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Under political pressure or a scapegoat? Where Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik went wrong

Though Amulya Patnaik has been known for his 'honesty' and 'sense of judgement', many now see him as a Delhi Police commissioner who failed his force during the riots.

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Throughout his career, Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik kept a low profile, rarely ever made it to the news for wrong reasons, and was always considered an “upright officer” with a “clean image”.

But Patnaik’s term, which ends today, has been tarnished in the last week of his office — part of an extended tenure — as the national capital burnt in one of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots since the 1947 Partition. This is why the outgoing Delhi Police chief is ThePrint’s newsmaker of the week.

While mobs armed with lathis, axes, petrol bombs ran amok, vandalising property, desecrating mosques and Muslim cemeteries, setting vehicles, schools and shops on fire, Amulya Patnaik’s men watched on, waiting for “directions from top”. When those came, it was too late. The damage had been done. Dozens of lives had been lost.

Amulya Patnaik, a 1985-AGMUT cadre IPS officer, had retired after serving as Commissioner of Delhi Police for three years, on 31 January. But his tenure was extended by a month for the Delhi assembly election.

It was during the last few months of his tenure that he received flak for being “incompetent”. From mishandling the JNU violence on 5 January — when a masked mob attacked the students and faculty, but police failed to make a single arrest in two months — to Delhi Police’s brazen use of force inside Jamia Milia Islamia, when officers beat up students, damaged university property, and broke CCTV cameras, Patnaik’s reputation received an instant jolt.


Also read: Why Modi decided to send Ajit Doval to enforce the law, bring peace to Northeast Delhi


‘Lacks leadership skills’

Although he is respected for his “honesty” and “sense of judgement”, Patnaik is now being largely seen as having failed his force. Many wonder what made him so complicit, so infirm as a leader.

“He has always encouraged great policing and has always held important positions. He always remained calm and dealt with the worst of situations very effectively. What happened now, why and how things went out of hand, is something we all are wondering,” a senior officer told ThePrint, on the condition of anonymity.

Another officer said that Patnaik may be a good police officer but “lacked leadership skills”. The force appreciates a leader who stands with them, backs them. Not someone who puts the blame on them at the first instance to save his own skin,” he said.

A graduate from Odisha, Amulya Patnaik holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Delhi University. His first posting was as Assistant Commissioner of Police in Najafgarh sub-division. After that he held several important positions in Delhi Police – DCP (east), DCP (south), Joint CP (southern range), Joint CP (crime) and Special CP (vigilance).

Patnaik had also handled the security of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.


Also read: Delhi riots neither designed by Modi govt, nor Islamic conspiracy. It’s far more dangerous


Facing police protest

Last November, Patnaik became the first Commissioner of Police against whom his own police force took to the streets. Several Delhi Police personnel held a vociferous protest outside the headquarters against the apathy of senior officials, demanding “justice and the respect they deserve”. This was something unheard of, considering the “discipline and decorum” that the force swears by.

Although the immediate catalyst for the protest was the assault on officers by lawyers at Tis Hazari, Karkardooma and Saket courts, the discontentment among the personnel had been simmering for long.

Despite widely available videos and clips of police officers being assaulted, no lawyer was arrested. Instead, two senior officials – additional DCP Harendra Singh and Special CP (law and order, northern zone) Sanjay Singh – were transferred. Similarly, in the July 2019 incident where a Sikh man had tried to attack officers with a sword in Mukherjee Nagar, six police personnel were suspended for alleged manhandling.

What was evident was that the lower-level personnel were upset with Patnaik for not standing with them in times of trouble.

“If we do not act, we are blamed. If we act, we are either shunted or punished. Even when we are assaulted, it’s we who suffer. Don’t we deserve a dignified life? They treat us like dirt,” a head constable had told ThePrint at the protest in November.

A senior officer said that when there is no leadership, the force’s morale deteriorates and that is what happened in Patnaik’s case.

“This easy picking of personnel may save you for the moment, but it leads to a bigger damage, which is not visible initially,” he said.


Also read: The Delhi pogrom 2020 is Amit Shah’s answer to an election defeat


Hard to believe

Amulya Patnaik was made the chief of Delhi Police in 2017. Surprisingly, he superseded two top officers — Dharmendra Kumar and Deepak Mishra, both one batch senior to Patnaik.

While many in the top circles said his appointment was because of his strong “Odia connect” (a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office is an Odia), others said Patnaik deserved the post and that the Modi government wanted a CP with age on his side.

Being a sharp and experienced police officer, it is difficult to believe that Patnaik made an incorrect assessment of the communal riots in Northeast Delhi, where mobs went on a rampage for three days while his officers sat and watched.

Unless there may have been political pressure to not take coercive action.

For cases of communal clashes, there is a clear standard operating procedure – send force on the ground, put DCPs and joint commissioners in charge of the situation, make preventive arrests to disperse the gatherings. Clearly, none of this was done in the three days when Northeast Delhi burnt.

It is also hard to believe that Delhi Police is so incompetent it could not make a single arrest in the JNU violence case despite clear evidence of masked men running riot inside the university campus.


Also read: Why Delhi riots are different — what ThePrint’s 13 reporters, photojournalists saw on ground


Complacent or a scapegoat?

So, was it the case of Patnaik succumbing to political pressure?

A few senior officers in the force believe so. Does it mean that an officer holding such an important position should be so vulnerable, irresolute? Definitely not.

