, 1992, when gunshots rang out of a fourth floor apartment on Antop Hill in Mumbai, local cops from the nearby police station rushed to surround the apartment building. Sweating profusely, with his nose bleeding and shirt torn, a plainclothes person rushed out with a pistol in hand. Shouting out to the Mumbai cops atop nearby buildings, he said he was a Punjab Police sub-inspector who had killed dreaded militant Rana Partap Singh alias ‘Khadoor Sahib’, a self-styled Lt General of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF). Within minutes, the then DCP of the Mumbai area, A.A. Khan, was also on the scene. The revolver-wielding man was Gurmeet Singh Pinky, who had travelled overnight with a police informer and four others from Khanna in Punjab to hunt for the militant, who carried a reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head. Pinky was already well-known in Punjab as a “hit man” for senior officers. The shootout at Antop Hill went on to find mention in Bollywood movies such as Ab Tak Chhappan. During K.P.S. Gill’s two tenures as DGP (1988-1990 and 1991-1995), the Punjab Police earned the distinction of quelling terrorism in the border state through a network of informers and with strong-arm actions, including encounters. During his 19-year career in the police, Pinky was at the forefront of some of these actions. He claims to have had a hand in the arrest/killing of a number of top militants, including Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Gurmukh Singh Nagoge and Harkewal Singh Sarabha. Besides, he arrested well-known militant leaders like Jagtar Singh Hawara and Daljit Singh Bittu. He’s lost count of the reward money that he got for his “kills” in uniform. He also got the President’s Police Medal for his efforts.
Grotesquely overweight, today Pinky, 56, is a parody of the dreaded ‘killer cop’ he once was. Once the blue-eyed boy of senior cops, including Sumedh Singh Saini (who was Punjab DGP till October ’15), now he feels betrayed by the system. “I have been used, exploited and let down by the very officers I had stuck my neck out for. I had risked my life time and again on their asking,” says a visibly angry and hurt Pinky (see interview). In a series of no-holds barred interviews to Outlook, therefore, he has revealed shocking details of police kidnappings, encounters—fake and real—and also killings in cold blood by senior officers in his presence. Doesn’t he fear the consequences of his revelations? “I don’t care, for I have served a life term in jail for a murder that I did not commit. I was asked to keep my mouth shut on the promise that my interests would be safeguarded. But I am on the road [His wife, incidentally, was getting his police salary while he was in jail]. Why should the seniors who committed greater crimes get away?”
While many in police swear by his “extraordinary work” during the difficult militancy period, there are others in Punjab and abroad baying for Pinky’s blood. The former cop remains on the hit list of militants, and moves around with an armed escort. But the man who had no qualms in using any means to achieve his ends now fears the same fate at the hands of the police. “I fear being harmed for knowing too much and daring to speak out,” he says. Recounted here are the particulars of the fake encounters he was involved in, in all their chilling detail:
How encounters were staged...
In Ludhiana district, while the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) appeared to be the centrepoint of most anti-militancy-related activity, the real pivot was the 82 Battalion Headquarters at nearby Dugri. CRPF Deputy Commandant Chanchal Singh and Ludhiana SP (Operations) B.S. Gill, a CRPF officer on deputation, coordinated most of the activity relating to suspected militants who were picked up and became secret informers (‘cats’—shortened from ‘concealed apprehension techniques’). One of their prize catches, says Pinky, was Gurcharan Singh Saidpur of the International Sikh Youth Federation. It was Saidpur who got suspected militant Kamaljit Singh of Bholath arrested in 1989, he says. Kamaljit had been involved in the ambush of a police inspector in Kapurthala district but had proved to be a hard nut to crack; he would only utter “Wahe guru” when subjected to third degree torture. Inspector Shiv Kumar of the Ludhiana CIA, according to Pinky, arranged for Kamaljit’s “encounter”. B.S. Gill, when asked about his specific role in the alleged fake encounter, said, “off-hand I am not able to recall what is being alleged. These are very old cases.” On persistent questioning, he said he knew Pinky well and that the latter was apparently saying all sorts of things because he was angry with the police department.
