KPS Gill was never seen carrying a weapon while overseeing anti-militancy operations as the DGP during the troubled years of Punjab. But when his second tenure as the DGP (1991-1995) left his force facing hundreds of criminal cases for alleged extra-judicial killings, Gill was not afraid to stand up for them. Gill was no stranger to controversies, which dogged him well before he was brought to Punjab from Assam to head the state police force in 1988. As a DIG in Assam Police, he was accused of killing one Khargeswar Talukdar at Bhawanipur in Barpeta district during a protest march on December 10,1979. Allegedly, Talukdar died after Gill kicked him.
While he earned the title of ‘Super Cop’ for his successful battle against militancy in Punjab, Gill’s tenure as DGP was also a controversial chapter in Punjab’s history during which hundreds of youths were alleged to have been picked up and killed in staged encounters by the Punjab Police. But Gill stood behind his officers like a rock. When a senior officer, Ajit Singh Sandhu, who was facing nearly 40 court cases for alleged extra-judicial killings, committed suicide, a pained KPS Gill wrote to the then Prime Minister IK Gujral, lamenting that the policemen who had fought under his command had been abandoned by the state.
“A continued silence on my part would be a betrayal of trust, an abdication of responsibility. I cannot remain silent when the memory of the men who sacrificed their lives under my command is denigrated; and when those who have survived the greatest of dangers and made immeasurable sacrifices in campaigns during a virulent proxy war are subjected to an unprecedented and unprincipled inquisition,” said Gill.
At the time of Sandhu’s suicide in 1997, just two years after Gill left the office of DGP, the Punjab Police was facing nearly 1,200 criminal cases and 170 probes for excesses. More than 30 policemen were in jail and another 150 facing prosecution, including officers of the rank of DSP and SP. It was during Gill’s tenure that Ludhiana SSP Sumedh Singh Saini, who later became DGP and held the office till last year, landed in a row for alleged wrongful detention and disappearance of two businessmen in 1995 for personal vendetta. Saini, who is still in service, is currently facing trial on these charges in a special CBI court in New Delhi.
In 1988, Gill landed into another trouble because of his own personal indiscretion. A woman IAS officer of Punjab, Rupan Deol Bajaj, accused Gill of having physically misbehaved with her at a party at the house of a Financial Commissioner in Chandigarh on July 29, 1988. Gill was still serving as DGP when he was convicted by a lower court for outraging the modesty of a woman. He was given a probation of one year and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh in 1995. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2005.
Gill never expressed any regret for the alleged police excesses under his watch during militancy. Till the very end, he justified using a strong hand to deal with militancy and crushing the Khalistan movement. Known for his love of poetry, Gill invoked the lines of revolutionary poet Ram Prasad Bismil to express his sentiments on the fight against militancy. “Ham bhi bach sakte the ghar pe reh kar, Ham ko bhi maa baap ne paala tha dukh seh seh kar”.