Former top cop KPS Gill, 76, best known for his fight against Punjab insurgency, was handpicked and sent to Chhattisgarh in 2006 as chief minister Raman Singh’s advisor. Seven years later, the security strategist reveals stunning details to Harinder Baweja of how the chief minister reacted to his plans of taking on the naxals.
I was posted in Chhattisgarh for one year as an advisor and, after three or four days into my stint, chief minister Raman Singh told me to relax and enjoy my stay.
I had drawn up an elaborate plan on how to deal with the threat from naxals but it was never implemented. I wanted to strengthen the police stations. The first responder is always the police station but if the first respondent is weak and doesn’t have the manpower or equipment, how is it going to respond? I remember calling for a meeting — not in the capital city of Raipur but in the interiors — and many officers came in civvies and in unmarked vehicles. They were trying to pass off as civilians. This is not a response that is going to raise the confidence of the people. Policemen can only die in such a situation.
I interacted with the young SPs and they told me the truth — that they controlled only five to ten per cent of their districts. The naxals’ writ ran over the rest of the area. I put that down in writing but got to know later that a senior police officer called the SPs and blasted them for telling me the stark truth.
I found out another thing. Chhattisgarh has one of the best jungle warfare training centres. As many as 25,000 local policemen went through the training but only 3,000 of those were posted to combat the naxals. I brought this to the chief minister’s attention but was once again told to enjoy my stay and keep earning my salary.
Do you know, in that state, politicians interfere with the postings of constable-rank officers? There are 900 deputy SP-rank vacancies. How, then, are you going to deal with the ground reality? You can parachute paramilitary forces into the state but they know neither the language nor the terrain. They will only get stuck in the field like the Americans have in Afghanistan.
I have always maintained that corruption and anti-naxal operations cannot go together. An honest response is critical. I know what the police officer in charge of Bastar was doing. He was taking R35,000 per man to transfer them out. This was public knowledge. I am sorry, but the state and its leadership do not have the required mental calibre or political will.
I am in touch with officers there even now and the situation hasn’t changed. It is imperative that Raman Singh extends his administration into the forest areas in a meaningful way. It will require a sustained effort but don’t expect any quick results because during elections, the administration cozies up to the naxals. Even then nothing was done. The Army should have been called in but wasn’t. I can’t say why but what I can say is that the scope of the inquiry alarmed not only Delhi Police officers, but also some other people.
Some police officers were promoted. If this sort of thing happens in the Capital, it sends a very wrong signal. That is why I have been strongly pressing for police reforms, particularly with regard to recruitment, promotions and transfers.
Imagine, for three to four days, mobs took over the streets of Delhi and killed people. They believed, quite clearly, that they had the immunity, or they wouldn’t have dared. If the victims’ families are protesting today, it is because of a huge sense of injustice.
(As told to Harinder Baweja)