Saidpur, according to Pinky, also identified KCF militants Sher Singh Sher of Pandori village near Phagwara, Patiala Medical College student Ajmer Singh Lodhiwal and Bakhtaura Singh Bathinda of Fallad village, the latter two arrested by the CRPF in Model Town, Ludhiana. Lodhiwal took cyanide when the CRPF tried to arrest him, Bakhtaura was picked up and his hip dislocated during interrogation. Sher Singh, along with Bakhtaura, says Pinky, was later handed over to Dehlon SHO Guddu Shamsher Singh, who arranged for his “encounter” as an “unidentified” person. Sher Singh’s father Daljit Singh says they learnt about his killing in an “encounter” from newspapers, and was given his ashes and belongings by the Sherpur police in Barnala district only after running from pillar to post. “No one ever told us how it all happened,” he says. Bakhtaura’s mother, Jarnail Kaur, too says they were never informed about the whereabouts of her son nor was the body given. “Later we learnt he was killed in an ‘encounter’ with some others. We never got his body for cremation,” she says. The kith and kin of these militants, says Pinky, would never get to know anything about their fate because they remained in illegal custody and were never shown as arrested on paper.
Prof Bulara’s killing led to a shutdown of all universities in Punjab for many days.
The disappearance of Professor Rajinderpal Singh Bulara was one more sensational case reported during the peak of militancy. On February 15, 1989, the Ludhiana police in Punjab had announced that the three persons killed in an encounter on January 26 had been identified as Prof Bulara and his two accomplices. The killing had resulted in a major shutdown of all universities in Punjab for many days. Throwing fresh light on the killings, Pinky says, “The encounter was fake. Prof Bulara was kidnapped and killed by the police. Also, there were four persons, not three, as claimed by my seniors, who were killed in that incident.” Bulara, who was teaching at the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, had gone underground in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar. It was again on a tip-off from Saidpur that the police took action, says Pinky. They nabbed Bulara on the afternoon of January 25, 1989, from outside a restaurant in Sector 15, Chandigarh, along with three others. The police were in four vehicles, and Saidpur in one of them, identifying the four as they came there. The raid was conducted by a CIA party led by Shiv Kumar (who later became SP). The SHO of Payal police station, Sant Kumar (who later became DSP), was also with them. Pinky, then a junior functionary in the CIA, took active part in the whole operation. Prof Bulara had come on a tractor belonging to his relatives. “One of the four resisted being picked up and a cyanide capsule had to be pushed down his throat by Inspector Sant Kumar,” Pinky recalls. While he collapsed, the remaining three were bundled into the vehicles and taken towards Ludhiana. A constable was asked to drive away the tractor Bulara had come on. En route, the raiding party flashed a message to (then SSP) Sumedh Singh Saini and SP (Operations) B.S. Gill, “goal scored, match won”. Promptly, a message was flashed back, “Come to Dugri (HQ of the 82 Battalion of the CRPF).” The three were produced before Saini, who was present along with Gill. “We had covered Prof Bulara’s face with a blanket,” recounts Pinky. “He was ushered in before Saini, who in filmi style clapped his hands and said, ‘khul ja sim sim’ and we lifted the veil.” The SSP then asked Bulara if he had threatened to eliminate him for allegedly humiliating his wife in custody. When Bulara denied having said anything like that, he was brought face to face with Saidpur.
Pinky claims he was witness to what happened then. He heard Saini tell SHO Sadar Kanwarjit Singh (later SP) to give Bulara the “train ride (“gaddi chadaoo”), and asked the rest of them to go and celebrate. “We, who had brought Bulara from Chandigarh, were given Rs 10,000, and we drank ourselves silly that evening at a restaurant,” says Pinky. Prof Bulara and two others were killed that night in a fake encounter in a riverine area (“Bet”), and passed off as unidentified persons who were heavily armed. The weapons “planted” on the three had been recovered with Saidpur’s help from a place in Ropar district. Those killed along with Bulara included Davinderpal Singh Happy of Mullanpur Garibdas and Prabhjit Singh Mintu of Chandigarh. The person forced to take the cyanide pill outside the Chandigarh hotel was Avtar Singh of Dao Majra village near Payal. It was only on February 15, 1989, that, bowing to public pressure, the Ludhiana SSP addressed a press conference in which he stated that those killed in the Bet “encounter” had been identified and included Prof Bulara and two others. Prof Bulara’s wife, Rajinder Kaur, who later became an MP, told me that while they knew that her husband was killed in a fake encounter, they still don’t know the details of how he was killed. “The whole police story,” claims Pinky, “was hogwash.” When we tried to contact Shiv Kumar for his version, the cellphone was immediately switched off.
