As the state police conducts raids to arrest its ex-DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in a 29-year-old disappearance and murder case a Mohali man Balwant Singh Multani, the two main political parties of the state – the ruling Congress and opposition Akali Dal – too are gunning for the absconding top cop.
SAD, under whose regime Saini was made DGP, now says it was a mistake to appoint him to the post, while the Congress maintains that action against Saini will not alienate a section of its vote bank as is the perception.
Talking to The Indian Express, Cabinet Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, said: “It is a common excuse that if such officers are arrested then a community will get angry with us. But who were Vinod Kumar and Ashok Kumar who were killed in the same manner. They were Hindus. What was their crime?”
On March 15, 1994, Ludhiana-based businessmen Vinod Kumar, his brother-in-law Ashok Kumar and their driver, Mukhtiar Singh, were abducted and illegally detained, allegedly with the involvement of then Ludhiana SSP Saini. Their families believe that the trio were eliminated, though the bodies were never found. Saini, who was then SSP, Ludhiana, is an accused in this case too.
Speaking in the Punjab Assembly in 2018 on Justice Ranjit Singh Commission’s report on the Behbal Kalan firing, Bajwa had said: “I was told that if I named Saini then a section of society would turn against us. I must not upset that section, I was advised. I want to ask those who gave me such advice that who were Vinod Kumar and Ashok Kumar? To which community did they belong? What do you says Ashu ji (addressing Congress minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu sitting behind him)? You are from Ludhiana. Which section would turn against us?”
Talking to The Indian Express, he said, “Even today same excuse is being made to extend hidden help to Saini. It is a fact that he fought against militancy. But he also misused his power during that time. Legal fight against Saini is not fight against any community or between two communities. It is fight for the justice.”
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said, “It is a wrong perception that a particular community gets upset with such action. Some people have developed this wrong perception. Votes or politics are not even a consideration in such cases. There is nothing political about it. It is case of gross violation of human rights. Punjab is secular state in the true sense. Despite the loss of thousands of lives during the troubled period, Punjab has moved on the path of peace and prosperity because it is a truly secular state.” He said, “Law would take course in Saini case without consideration of background, caste or creed. Court may take notice of the demanding conditions under which police were operating then. But nobody can be convicted or exempted just because they belongs to a particular community. Every case should be decided on merit. As terrorists have no religion, any person committing a crime shouldn’t be seen through prism of caste and creed.”
Shiromani Akali Dal, which had made Saini the state DGP after superseding many senior officers, isn’t going soft on him either.
Party spokesman and former MLA, Virsa Singh Valtoha, said, “I admit it was a mistake to appoint Saini as Punjab Police chief during our party’s rule back in 2012. But then journalists must ask CM if incumbent Punjab Police DGP was appointed on the recommendations of someone powerful in Union government. Sometimes there are pressures that cannot be explained and it is the reason that Captain can’t appoint DGP of his choice to oblige Congress workers and leaders. May be, similar pressure tactics worked when Saini was made Punjab DGP.”
He said: “We all have forgotten how after becoming CM, Captain Amarinder Singh went to meet K P S Gill than going to Golden Temple or Durgiana Mandir, which is otherwise a tradition. We have forgotten how Captain Amarinder Singh read condolences message for K P S Gill in Punjab Assembly despite the fact that he was boss of officers like Saini and others accused of human rights violations. I still can name many officers, who have human rights violation cases pending against them in court, but still they are part of Punjab CM’s coterie. So don’t tell me that action against Sumedh Saini has any political support from Congress party on the issue of human rights.”
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