It seems the Punjab Police is in the habit of overreacting to the visits of VVIPs and in their enthusiasm to provide foolproof security arrangements they completely over-look the nuisance that they cause to the public.
This is precisely what happened during British Prime Minister David Cameron's daylong visit to the holy city on Wednesday. Police officials completely lost sight of their duties towards the public which led many to remind the officials that India was a free country and not under the British Raj.
The security arrangements were far too elaborate to the liking of even Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee officials, who, however, chose not to interfere. The cops had intended to form a three-ring human chain around the visiting PM but it was only on the advice of a senior official of the British High Commission that they decided against doing so inside the shrine.
DSP misbehaves with media
As is common during such visits, the media was the target of the police. Strict instructions were issued that the media would stick to one particular spot inside the shrine and movement of any sort would not be tolerated.
Reporters of the print media who were sitting in the parkirama of the shrine were ordered by Attari DSP Gurbax Singh to vacate the spot and move onto the rooftop of the verandah along the parkirama.
"In five minutes I will lift you from here," the DSP threatened the media even as he was assured by reporters that they would make no attempt to approach the visiting PM.
The DSP kept up his threatening tone. Taking a cue from his senior officer, sub-inspector Gurdip Singh Chappa said some nasty words while looking in the direction of the reporters, not bothering about the sanctity of the place where he was standing.
The matter was brought before Amritsar rural SSP PS Virk, who defended his officer. The matter was also brought to the notice of IGP (border range) RP Mittal and then to the notice of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal who promised action.
A cameraman of a private channel fainted atop the verandah along the 'parikrama', where all the cameramen were ordered to be stationed. On the orders of the police, the SGPC officials had locked the door leading to the terrace. This created a tense situation and it was only after a lot of hue and cry from the media that the door was opened and medical help was given to the cameraman.
The visit for the media could have gone off smoothly had the police taken the office of the district public relations officer (DPRO) into confidence. According to the instructions, passes were only given to print media cameramen and the electronic media and not to reporters of the print media; as a result, confusion prevailed.
While the British media accompanying the PM was given free access, their Indian counterparts were ignored. The police officials seemed to be more inclined at pleasing the British officials and doing every bit to ensure that their orders were complied with.
Public schools kids suffer
A virtual curfew-like situation prevailed in parts of the walled city, especially in areas along the route that the British PM's cavalcade took to the shrine and then back to the airport. Schoolgoing students were the worst sufferers as the cops did not allow their vans and autorickshaws to pick them up from their homes. Ultimately, it was left to the parents to drop them off at school.
Likewise, no shopkeeper was allowed to open his shop located in the Hall Bazaar area and in the vicinity of the Golden Temple. Residents in localities along the VIP route were ordered to keep their windows shut and open them only after the visiting PM had left.
Devotees also suffered at the hands of the police. When Cameron was inside the shrine, those sitting in the 'parikrama' were asked to move out of the VIP path. Such orders were never given before, not even on the numerous occasions when PM Manmohan Singh visited the shrine.