Chandigarh: When Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota took over as the new Punjab DGP Saturday, he became only the third Dalit head of a force that has had almost 40 DGPs since Independence. Punjab had last had a Dalit DGP more than a decade back, in 2009.
Sahota’s appointment comes days after Charanjit Singh Channi took oath as the state’s first Dalit Chief Minister.
The state’s previous Dalit DGPs have both served in that position for less than a year.
The last Dalit DGP was Kamal K. Attri, a 1971-batch IPS officer, who headed the force for four months in 2009, between February and June. Before him, Sube Singh, Punjab’s first Dalit DGP, had served in that post for a little more than eight months, between July 1996 and February 1997.
Sahota, who is the special DGP of the Punjab armed police, has been given only additional charge as DGP, and has less than a year left in service. He retires in August next year.
Sahota replaced 1987-batch Dinkar Gupta, who has been asked to proceed on leave following the change in the state’s political leadership. Meanwhile, the process of appointing a regular DGP has started. A panel of officers’ names will be sent to the UPSC, which will then finalise three names, one of whom will be chosen DGP.
DGPs over the years
Considered to be a non-controversial mild officer Sahota has served in several key posts, including ADGP (law and order, prisons, railways, and administration) and director of the Bureau of Investigation.
In 2016, when the Shiromani Akali Dal government in the state introduced a dope test as part of all recruitments, Sahota had the tough job of recruiting officers who passed the test. The senior cop specialises in drug control.
But Sahota is not the only Dalit officer to have an illustrious career in Punjab police.
Explaining why the others did not reach the top, a senior police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity told ThePrint that “One of the main reasons for Dalit officers not reaching the top is because by the time they come into service they are generally older in age than the general category officers.
“Since SCs have more years to appear for competitive exams they get in at older ages. As a result, they retire much sooner. In Punjab, we have had very competent and brave officers who were Dalits, but never made it to the top because they did not have that many years left in service.”
He added: “Though Punjab police is a disciplined police force and caste is not a primary consideration, but the truth is that the number of Jatt Sikhs have outweighed others”.
One example is K.P.S. Gill, who headed the force twice, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Known as Punjab’s ‘super cop’, and credited with wiping out Sikh militancy, Gill was a Jatt Sikh.
S.S. Virk, another brave militancy fighter who served as DGP between 2005 and 2007, was also a Jatt Sikh.
The Aulakh brothers — N.P.S. Aulakh and M.P.S. Aulakh — of whom N.P.S. headed the police, while M.P.S. was also a DGP rank officer — were also Jatt Sikhs.
Then there were the Gill brothers — R.S. Gill and P.S. Gill — also Jatt Sikhs, who both headed the state police force between 2009 and 2011.
In comparison, there have been few Brahmin DGPs and only one Muslim DGP in the state — Dr A.A. Siddiqui, who served in the post between 2003 and 2005. Julio F. Ribeiro, another tough cop who headed Punjab police force during the worst period of militancy, between 1986 and 1988, was the only other Punjab DGP from the minority community.
History of the rank
“After Independence, the first few heads of Punjab Police were officers from the Imperial Police or IP, who had been selected during the British reign,” says Punjab expert Prabhjot Singh.
Ashwani Kumar, who received a Padma Bhushan in 1972, was the last IP head of Punjab Police.
The first IP head of Punjab Police after Independence was Sant Prakash Singh, followed by D.C Lal, Waryam Singh, Gurdial Singh and Kanwar Shamsher Singh — who preceded Kumar.
J.R. Chahbra was the first IPS officer to head Punjab Police.
“In the 1980s heads of Punjab Police started being referred to as ‘Director Generals’, even though their formal ranks at the time was ‘Inspector Generals’,” added Prabhjot Singh.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)