Rift wide open: Punjab Police’s bad blood spills, and how
As Punjab’s director general of police (DGP), human resource development, Siddharth Chattopadhyaya made serious allegations of “roles” in the drug racket against DGP Suresh Arora, who is chief of the force, and DGP, intelligence, Dinkar Gupta, a murky cold war over the top post came is approaching boiling point.
The allegations came in Chattopadhyaya’s application to the Punjab and Haryana high court in a suicide case; and the court on Friday stayed the probe against the officer. Chattopadhyaya said he was being dragged into a suicide case by probe team led by another DGP-rank officer, LK Yadav, at the behest of Arora and Gupta.
Chattopadhyaya, who heads a special investigation team (SIT) to look into drug-racket charges against Moga senior superintendent of police (SSP) Raj Jit Singh, said he was being targeted as his probe “brought to light the role of” Arora and Gupta. A benami (brought-by-proxy) house of “a DGP” is among the points being investigated in relation to the drug racket, his application added. Raj Jit is seen to be in the good books of Arora and Gupta, and Chattopadhyaya has questioned this proximity.
This is being seen as a bold move in a game that started with the decision of the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government to retain DGP Arora as the top boss even though he was given the post by the previous SAD-BJP regime that lost power after 10 years in March last year. This reportedly led to heartburn among aspirants including Mohammed Mustafa, who is a 1985-batch officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS), and Chattopadhyaya, who is from the 1986 batch.
Then, the high-profile landing of ADGP Harpreet Sidhu, who was on deputation to the CRPF, into a marquee post, as head of a a special task force (STF) against drugs, aggravated the situation as he was asked to report directly to the chief minister, not to Arora. Seeing Sidhu’s direct access to the CM, most of those against Arora started putting their weight behind Sidhu, according to officers who did not want to be named.
The split wide open now — seen as “unprecedented” by former top cops — comes with only five months remaining for Arora, a 1982-batch IPS officer, to retire in September. As Arora and Gupta are learnt to have a rapport and have been working in close co-ordination for years, there is a feeling among others in line that Arora is preparing the grounds for Gupta as his successor.
Both Gupta and Arora have the confidence of the chief minister and a large section of top officers, as they have “cracked” the high-profile targeted killings of the past two years and have come down heavily on gangsters. Being the intelligence unit chief gives Gupta an added advantage, according to multiple officers.
Meanwhile, STF chief Sidhu’s wings appear to have been clipped over his style of functioning. The CM recently decided to put the STF under the control of the DGP (Arora). In the drug case in which the STF had summoned SSP Raj Jit, the state government left the STF chief red-faced in the HC too. Raj Jit had accused Sidhu of being biased, and the government through the advocate general called for shifting the probe to officers other than Sidhu. It was after this argument that the court made the SIT headed by Chattopadhyaya, who till now has submitted two interim reports.
Meanwhile, there were reports of Chattopadhyaya’s “involvement” in the suicide of Inderpreet Chadha, who had killed himself after his father Charanjit Singh Chadha, the then president of charity Chief Khalsa Diwan, was caught in a video scandal. “Chattopadhyaya has a feeling that his name was dragged into the suicide case just to end his chances for the top post and to derail the SIT investigation into Raj Jit’s role,” said a senior officer who did not want to be named.
On the other hand, the Arora faction apprehended that the Chattopadhyaya-led SIT could drag Arora or Gupta’s name into the drug case. Then there are other senior officers have are keeping their fingers crossed, fancying their chances in the fight of the two factions.
However, this bitter fight has raised concerns for the government as it may cast its shadow over the overall functioning of the force. “This fight is unfortunate. Police force is not a political party,” said a retired DGP, adding, “Such infighting would have long-lasting effects on the culture of the force. Senior government officials must intervene to stop this.”