Fighting to stay in the Punjab Police, Gurmit Singh Pinki looks far from his image as one of the state’s top anti-terrorism cops. Dressed in white linen kurta-pyjama, he has a thick gold chain around his neck, while stones worn for astrological reasons weigh down his fingers. Only the bodyguards, who don’t let anyone near without thorough questioning, carry a hint of the past.
The 56-year-old’s eyes shine with pride as he recalls how he killed several terrorists in his career. But this soon gives way to bitterness as Pinki describes how he was projected as a “don” and “killer” later.
“I was rewarded Rs 30 lakh for killing most wanted militants. The seniors in the police department wanted me to do it. Now I am the villain! I want to ask who did not kill people during terrorism? Are they above board?” he says.
Pinki was recruited as a constable in December 1988, when Punjab ‘super cop’ K P S Gill reigned supreme. Allegedly a former member of Babbar Khalsa, Pinki was one among many ‘cats’ or counter-insurgents deployed by the Punjab Police.
In May, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke of “(using) terrorists to neutralise terrorists”. It was an idea with roots in both Kashmir and Punjab.
Pinki received several out-of-turn promotions before being finally made an inspector in January 1996. He also received a gallantry award from the president in 2005 for arresting the killer of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.
As militancy ebbed, Pinki gradually fell from grace. In October 2006, he was convicted of the murder of a Ludhiana youth, Avtar Singh ‘Gola’, with whom he had had an altercation. He was sentenced to life and was soon dismissed from service.
After eight years, in 2014, the state government made a case for remitting his sentence for “good behaviour”. The final order was passed on June 24.
In May 2015, DIG G S Dhillon recommended his reinstatement in police, saying, “He is one of the rarest police officers who was instrumental in the successful fight against terrorists. The record of various FIRs… clearly shows his courage, dedication, ability to acquire information, and provide fruitful results without caring for his own life.”
However, the May 16 reinstatement soon ran into controversy. Within four days, it was overturned, and Pinki was again fired. He has now gone to the high court against the dismissal, and the case is posted for hearing on October 8.
While radical Sikh organisations have always lashed out at ‘cats’, especially Pinki, for “eliminating innocent Sikh youths”, a former DGP says peace would not have returned to the state but for them. “We got several terrorists to our side who supplied us information. Without them, terrorism could not have been eliminated from the state.”
Pinki denies ever being associated with militancy himself. “Who says I was a part of the Babbar Khalsa? All this has been spread by people who did not like my going up the ladder much faster than them. I was inducted into the police by K P S Gill. You think he, known for his stand against terrorists, would have taken me?” he says.
Denying that he murdered Gola, Pinki adds that he would “expose” all senior police officers who “used and dumped” him.
The unkindest cut perhaps has come from Gill. The former DGP says he doesn’t remember him, “Who is Pinki? There were not more than four-five police ‘cats’. The issue of police cats was blown out of proportion,” he says.
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