July 30, 2002


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The Rediff Interview/K P S Gill

'Gujarat will not plunge into chaos again'

Former director general of Punjab Police Kanwar Pal Singh Gill firmly believes that postponing the Gujarat assembly election by a few months will not improve the law-and-order situation in the state.

In an exclusive interview with Onkar Singh after 'relieving' himself from the post of security adviser to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Gill said the state is ready for polls at the earliest and communal violence is completely under control. Excerpts:

Some political parties have demanded that state assembly elections be postponed. Do you think it would make a difference?

Frankly speaking, I would say it would not make any difference whether the polls are held today or three months later. Nobody has a magic wand to turn around the situation completely in a matter of three months if the polls were to be held in the month of December or January. The law-and-order situation would largely remain the same.

So you feel that the law-and-order situation in the state is firmly under control?

The fact that I am back in Delhi should give you an indication that the situation is normal. If I had felt that the law-and-order situation in the state was not under control then I would have continued as security adviser to the chief minister. I told the media that my job was over before leaving Ahmedabad.

But on the day Chief Minister Modi announced the dissolution of the house, there were incidents of violence.

Yes, there have been some incidents of violence. Two incidents where bombs were placed in scooters. There were some other minor incidents and they were put down firmly. The situation is under control now. I do not believe that Gujarat will witness the same kind of communal violence as it did prior to my going there.

Do you foresee any kind of violence during the elections?

Not really. Except for the usual things that happen in the course of elections. Some kind of violence accompanying incidents of booth-capturing. Something that is normal in Indian democracy. Such incidents do take place anywhere in India, including in the capital New Delhi. No, I am not expecting large-scale violence in Gujarat during elections.

Your last assignment was to oversee the peaceful culmination of the rathyatra of Lord Jagannath. How did you accomplish this task?

The security arrangements were made by the local police for this rathyatra. They have been used to making arrangements for such religious functions on the same scale as they did in this particular case. The only difference this time was that there was a lot of interaction between various communities and the police top brass before the yatra to ensure that it passes off peacefully, and it did.

I must compliment the local police for making elaborate arrangements to ensure that nothing went wrong anywhere during the course of the yatra.

When the government asked you to take up the assignment as security adviser to the chief minister of Gujarat, were you taken aback?

Not really. It was a surprise call, but I would not say it was something totally unexpected. It was a call that I could not refuse in the national interest because people were dying every day and I felt that my going there could make a difference to the situation. I was in Nalagarh in Himachal Pradesh when the first intimation came. I was heading for Delhi anyway.

But you had apprehensions?

I met Home Minister L K Advaniji before going to Gujarat. Because I was too worried about whether I would be given a free hand or there would be people looking over my shoulder. He assured me that things had to be done and there was no way anybody could have interfered with my job. Once I got the assurance I decided to go and take up the challenge.

Is it correct that your first task was to remove those officers who were unwilling to act?

This is not correct. I don't believe in unnecessary transfers. My main task was to see that the police starts functioning effectively the way it should in normal circumstances. If there were complaints, they were attended to forthwith. The grievances of the minority community were attended to promptly and impartially. It was only after some time that I came to the conclusion that some officers would have to be transferred.

Media reports said some deadwood had been transferred.

I would not agree with that assessment of the media. I would not say that those transferred were deadwood. I would say that they were caught up in a situation in which they were not very successful. And this was weighing on their minds. I felt that if they were shifted that would be a good thing for them.

Was there any resentment within the police force?

I would say that there was no resentment from either the officers or any other quarter. My first meeting with the top brass of the Ahmedabad police was perfect. Everyone was eager to bring back normalcy in the state.

How did you go about your task?

I would not be able to give you complete details for obvious reasons. My approach depended on a day-to-day basis. I attended to each problem as it came up. As I said earlier the main task was to make the police act professionally. The policemen were not very happy with the situation. They were determined to turn things around, particularly after they were castigated by non-governmental organisations, the media and political parties.

Do you feel you have done enough to ensure that Gujarat does not plunge into the same chaos again?

There is no question of Gujarat plunging into chaos again. I think the job has been done. The new set of police officers who took over their postings in Ahmedabad and elsewhere know how to deal with the situation. They are now a confident lot.

I must tell you that officers in Ahmedabad were transferred because we realised Ahmedabad was the key and if things came under control in this city, the rest of the state would follow. That is why it was necessary to induct new officers in the city police.

After the communal violence it was felt that Gujarat would become fertile ground for anti-social elements to breed in.

Mercifully, nothing of this sort has happened so far. There were a few incidents where bombs went off at various places. But by and large things are peaceful so far. People behind those incidents have not been detected and they are still at large, but sooner or later they will be caught.

The Gujarat Riots: The Complete Coverage

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