Released or killed as per whims of officers
Pinky claims that various militants and criminals were held, released or killed on the whims and fancies of the senior officers. In February 1990, when Saini was transferred from Ludhiana as Bathinda SSP, Pinky too moved with him. On transfer, says Pinky, various militants-turned-cats were rounded up and handed over to different SHOs to be killed in staged encounters. One such was Gurpreet Singh of Sibia village, near Raikot, a student of GNE, Ludhiana, who was wanted in a number of cases. He was handed over to Raikot SHO Piara Singh Multani to be “encountered” as an “unidentified person”.
Pinky also claims many of the militants were in touch with senior police officers.
Saidpur, however, escaped that fate, though he too had been initially handed over to the Samrala SHO for “doing the needful”. He had proved to be “our biggest asset”, says Pinky, and he was allowed to go abroad to the US as a “reward”. In fact, says Pinky, Saidpur feared getting killed by militants and was deliberately framed in a case under the Arms Act in Ropar district and sent to jail. Later, when he applied for a passport, a favourable police report was managed so that he could go abroad. Now in Seattle, Saidpur vehemently denies having helped the police in identifying any of the militants. He claims he had no hand in Prof Bulara’s arrest and killing and was taken into custody a day after the professor’s killing. He admits that he remained in the illegal custody of the security forces for over a year but this was because he had refused to cooperate with them. “Pinky, who is a convict in a murder case, can say anything. Yes, I was arrested in Ropar, but not under the Arms Act,” says Saidpur. He also denies having been helped to get a passport made and claimed that he got his passport made in Delhi by paying off someone. “I am still on the government’s black list and am being targeted by the police because some of us sitting in the US support the orphans of the militants,” he said in a lengthy telephonic conversation.
Instructions from the top
Pinky also recalls how, in 1989, they had chanced upon a person belonging to a Hindu militant outfit who was carrying an illegal weapon. His interrogation revealed that he was part of a wide network of Hindu radicals and led the police to recovering three sten guns, 35 pistols and a huge cache of ammunition. As the police were about to lodge an FIR, Ludhiana BJP leader Lajpat Rai barged into the CIA office to protest. “SSP Saini also arrived and we were told not to file the FIR and release the illegal weapons,” recalls Pinky.
Pinky also claims that many of the militants were in touch with the senior officers. “We were made to let go of many persons who we would arrest following tip-offs,” he says. He recounts how they had arrested a Rajinder Choda from Kartarpur, who gave them vital information about top-level militants. “While you are arresting me,” he told his arrest party, “your own senior officers are talking for hours with our top-level militant leaders, including Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala.” Sure enough, there was instant pressure from an official of a nodal intelligence agency who said that Choda was their source and should therefore be released. “Since an illegal weapon had been found on him, I refused to let him go. The then Ludhiana SSP, P.S. Sandhu, called me and told me to go and leave Choda back in Kartarpur. It is another matter that Choda was killed by militants three days later as they got suspicious about his release,” reveals Pinky. “That is when I felt that terrorism was being controlled by certain people at the top.”
‘Pinka Mohali shot in my presence’
Pinky narrates a shocking case in which he personally saw Saini, then Ludhiana SSP, shoot militant Pinka Mohali with his weapon at CIA, Ludhiana. Listed as a non-hardcore militant, Pinka was arrested by a CRPF party led by Chanchal Singh and handed over to CIA, Ludhiana. He was interrogated in the presence of Saini, and when he refused to part with any information, the police tried to force a cyanide capsule down his throat. The pill did not have the desired effect so he was forced to drink pesticide. But this too did not work. Seeing this, Saini, according to Pinky, lost his cool and shot Pinka in the forehead. When asked who all were present when this happened, Pinky says there was, besides himself, cop Satpal (who later became a sub-inspector). Pinky recalls how Satpal tried to take credit for the arrest and requested the SSP to give him a C2 (which would enable him to get promoted to the next rank of head constable). “The SSP jokingly told him that if he drank the rest of the pesticide mixture, he would give him the C2!” Saini says. Satpal, who was also Shiv Kumar’s driver, panicked. Shiv Kumar himself was also there on the scene as was CRPF’s Chanchal Singh and Joginder Singh Khaira, SP (D). Then CIA inspector Sant Kumar took the body away in a Gypsy and reportedly dumped it in the Bhakhra canal, as was the norm. As the arrest of Pinka Mohali had not been shown, no case was registered and the killing remained unknown to the outside world. The family members of Pinka Mohali, whose real name was Jasbir Singh, were never given any information of his death in police custody, forget his body or any of his belongings. His brother Ajitpal Singh said he was in Mumbai when a close relative informed him about Pinka’s death in an “encounter” somewhere in Ludhiana district. They had learnt about it later from a newspaper cutting.
