How ex-Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini used fear psychosis

One former “encounter specialist had implicated Saini in multiple instances of forced disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial killings

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Chandigarh: Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini addresses during a press conference in Chandigarh on Jan. 7, 2014. – Photo: ProKerala
By Jatinder Kaur | PUNJAB, INDIA |

On 6 May 2020, in the midst of the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sumedh Singh Saini, who served as an Indian Police Service officer for 36 years, was booked in a case from 29 years ago. Saini served as a director general of police in the state of Punjab for three years, between 2012 and 2015.

The first-information report against Saini was filed at the Mattaur police station in Mohali by Palwinder Singh Multani regarding the alleged abduction and disappearance of Palwinder’s brother, Balwant Singh Multani, in December 1991. Saini was charged under six sections of the Indian Penal Code which pertain to kidnapping or abducting in order to murder; causing disappearance of evidence of offence; wrongful confinement for ten or more days; voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession; a public servant who corruptly or maliciously makes or pronounces in any stage of a judicial proceeding, any report, order, verdict, or decision which he knows to be contrary to law; and criminal conspiracy.

As a senior police officer in Punjab during the eighties and nineties, Saini was heavily involved in counter-insurgency and later, anti-corruption drives. He is said to have enjoyed the patronage of KPS Gill—a former DGP of the state, credited with neutralising the Khalistani movement—who reportedly gave him a free hand. Gill, who served as DGP of Punjab twice, has faced severe criticism over the years for the tactics employed by his forces to curb the insurgency, ranging from gross human-rights violations to accusations of false encounters and extra-judicial killings.

At the time of Saini’s appointment as the DGP, Punjab, in 2012, he was the youngest ever to be given the rank. According to news reports, four senior officers had been superseded to promote Saini; and the Shiromani Akali Dal and its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party had just come to power in the state.

Saini’s rise in the forces aside, his tenure was marked by extreme polarisation of opinion over his approach to law enforcement.

In October 2015, Gurmeet Singh, commonly referred to as Pinky, a former senior police officer from Punjab, gave an interview to the Outlook magazine. Pinky, who was known as an “encounter specialist,” implicated Saini in multiple instances of forced disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial killings, including that of Balwant, who Pinky said was tortured and murdered in police custody.

Read full story, ‘His modus-operandi was to create a fear psychosis: Ex-Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini’s shadowy career’ (The Caravan, 1 june 2020), here.

 

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