KPS Gill dies at 82: History will judge if he was a 'super cop' or 'villain'
Was he a 'Super Cop' or the 'Villain of Punjab' ? This will always be the moot question whenever Kanwar Pal Singh Gill will be referred to down the years. The former Director General of Police (DGP) of two of the most turbulent states of the 1980s – Assam and Punjab – breathed his last in New Delhi on Friday evening after being ill for sometime.
Gill always remained in controversies which made him a permanent feature in the news for several years. Be it human rights violations or a high profile meeting with Bollywood heroines or a conviction in a case of sexual harassment, he was at always at the centre of public and media glare. Always sought for his comments on security issues, he never disappointed a reporter.
Having joined the Indian Police Service in 1958 and being sent to the disturbed states of Assam and Meghalaya in the North East, Gill went on to become the DGP of Assam in the mid 1980s. Known for his 'no nonsense approach' he had a brush with a major controversy when he was charged with kicking a demonstrator to death, only to be acquitted later by the court.
He succeeded JF Ribeiro as the Punjab DGP in 1988 when militancy was once again at its peak in the state after the Operation Bluestar and the anti-Sikh riots that had followed the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He served two stints as Punjab DGP from 1988 to 1990 and then again from 1991 to his retirement in 1995.
While he is credited for successfully quelling the militancy in the state, the Gill era is also known for its share of police excesses. This era was marked by 'staged police encounters', brutal torture of the youth and also the disappearances of many people.
Human rights activists always accused his regime of illegal detentions. The Police officers always applauded him for keeping the 'morale of the force high' and this often meant turning a blind eye to their wrong doings. His critics have always pointed that he believed in elimination rather arrest the militants.
His era is also known for rewarding police personnel who eliminated militants besides police informers and all this was reportedly financed by a special fund created by the Centre.
Gill was convicted in a high profile case of molestation of a former IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj. The battle was fought right up to the Supreme Court. He was accused of having 'patted her posterior' at a party in 1998.
It was in 2005 that the Supreme Court upheld the charges and his conviction. He was spared from undergoing the three-month jail sentence as it was converted into probation by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Supreme Court upholding his conviction had ordered a three month rigorous imprisonment and he had to pay a fine of Rs 2 lakh which Deol had reportedly refused to accept.
The amount was eventually handed over to some women's organisation. . After final appeals before the Supreme Court in July 2005 the conviction was upheld and the jail sentences were reduced to probation. Deol had also demanded that Gill be stripped of his Padma Shri.
Gill was also appointed as a security advisor to the Gujarat government by the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Godhra train burning incident that was followed by an anti-Muslim pogrom across the state. Observers say that his job was to evaluate the anger among the Muslims and suggest ways and means to address it.
He also had a rocky tenure as the president of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) which was suspended by Indian Olympic Association in 2008 after charges of corruption. It was the year when India had failed to qualify for the Olympics in its national game for the first time since 1928. There were often allegations of 'autocratic functioning' against Gill.
After his retirement, Gill had set up the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi. A journalist never returned without a story after calling or meeting him. He had lambasted the Atal Behari Vajpayee regime for its handling of the Kandahar hijacking having told this reporter at that time that the Indian security had committed a blunder by allowing the Indian Airlines plane to leave the Indian air space. “There are a thousand ways to prevent a plane from taking off,” he had said about the plane having left after getting refueled at Raja Sansi airport in Amritsar.
In another interview he had been critical of using the Army for counter insurgency operations saying that this was the job of the police and para military forces.
Gill always loved his alcohol and journalists in Punjab still recall the parties that he used to throw to kept the media on his side while also inviting them to cover live operations.
He was often upset at bad press but also took it in his stride. A veteran photographer recently related how he had managed to publish a picture of Gill having his drinks while the very same day he had announced an anti-alcohol drive by the Punjab Police.
In his condolence message Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has condoled the death of former state DGP KPS Gill, recalling his invaluable contribution to bringing peace back to the state from the grip of militancy.
In his condolence message, the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said that Gill’s role in restoring peace and stability to Punjab cannot be undermined or forgotten, and he continues to be emulated by police and security personnel around the country, as an example of how the most complex of problems can be resolved with grit and determination.
Gill had also served as the Director General of the CRPF and was also appointed the security advisor to the government of Chhattisgarh for a year in 2006-07 when the state was battling Maoist insurgency. In 2000 the Sri Lankan government had also sought his help to tackle the LTTE militants. Time and again there were talks of him being appointed the Governor of a North Eastern state but his conviction in the molestation case and the allegations of human rights excesses came in the way.