Cop with a rebellious streak calls it quits
Chandigarh: Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, currently serving in the rank of inspector general in Punjab Police and the face of the special investigation team (SIT) probing the 2015 Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura police firing cases, surprised many when he shot off a letter to chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Sunday, seeking premature retirement.
The 50-year-old 1998-batch IPS officer is reportedly upset after the Punjab and Haryana high court on April 9 quashed a probe report submitted by the SIT in the case and asked the state government to reconstitute the SIT without him.
An upright cop with a rebellious streak, Kunwar Vijay has often found himself in crosshairs of controversies. Also, his self-righteousness has put him at odds with his seniors and politicians many times.
During his posting as Ferozepur SSP in 2004, the officer made headlines when he ordered an FIR against his DIG Hardish Singh Randhawa.
As Amritsar SSP in 2009, he locked horns with then BJP MLA Anil Joshi, who sat on dharna against his own government demanding Kunwar’s transfer.
When Amarinder government came to power in 2017, Kunwar was posted as Ludhiana police commissioner. But he was transferred in less than three months after some Congress leaders complained that the officer “deliberately keeps the elected representatives waiting when they seek appointment with him.” In 2016, he was posted as Jalandhar police commissioner but was transferred within two months.
In 2019, during the Lok Sabha polls, his transfer had kicked up a controversy. Following a complaint by the Akali Dal to Election Commission of India which subsequently issued directions to Congress government, Kunwar was relieved from the post of IGP (crime) Bureau of Investigation and IG (organised crime control unit) with immediate effect and posted as IG (counter intelligence), Amritsar. After the model code of conduct ended on May 26, the state government posted Kunwar back as IG (OCCU) with additional charge of IG counter intelligence, Amritsar, the next day (May 27). Earlier, various Sikh organisations and activists raised a big hue and cry over “shifting” Kunwar from the SIT, alleging that same was done under ‘political pressure’ to protect Badals.
Locking horns with SIT members
In the SIT too, Kunwar was initially inducted as a member, with ADGP-rank officer Prabodh Kumar heading the team. Soon, the officer was at loggerheads with the other members who claimed that Kunwar filed challan in the Kotkapura firing case, without consulting them. The SIT head and other members wrote to the DGP against Kunwar. However, within few months, the other SIT members were ‘sidelined’ and Kunwar was handed over both the cases.
Considered to be a well-meaning cop in public perception, the officer is credited with probing high-profile cases of a kidney scam in Amritsar and a sex-scandal.
Many of his colleagues, however, term him as self-obsessed and headline hunter --- a charge which Kunwar has often denied, claiming himself to be a an officer who goes by the rulebook. He is popular with a section of press, especially the vernacular media that often addresses him as ‘Punjab’s Singham’ and ‘Super Cop’.
Kunwar, who originally hails from Bihar, describes himself to be an ardent follower of Guru Gobind Singh and often quotes Gurbani verses in his interaction with the media.
Many in the Congress feel that the free hand given to Kunwar in probing the police firing cases has actually backfired for the state government.
“Kunwar was made part of the SIT on the insistence of some ministers. He was given full powers. But if you look at his interviews, he has always projected himself above all. He didn’t even shy away from blaming the state government on many occasions. His resignation at this stage to my mind appears to be part of his larger plan,” said a senior minister, who didn’t want to be named.
Readying for political plunge?
Though Amarinder has rejected Kunwar’s resignation, the officer has hinted that he will stick to his decision. “I will continue to serve society in the best possible manner. Not as IPS,” he posted on Facebook, showing he is in no mood to relent.
Political circles are abuzz that the officer might take a political plunge and contest the 2022 assembly polls using his resignation as a high-morale ground. During 2017assembly elections, there were some unconfirmed reports about the officer coming in close contact with the AAP. Those close to him say the officer is keen on contesting from Amritsar as the officer has made the holy city his home ever since he came in Punjab. Kunwar has a few admirers on both sides of state’s political spectrum, including former BJP minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla and Congress leader Raman Bahl. The officer was not available for comments despite repeated efforts to contact him.