Jangveer Singh, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 30. After having secured an unprecedented second victory on the trot in the Punjab Assembly elections earlier this year, the SAD-BJP government appeared a regime without a trouble till it tripped on the law and order front in 2012, exposing itself to attack from the Opposition as well as the people.
The seeds which caused problems to the government were sowed in the run-up to the last elections. The SAD allegedly adopted a soft attitude towards radical groups as well as appointed hundreds of youth with suspect affiliation to the party as its Youth Akali Dal (YAD) officer-bearers.
The nexus between Akali workers and police functionaries came back to haunt the government at the fag end of the year with Akali workers taking the law into their own hands on several occasions.
Immediately after the election victory, the government was tested when under pressure it allowed radical groups a free run to protest to demand commutation of the death sentence of former Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassin Balwant Singh Rajoana. Even as the Punjab Police controlled the situation with difficulty, the SAD gave the go-ahead to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to construct a memorial at the Darbar Sahab in Amritsar to commemorate those who were killed in the Operation Blue in 1984.
This resulted in fanning the radical cause and there were reports from central agencies that militants were regrouping to revive terrorism in the state.
Besides these two issues, the Punjab Police was faced with controlling a flare-off between radical groups and followers of Dera Sachha Sauda after clashes in Sirsa in Haryana. A compromise between radicals and the Dera Beas over pulling down of a gurdwara in Amritsar district was also affected. At the fag end of the year, incidents of Akali workers taking the law into their own hands rocked the state assembly. First there was a case of an Akali worker allegedly forcibly abducting a minor girl from her house in Faridkot, followed by the killing of an ASI by another Akali worker in Amritsar and finally an attack on an AIG (Assistant Inspector General of Police) by Akali workers in Ludhiana.
These attacks put the entire system of policing under the scanner in the state. The police, which defended itself by claiming that it had responded promptly and effectively in all the three cases, was left red faced when a rape victim allegedly committed suicide nearly two months after the incident when the local police failed to take cognisance of her complaint.
However, the state performed well on the terrorism watch front under DGP Sumedh Singh Saini. There was no major case of terrorism even as the state arrested several persons on charges of trying to revive terrorism. Naxal activities, which were on the rise earlier, also saw a down trend with the police getting tough on their sympathisers.
While individual cases of violence remained in the limelight, the year could also be seen as the year of reform in the police force under Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the Home portfolio. In an attempt at scaling down needless security cover given to VIPs and even former police officers, the Deputy CM withdrew more than 2,000 personnel from security duty following a statewide review. For the first time ever, a message was sent to the force that dereliction of duty would not be tolerated with several police officers being dismissed. Senior-level officers were also suspended.
Police recruitment was also done in the state after more than 10 years with around 18,000 personnel as well as 3,000 women personnel being recruited into the force. Community policing took hold with the Sanjh Kendras attracting 13 lakh applications in the last one year. Modern police stations and control rooms were also established.