The seizure of alleged “hawala money” from a Catholic priest in Jalandhar has taken a fresh turn with the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) writing to the Election Commission of India, seeking transfer of Punjab Director General of Police, Dinkar Gupta alleging that his close proximity with the ruling Congress party and “misuse of powers” is a threat to the conduct of free and fair elections in the state.
PEP president Sukhpal Khaira, in a complaint letter addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora, has cited the raid by a team of Khanna police at the residence of Father Anthony Madassery in Jalandhar saying that it amounted to “open victimisation of a minority community”.
Khaira’s complaint comes days after Punjab government transferred an Inspector General on the directions of the ECI following a complaint by the Shiromani Akali Dal.
“Gupta hand-picked some of his favourite police personnel, from different locations of Punjab, vide his office order No 5084-92/E-2(8) dated 27.3.19 (March 27)and temporarily attached them with Khanna district police. On April 29 armed persons are alleged to have raided the residence of Father Anthony at Jalandhar and forcibly took away Rs16.65 crore along. They abducted the priest at gun-point after snatching their mobile phones etc as per the statement of Father Anthony…these facts are also recorded in the CCTV footage and published in newspapers,” Khaira said in his complaint.
He added that to cover up the covert operation by the team “team specially constituted by Gupta” and to give a legal face to this “goof-up and illegal operation”, later Father Anthony and others were shown as “apprehended from a naka/ checkpoint at Doraha in district Khanna, along with Rs.9.66 crore in cash, which was later deposited with the Income Tax department”.
“A sum of Rs 16.65 crore was taken by the raiding party, as stated by Father Anthony. A sum of Rs 6.65 crore was allegedly siphoned off during the whole operation by the police team, which separated on the way to Khanna from Jalandhar and later joined at Khanna. Father Anthony was kept in illegal custody till 5 am of March 30, 2019 and later let off without any FIR or arrest,” the letter read.
Two days after the raid, Father Anthony had accused the police of embezzling Rs 6.65 crore from the total Rs 16.65 crore recovered from his residence. He didn’t explain about another Rs 34 lakh missing from the total.
Khaira contends in his complaint that Father Anthony had received the money as legitimate funds from schools (by sale of uniforms, textbooks) under the Jalandhar Diocese and the same was about to be deposited with the bankers (South Indian Bank, Jalandhar) whose representatives were present in the premises during the police raid.
“Any operation carried out by the police must follow certain protocol, which have been clearly violated in this case as the motive and objective of this raid was purely for personal pecuniary gains. Father Anthony along with five others were kidnapped and kept in illegal confinement in a planned fashion by armed police personnel with a purpose of depriving them of their legitimate money. The raiding party, under the directions of the DGP through SSP Dhruv Dahiya and team of Khanna police, never intimated the local Jalandhar police or local police station and neither informed the I-T authorities nor the Enforcement Directorate before carrying out the operation. Surprisingly, the alert sounded by Jalandhar police was not followed up and alert issued by the Punjab Police was called off on the directions of DGP Gupta,” the complaint read.
The PEP president said that this action, coupled with the silence of the government, clearly indicates the blind support and free hand given by the ruling Congress government to the DGP with undue favours expected in return in the election process.
“It is very much clear in all spheres of society and government about how the present DGP was hand-picked by the ruling Congress and by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh after bypassing five senior officers,” the complaint read.
Khaira further said in the complaint that the raid on Father Anthony served to create fear psychosis during elections to divert the votes in favour of the ruling Congress party. “Presently, atmosphere of fear and uncertainty prevails amongst the people of Punjab. Political parties in the opposition as well as general public are very apprehensive of the DGP. People are not feeling safe with their lives and properties and in such a situation how can the free and fair election be conducted, and people exercise their right to free ballot”,” he asked.
He added that in the interest of upholding the “highest tenets of democracy” and ensuring free and fair polls in Punjab, it is imperative that the DGP Gupta is transferred out of his current assignment to a post where he is not connected with the public or electoral process in any way, till the new government is formed.
SIT asks priest to identify cops involved in raid
Jalandhar: In the ongoing probe into the allegations of misappropriation of Rs 6.65 crore by Khanna police team, the SIT led by IG Crime P K Sinha Wednesday called Father Anthony Madassery to identify the cops who had come to raid his place on March 29.
According to sources, Father Anthony was called to Phillaur and the police officials under scanner were brought before him. It is not known if he recognised any of them. The SIT chief did not respond to the phone calls.
Khanna police had raided the priest’s place at Partapura in Jalandhar and seized Rs 9.66 crore, but the priest later alleged that cash recovered was around Rs 16.65 crores and police had misappropriated the remaining amount. Punjab DGP had formed an SIT to probe the matter. —ENS