Who’s at war within Punjab Police
HT takes a look at the cast of characters in an internal feud that threatens to open a can of worms and is fraught with serious repercussions for the image and morale of the state’s police force.Updated: Apr 11, 2018 10:01 IST
An ugly spat is raging in the top echelons of Punjab Police. The trigger was a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court last week when director general of police ( human resource development) Siddharth Chattopadhyaya accused his boss DGP Suresh Arora and DGP ( intelligence) Dinkar Gupta of gunning for him in a suicide case because he was investigating their role in a drug-related case. A public spectacle of an all-out tussle in what is expected to be a disciplined force has left the state government red-faced.
In a damage-control exercise, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has set up a panel to resolve the issue and even summoned all top police officials on Wednesday. At the centre of this conflict, many say, is the jockeying for the top police job that falls vacant in September when Arora hangs up his boots. HT takes a look at the cast of characters in an internal feud that threatens to open a can of worms and is fraught with serious repercussions for the image and morale of the state’s police force.
Suresh Arora, DGP, Punjab police chief
A 1982-batch IPS officer, he is known for his professional integrity and unruffled temperament. A battle-tested cop who earned his spurs during the terrorism era in the 1980s, he was elevated as police chief in October 2015 by the SAD-BJP government. His credentials weighed in even with Capt Amarinder Singh who retained him after the Congress came to power in March last year. Arora’s continuation after the change of guard dashed the dreams of many officers who were angling for the top post. Known for having a good equity with central agencies, he earned Amarinder’s praise for successes in busting the cases of targeted killings and a crackdown on gangsters in the past six months. But Arora seemingly stumbled in managing the ego battles of frontline officers. The ongoing turf war has raised questions over his leadership and may even cast a shadow on his otherwise sterling legacy.
Dinkar Gupta, DGP (intelligence)
Low-profile but professionally competent, Gupta is known to be obsessively a career-minded cop adept at networking with the right people at the right places. He is a right-hand man of Arora with whom he shared the plaudits for recent successes against terror modules and gangs. The intelligence portfolio has given leg up to is profile, and to his ambition. He fancies his chances for an out-of-turn shot at the top job because he is in Amarinder’s good books, belongs to Patiala, and is an alumnus of Yadavindra Public School patronised by the erstwhile Patiala royal family. Willy-nilly he has been dragged into cloak-and-dagger games. A lobby in the CMO wants to see him as Arora’s successor, but Chattopadhyaya’s allegations against him in the high court hardly augur well for him.
Raj Jit Singh Hundal, senior superintendent of police, Moga
A controversial but effective PPS officer, he finds himself at the centre of this controversy after ADGP Harpreet Singh Sidhu-led special task force raised questions about his role in the drug case busted with the arrest of since-dismissed inspector Inderjit Singh. But, Hundal survived the drug charge, thanks as much to his proximity to the Arora-Gupta duo as to his political connections. He moved to Punjab and Haryana High Court alleging that Sidhu is biased against him and wants to frame him in the drug case. Thereafter, the high court formed a special investigation team ( SIT) headed by Chattopadhyaya, who, in his initial reports to the court, is understood to have hinted at Hundal’s culpability in the drug allegations.
Mohd Mustafa, DGP (human rights commission)
A 1985-batch IPS officer, he is considered close to Amarinder and a section of the Congress high command. With a barely masked ambition for the top job, he was sure of his elevation when the party came to power last year. The CM had other plans and attempted placating Mustafa by inducting his wife Razia Sultana, MLA from Malerkotla, into his cabinet as PWD minister. But, Mustafa , who also played a key role in fighting terrorism in the 1980s, has seemingly not reconciled. He now senses his chance when two of his seniors, Sumedh Singh Saini and Arora, retire in June and September. Then, he will be the second seniormost officer in the force after Samant Kumar Goel, who is on central deputation. A consummate schemer, Mustafa is aligned with the Chattopadhyaya-Sidhu camp in the cold war against the Arora-Gupta lobby.
S Chattopadhyaya, DGP (human resource development)
The 1986-batch IPS officer dropped a bombshell in the high court by stating that he was also investigating the role of DGPs Arora and Gupta in the drug case against SSP Raj Jit Singh Hundal. That was seen as a counter blast after another SIT formed by Arora wanted to question Chattopadhyaya for his alleged role in the suicide of Inderpreet Singh Chadha, an Amritsar businessman who killed himself after his father and the then head of Chief Khalsa Diwan was arrested in a sleaze scandal. Chattopadhyaya charged both Arora and Gupta with conspiring to frame him. He had a non-controversial career until his name cropped up in the suicide case, which he suspects as a conspiracy to spike his ambition to be Arora’s successor. In Capt Amarinder Singh’s first term as CM (2002-07), Chattopadhyaya led the vigilance probe into corruption allegations against the Badal family. In the following 10 years of the Badal government, Chattopadhyaya found himself in the doghouse. When Amarinder returned to power last year, his hopes for a plum posting came a cropper due to his testy equation with Arora who enjoys the CM’s confidence.
Harpreet Sidhu, ADGP (special task force)
The 1992-batch IPS has made a name for himself by leading CRPF operations in Naxal-hit Chattisgarh during his deputation, before he made a high-profile landing in Punjab Police when Amarinder picked him to lead his “war on drugs”. For special task force work, he was made to report directly to the CM and was subsequently made ADGP (border) too. But as STF chief, from Day 1, he locked horns with Arora and Gupta. In this bitter fight among top brass, Sidhu is seen as ‘a bull in a china shop’. Due to his ‘ my-way-or-highway’ style of functioning, the CM clipped his wings and put the STF under Arora. To add insult to the injury, he was later divested of charge as ADGP (border). Many in the force believe the seeds of the current ugly war among top police officials were sown when he targeted SSP Hundal for his alleged drug nexus, a move that didn’t go well with Arora and Dinkar, and took the bad blood to the court.