ADIOS, Sir KPS GILL!
By Rajan Gupta
Human history is full of legendary figures. Rarely one gets to know them in flesh and blood. I was one of the few ‘lucky' officers who got an opportunity to work under Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS. He was a man of few words who influenced everyone who came in contact with him. He led by example and never hesitated to be in the front. He lost the battle with his life on 26 May 2017, at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Mr K P S Gill took over the reins of the police when all democratic organs of the state had virtually collapsed. His professional acumen was at his best during Operation Blackthunder II in the Golden Temple complex when Mr K P S Gill – then the Director General of Police – ordered to snap the supply of water and electricity to the militants holing up in the shrine and waited patiently till they were forced to surrender.
Mr Gill commanded the police in Punjab when people would duck into their homes before sunset and the police stations locked the iron gates around 4.00 pm. An eerie silence would take over the rural and urban areas of the state before the sunset.
He realized that the restoration of public confidence in police was a prerequisite to fight terrorism. It was equally important to raise the morale of the police to fight back. He created a team that was strong enough to take on militants, and launched Operation Night Dominance.
Fighting militants was not easy though his team was able to build public consensus against terrorists. The militants would often take refuge in sugarcane fields and combing the area posed a challenge as even the all-wheel drive police Gypsys would fail to help in the fields inundated in water. He engineered an innovative vehicle – a bulletproof tractor – fabricated which would enter the fields to take on militants and provide cover from bullets simultaneously.
Mr Gill proved his mettle by action and many officers including me continued to imbibe fearlessness and a quality to act in time and firmly by observing his actions. He also employed unique methods to solve complex problems and his message to his force would be swift and sharp. Punjab was gearing up for assembly elections. One of the prospective candidates for the 1992 elections was killed by the militants. We received a message that Mr Gill would address a meeting of SSPs and other senior officers. We gathered at the Punjab Armed Police (PAP) Complex at Jalandhar. Mr. Gill came to the venue, wound up the meeting in a single sentence, “Thank you gentlemen for getting one candidate killed and at this rate we may not able to hold the election at all.” He swiftly walked out of the venue leaving everyone stunned into silence, introspecting and looking for methods to ensure elections were held without any further bloodshed. The man knew how to make his team think, plan and support each other for solutions.
His visionary approach to work is still etched in my mind. Militants had gunned down 28 persons on the day of assembly elections in 1992. Mr. Gill directed me (DIG Patiala Range, Patiala) to constitute a team of a few policemen and leave investigation of the mass murder to them and continue concentrating on the issue of holding elections.
I always admired him for his simple but concrete plans to work. He always advised me to be “a thorough professional,” which has become a touchstone for me throughout my professional life and even later. Taking criticism into stride without prejudice and supporting upright colleagues were other virtues he exhibited during his professional life.
How could I forget him apologizing on behalf of the Patiala Police before the Privileges Committee of the Parliament. Again, he defended Hoshiarpur Police Officers before the Apex Court on another occasion. The men in Khaki revered him for his unstinted support.
Many such incidents can be quoted but that would require a full book to be written on him. Finding a mention on the back cover of his biography is an honour to me.
Such persons are rarely born. Despite all controversies, Mr K P S Gill, will go down in history for his contribution to the Nation and would be remembered as a legend who brought peace and harmony in Punjab.
The author, Rajan Gupta is IPS.
Former Director General,
Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD).