CHANDIGARH: ‘Supercop’ and former Punjab director general of police, Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (82), who is credited with ending militancy in the State, died on Friday at a hospital in Delhi.
He was admitted in the nephrology department of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi on May 18. Dr D S Rana, chairman, Department of Nephrology and Board of Management, said Gill was suffering from end-stage kidney failure and ischemic heart disease.
He had been recovering from peritonitis but died of a sudden cardiac arrest due to arrhythmia. The Assam cadre IPS officer, an alumnus of Shimla’s St Edmund’s School, with a masters degree in English Literature, came on deputation to Punjab and rewrote the manuals on counter-insurgency.
He was called ‘supercop’ for his work in Punjab, as he led from the front. During the height of terrorism, he adopted a unique tactic and pitched Jat Sikh against Jat Sikh and replaced paramilitary forces on the frontline with local youth.
What’s more, it worked as they were familiar with the local conditions. Gill was the pioneer who introduced the scheme of Special Police Officers in Punjab in the early 1990s, helping a large numbers of Scheduled Caste Sikhs gain employment in the force. His flamboyant style and habit of looking after his men brought out fierce personal loyalty among them.
It is evident even now as many senior police officers who were SPs or were holding other ranks at that time pledge loyalty to him and idolise him. Gill was the longest serving DGP of the State. He was in charge of Operation Black Thunder–II in the Golden Temple in 1988. It was successful as little damage was caused to the holiest shrine of Sikhs, compared to Operation Blue Star in 1984 carried out by the Army.
He was known for the strong tactics that he employed in crushing Sikh militancy. He had often said that Operation Blue Star was ‘mishandled’ by the government. He is credited with having brought insurgency in the State under control by breaking the backbone of Khalistani terrorism. Due to his tough approach there are differing views on whether he was a brilliant officer or if he was one who had little respect for law and human rights.
A Jat Sikh officer, Gill during his tenure as DGP lobbied with leaders of all sections against terrorism. Even now, political leaders cutting across party lines respect him. After the Gurdaspur attacks in 2015 he had visited the spot and said it's hard to revive terrorism in the State. Gill, who served as DGP of CRPF was the advisor (security) to the government of Chhattisgarh for a year in 2006-07.
After the recent Sukma attacks, he had said that there should be coordination between the State police and Central forces and there should be collective responsibility. Gill was also the president of the Institute for Conflict Management and the president of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).
He got the Padma Shri in 1989 for his work in civil service. However, controversies dogged Gill after charges against him of misbehaviour with woman IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj at a party in the house of another senior IAS officer emerged. A case of sexual harassment was registered against him and in 2005 the Supreme Court upheld it.
During his days in Assam, he had to go to court after he kicked a demonstrator. The IPS Association tweeted, "We deeply mourn the sad demise of iconic IPS officer, the legendary #KPSGill. His work in defeating Punjab militancy will always inspire us." Chief Minister Amarinder Singh while condoling the death of Gill, recalled his invaluable contribution to bringing peace back to the State from the grip of militancy.
He said Gill’s role in restoring peace and stability to Punjab cannot be undermined or forgotten, and he continues to be emulated by police and security personnel, as an example of how the most complex of problems can be resolved with grit and determination.