The elimination of the Jatanas
Pinky also talks about certain cases that took place in Chandigarh while Saini was SSP. His favourite at the time, Pinky would spend most of his time in Chandigarh even though he was still officially posted in Ludhiana. On August 9, 1991, Saini was returning after lunch when there was a bomb attack. Three persons were killed, and the SSP was among those injured. Since just a week earlier, he had received a threatening letter from Babbar Khalsa, he suspected this to be the handiwork of its activists Balwinder Singh Jatana and Charanjit Singh Channa. The day after the attack, when Pinky went to call on him at the PGI, Saini broke down and swore revenge. In chaste Punjabi, he told him “apan chadna nahin” (we will not spare them).
“If I admit to being associated with 50 killings, why wouldn’t I admit to a 51st?”
Four members of the Jatana family—aged 80 years, 40 years, 13 years, and an infant—were killed and set on fire. No one is willing to talk about it even now, except to say that it happened at about 2.30 in the night. “Early morning, the village granthi saw the burnt house and informed everyone,” says a villager. Jatana and Channa were killed later on September 4, 1991, in an encounter at Saidpur in Patiala. The attack on Saini, it later turned out, had in fact been carried out by another outfit, Khalistan Liberation Force, and the Jatanas had no role in it.
It was he who had been initially assigned to carry out the attack in Jatana village, says Pinky. He told Saini he would have to procure weapons for the task from Ludhiana, where he was posted. Pinky left for Ludhiana soon after, only to discover that the deed had been done by the time he was returning to Chandigarh. The attack had been carried out by Ajit Singh Poohla, who narrated the whole sequence of events to Pinky while the two were lodged in jail in Ludhiana. In 2008, Poohla was attacked, kerosene poured on him and he was set on fire by fellow inmates in Amritsar jail. He died soon after.
Saini’s vengeance, however, went on. Channa’s brother Balwinder Singh, a head constable himself, was killed by a gun-wielding motorcyclist at about the same time. “While this was given out to be the result of gang warfare, it was the handiwork of the police on instructions from seniors,” Pinky claims. Satpal Channa, a third brother, says Balwinder had gone to the market when he was shot. “His killing has remained a mystery all these years,” he says. Pinky remembers how the Jatana village incident kicked up a huge row within the police. Muhammad Mustafa, the then SSP Ropar wrote to the then DGP, D.S. Mangat, alleging that SSP Saini was behind the dastardly elimination of the family. It was rightly suspected that Poohla or Pinky were behind the killing. “Lest we were arrested and the plot unravelled, Poohla was informally detained in Jalandhar and I in Chandigarh Police Lines in Sector 26 for many weeks,” says Pinky. “It was only when K.P.S. Gill replaced Mangat as DGP that we were ‘released’ from custody.”
‘I saw Multani being killed inside Chandigarh police station’
Pinky recalls another chilling death in custody in the Sector 17 police station in Chandigarh to which he was an eyewitness. It pertains to the death of Balwant Singh Multani, son of IAS officer Darshan Singh Multani. Incidentally, the Supreme Court had on December 8, 2011, quashed the CBI case against Saini and others for the elimination of three people, including Multani. Pinky’s revelations could reopen the sordid case. Multani had been arrested by sub-inspector (later inspector) Jagir Singh and brought to the Sector 17 police station. He was not forthcoming with information. Since Saini was present at the police station, he asked Inspector Malik, who was leading the interrogation, to tighten screws. He ordered that a stick be shoved up Balwant Singh. Malik hesitated and said he had never done this. “You have to do it,” he said, even giving directions on how to do it: apply oil to one end of the stick. Balwant Singh collapsed at the insertion and his body taken away to be disposed of. Pinky names others who were present there and witnessed the killing. “The story of Multani’s escape during recovery of weapons the next day was fake,” he says.
