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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

KPS Gill dies at 82: ‘Goodbye general, we will miss you’

KPS Gill, a former director general of police of Punjab and Assam, was admitted to the hospital on May 18.

opinion Updated: May 27, 2017 09:07 IST
SS Virk
SS Virk
KPS Gill, credited with breaking the backbone of Khalistani terrorism in Punjab, was suffering from kidney failure and a heart disease.
KPS Gill, credited with breaking the backbone of Khalistani terrorism in Punjab, was suffering from kidney failure and a heart disease.(HT Photo)

I was shocked to see how unwell you looked when I saw you on the TV a couple of weeks ago. But you sounded almost the same when I phoned you and you called me over. Spending about an hour with you and remembering those days of senseless violence and reliving a few deadly experiences was great. So were your comments on the present situation in Kashmir, the Naxal movement and other issues plaguing the nation.

Under your leadership, we fought the biggest armed uprising in independent India. We not only escaped death, but succeeded in controlling the senseless violence of militancy in Punjab and restored peace.

I first interacted with you when you took charge as inspector general (IG) of Punjab armed police (PAP) and operations at Jalandhar in 1984. I was a senior superintendent of police there. When I met you on your arrival, I told you about nabbing a militant on that day. I was surprised when you wanted to see him right away. You questioned him for hours and were surprised to know that he was a Hindu who became a Sikh militant under the influence of Sant Bhindranwale. You talked to him at length to assess how such a change was possible in our socio-religious system. I could make out that a professional cop had arrived on the scene.

Later we dispersed but were reunited in 1986. You returned as IG, Centre Reserve Police Force (CRPF), while I was deputy inspector general (DIG), CRPF, in Amristar. Violence was at its peak in Majha area with shoot-outs taking place daily. It was then we, under your leadership, revised our operational strategies, formed sectors, sub-sectors, with joint deployment of Punjab police and the para-military forces, including Border Security Force (BSF). We also planned patrolling, joint operations, sharing information, generating field intelligence which were introduced in a big way and yielded good results.

And then you were again called back to take over PAP operations in 1987. The fight continued with successes and failures. Your greatest role as operations leader was to make the force dominate the strongholds of militants and get senior officers in field operations. I distinctly remember the chilly December nights when we laid siege in Mand or other areas where terrorists’ writ ran large. I have seen you yourself leading ambushes in most difficult areas. You also held training camps in Mand to explain the militancy and reasons behind it to the force, which included personnel from outside Punjab.

And then came Operation Black Thunder-II in May 1988. I received a bullet in my jaw outside the Golden Temple. By now, you were director general of Punjab and that is when we saw your leadership at its best. No police entry, all exit points blocked, all devotees called out and only the militants inside, who were given the option to surrender. Only a few were killed in an exchange of fire. After a few days, the militants surrendered as they came out with raised hands. You succeeded without much firing, damage or even without entry. This was indeed the greatest professional success which was internationally acknowledged.

You continued to lead the Punjab police till 1995 when normalcy returned, except a few incidents. By the 1990s, you have turned the Punjab police into an effective anti-terrorist force. You also mentored young officers how to lead during crisis. With a cool head and a large heart, you were always unruffled, focused and at peace during operations. You encouraged young officers to understand, analyse, research and prepare operational strategy.

When I met you last, I knew you looked tired, weak and just a pale shadow of yourself. You also mentioned that those who gained maximum from the peace ushered in by you remained your greatest critics all along — a fact that pained you. I could make out the stress and strain of ill-health but could not imagine that the end would come so soon.

Rest in peace, my general. I and many more like me have learnt a lot from you. We will miss you.

(SS Virk, former DGP of Punjab and Maharashtra, had served under KPS Gill in 1984, 1987 and 1988 during Operation Black Thunder-II)

First Published: May 27, 2017 00:22 IST

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