Seniors pocketed “rewards”
As for the top militants, Pinky claims that while the police did succeed in arresting them through a wide network of informers, the manner of their killing, as claimed by police in encounters, was fabricated. He recalls how he was part of a police party led by Ludhiana SSP S. Chattopadhyaya, B.S. Gill and Inspector Manmohan Singh which caught top militant ideologue Sukhdev Singh Babbar alive in Patiala in August 1992. He was picked up, questioned and killed in a fake encounter at Dharod near Ludhiana. B.S. Gill apparently also took away his Maruti 1000 car. “Let there be an inquiry and let these people deny what I am saying,” says Pinky.
What the police were doing in Ludhiana was typical of what was being done elsewhere too. Pinky recalls how the police had, with the help of pinpointed information by a cat, managed to catch Gurmukh Singh Nagoke, a self-styled Lt General of KCF, in October 1992 at the Mukerian bus stop. He was with his wife and three-month-old baby at that time. Pinky alleges that the encounter on the Khanna-Samrala road on October 2, 1992, was staged. “The militant, along with his wife, were killed, and their three-month-old baby was given away to the panchayat. Khanna SSP Raj Kishan Bedi filed the FIR and claimed most of the reward money.”
Exactly a month later, another self-styled Lt General of the KCF, Harminder Singh Sultanwind, was killed in a staged encounter on the Khanna-Samrala road. He had been caught in Delhi after the wife of a top militant who had been caught agreed to call Harminder on the ruse that her child had been admitted to hospital and needed blood. When he arrived at the hospital, he was caught and sent to Khanna, where he was interrogated by the CIA, headed by Ashok Puri, before being killed off in the “encounter”. A sum of Rs 38 lakh and a .38 bore revolver with a gold butt were recovered from Sultanwind’s hideout in Sector 36, Pinky reveals. “The Rs 38 lakh recovered was never declared and it was used for construction of police quarters in Khanna following the approval of K.P.S. Gill, who inaugurated the building,” he says. The .38 bore weapon, Pinky claims, remained with the police officers.
Even non-terrorists were eliminated for money
Pinky claims that since the police had assumed absolute power, there were instances when petty criminals who fell into police traps were eliminated because money deals were involved. One of Pinky’s accomplices in Khanna told this reporter how in 1993 they were asked to offload two persons from the Golden Temple Express train at Phagwara. The two, who turned out to be hawala dealers, were taken to SSP Bedi, and a sum of about 70,000 dollars recovered from them. They were put through interrogation for one week at the CIA, headed by Inspector Amrik Singh, though no arrests were shown. While one of them was let off, the other, Avtar Singh Tari, from a village in Kapurthala district, was shown as killed in an encounter a week later. To make the “encounter” credible, he was shown to have been killed with a wanted terrorist, Darshan Singh of Manki village near Samrala, says Pinky. The FIR lists the names of 30 cops who took part in the “encounter”! What happened to the 70,000 dollars, we ask Pinky. “Ask Raj Kishan Bedi and Joginder Singh Sandhu, SP (D), who staged the encounter,” he tells us. “The person was no militant and lost his life because of the greed of senior officers for the dollars he was carrying.”
Pinky also tells us how, at about the same time, a severely disabled person, Darshan Singh ‘Baba’ of Gosal village near Samrala, was picked up on suspicion of instigating the youth to take up arms. The man had no hands and feet and would move around on a wheeled cart. The police informer told us how he had called the baba to the Nadha Sahib Gurudwara near Panchkula, where he was picked up by the cops. Darshan Singh Gosal’s mother, Ranjit Kaur, did admit that her handicapped son entertained extremist views and that he had gone to Chandigarh when he was “picked up”. The family traced him in the custody of Morinda police where some policemen demanded Rs 2 lakh for his release. “Since we could not arrange it, we were told he was killed. We got no information whatsoever,” she says. The informer says Darshan Singh was put in a sack, taken to Khanna and thrown into the Bhakhra canal along with his cart. The informer himself was later recruited into the police but dismissed soon after, and is full of remorse about getting a disabled person kidnapped and killed on a mere suspicion. Bedi, when contacted on telephone, denied Pinky’s allegations. “He is a convicted cop who has no credibility. He is making up stories. Why did he not speak out earlier? Let me say it categorically that I did no wrong while in uniform,” says Bedi. He also categorically denied having ordered or carried out any fake encounters. When asked specifically about the killing of Nagoke and Sultanwind, he said he did not remember the specifics. On the allegations of the killing of hawala dealer Tari and the handicapped Darshan Singh Gosal during his tenure in Khanna, he said there was no truth in all these charges. “If there was any truth, their relatives would have spoken out,” he says. Bedi, whose son had been killed by militants, now stays at the headquarters of a religious sect in Beas.
K.P.S. Gill says no human rights were violated
Though Pinky has no first-hand knowledge of the death of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra in Tarn Taran, he offers some insight. This is because he shared a jail barrack with Jaspal Singh, DSP, who was among the persons convicted in the case. He claims that Khalra was killed by Jaspal Singh and others on the directions of “senior officers”. Pinky is not willing to name the “senior officers” he is alluding to and adds, “Let Jaspal Singh and others convicted do that.” But ‘Super Cop’ K.P.S. Gill, former DGP, Punjab, had denied any knowledge of the Khalra case. In an interview to this reporter in September 2015, he had claimed that Khalra may have been killed by terrorists. Gill also said that reported excesses by cops were minimal and that the anti-terrorism campaign in Punjab “was the most humane in the world”. He also stated that if any police officers did any wrong, they did so at their own level and were never asked to do so by him. Gill was again interviewed by Outlook for this story in Delhi last Thursday (see interview).
Misuse of ‘secret funds’
One of the most well-kept secrets in the Punjab Police is that of secret funds, which came from two sources—one, the annual budget of the Punjab government, and two, those provided by the Union home ministry through the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies. These funds were directly controlled by the DGP, Punjab, through the ADGP (Intelligence). Pinky claims that these funds, to the tune of Rs 20 crore annually, supposedly to pay off sources who provide secret information, were routinely misused by senior officers. “A part of the funds is given to the litigation branch to defend police officers who are facing criminal trials,” he says. The litigation branch also pays money equivalent to the salaries of the officers who are convicted or in jail as undertrials out of the secret fund account. “Like everyone else, even my family got this ‘salary’ till May this year,” he says. “A clerk used to come and get signatures on delivering a packet. Those police officers in jail with me used to tell me that they get this amount too. Let there be an inquiry.” When asked about the alleged misuse of these secret funds, Punjab ADGP (Law & Order), H.S. Dhillon, who was till recently the ADGP (Intelligence), said it would be unprofessional on his part to talk of “intelligence operations”.
When the charges levelled by Pinky were brought to the notice of present Punjab DGP Suresh Arora, there was a sense of disbelief. He has refused to comment on the allegations at this stage. Repeated efforts to contact Saini, the prime focus of Pinky’s allegations, were unsuccessful. Messages left at his places remained unreturned. However, an ADGP who did not want to be named said that as many as 1,784 personnel of the Punjab Police either died or were injured while tackling terrorism. This included the 45 who got Police Medals posthumously, including two DIGs and eight SP-rank officers. “Would this happen if the encounters were false?” he asks. When asked about specific cases, however, he said, “All this is history and we prefer not to remember things of that period.”
So who authorised what appear to be illegal and unconstitutional actions on the part of some police officers? Indications of the tacit approval to such actions were inadvertently spelt out by a top official of the Intelligence Bureau to the Punjab DGP in a “secret” letter on December 30, 1991 (see box above). There is no doubt that Pinky’s own track record is highly dubious. Moreover, since he stands disgraced, how credible can his version be? At the same time, can so many sensational disclosures of brazen illegalities be totally ignored? “Let those who deny what I am saying come face to face with me. Let there be a public debate and inquiry,” he demands. At the very least, this must lead to some epitaphs being rewritten.
(Kanwar Sandhu is a distinguished senior journalised based in Chandigarh and has worked for India Today, Indian Express and Hindustan Times. After heading the Day & Night channel, he now runs a production house, Free Media Initiative.)
By Kanwar Sandhu in Chandigarh with inputs from Chander Suta Dogra and Kasif Farooqi