“There are pressures from the government but it depends on the officer (to decide) how much is justified. It is hard to dodge, but in that chair, that position, one needs to take tough calls,” a senior police officer said.

“If you succumb to that pressure, then you have failed as a leader. You have to have a mind of your own and think for the force, for the people, whether it is morally correct or not,” he said.

Another police officer said that Patnaik has been made a “scapegoat”.

“It is sad that such a respected officer who had a great career will leave like this. He has just been made a scapegoat by the government. But it cannot be discounted that he as the CP should have been more firm.”

Whatever be the case, one thing is certain: as he bids goodbye to the police force today, his image tarnished, Amulya Patnaik must be secretly wishing he had never received that one-month extension.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. CNN , WASHINGTON POST , THE GUARDIAN , NEW YORK TIMES ALL fabitcating news as if HINDU TERROR . THIS IS OTHER WAY AROUND .
    IT HAS BEING FOUND ISIS – OCI -PAKISTAN funded via PFI n TAHIR WAS THERE AGENT IN DELHI !! THIS IS COMPLETE ISLAMIC RADICALISATION !! comman muslim was FOOLED AROUND VIA RELIGIOUS MULLAS WHO SHOUT OUT LIKE ZAHIR NAIK FOR FAKE PROPOGANDA

  2. First we all see the police and its area of duties with one eye. Amulya Patnaik was no different from his predecessors, scaled these heights and known to be an honest officer. But what went wrong in handling the Delhi riots. First needs to look at the events since Shaheen Bagh came in existence, The Govt. was pale and worried to wipe out the agitators from Shaheen Bagh and though it made a bulk/hulk presentation to avoid the embarassement , it could not kill the instinct of the lover of Shaheen Bagh who uptill now represents the general public and not just muslims. This headache was must to be resolved at priority and hence the East of shaheen bagh which was close to U.P. Borders saw a huge influx of gangs who merged
    themselves in public to hide their identity and waited for their bosses instructions. Sooner they were tipped to start their actions, they did exactly what was told to them and a clear line drawn for the Commissioner of Police be keep the moral and profile of Delhi police low till the time the agendas are reached. It certainly back lashed and miscalculated. The sudden attacks of the Pro -CAA supporters who took weapons into their hands over powered the Govt.Instructions and simply went on the teach the minorities lessons. Here Mr. Amulya Patnaik was bound to remain a salient spectator till the score gets settled with the minorities. Mr. Patnaik hence could be termed as a scapegoat who was not aware of the consequences it was looking at. The much experience cadres of the Govt. played in with Mr. Patnaik and without arguments He simply trusted them hoping to get thing back to normal. But here too it got spiraled. The Delhi Police is among st the most advance in terms of its infrastructure in the country, still could not keep its image desired and expected by the public for seeking safety at all cost. A bitter failure was always imminent as the Central Govt. who looks after the Delhi Police was complicit is getting the criminals in thousands from neighboring Uttar Pradesh to teach the minority musliims lessons against the agitations held peacefully at Shaheen Bagh since more than 60 days. Multiple occasions are a witnessed how the political bosses scarified senior police officers for their own political gains. Seems there could be many Amulya’s in waiting for the next episode to experience the unlawful episodes of Delhi to reoccur. As of now the image of Delhi Police has hit the lowest low and will take years to rise in the eyes of the people, specially the minorities.

    • As many as 43 deaths have been recorded so far. The entire system, including the police, under Patnaik, failed Delhi.

      Patnaik’s tenure, which will be completed tomorrow, has been marred by controversies and failures. His scheduled retirement was on January 31, but was given a month’s extension due to Delhi assembly election.

      An instance of his gross failure to lead his force was the violent attack on students of Jawaharlal Nehru Univerity armed and masked thugs on January 5. The cops remained mute spectators as the goons wreaked havoc. They also were “inactive” during Jamia Milia Islamia University chaos.

      Despite clarion calls given by politicians, Patnaik did not feel the need to visit the spots and lead his force into restoring normalcy.

      Patnaik’s inaction isn’t unusual, and there is a reason for it. The reason: His closeness with a former Gujarat IAS officer, who is posted at Prime Minister Office (PMO).

      Another reason is his association with Alok Verma, the darling of the Lutyens brigade. He was removed from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for his attempt to dilute a corruption case, as alleged by Rakesh Asthana, his rival aspirant.

      Verma was loved by the Lutyens club because they found an opportunity in building a false narrative of his removal from the coveted post of CBI Director. They alleged that the central government took this step when Verma was about to take a decision whether the Rafale fighter jet deal with France was a fit case for a probe by the CBI or not.

      Patnaik’s association with Verma, who was also his predecessor, was so thick that he continued to make transfers allegedly on his behest, even after his removal from CBI.

      These ties with the powerful leadership made him an “arrogant” officer, who subjugated police officers flagging loopholes in the city’s law and order. He also managed to save his skin after the humiliation of four Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers outside Verma’s residence, who wanted his ouster in 2018.
      Just a simple IPS OFFICER , can have crores of worth of land in lyutens DELHI , in odisha and don’t know yet where else !!where did this all come from?
      he is also supposed to have very close ties with Khangress aala command in Tuglak road !
      PMO has thousands of beaurocracy in office who misguide diffuse ,diverge ,mis interprete commands n decisions of higher ups !!need to read the other side as well

  3. WAS IT A POGROM
    In the recent riots the police did not take any action for three days. In the video after video we can clearly see what little police deployment there was, in a dozen videos Either the police is acting in conjunction with the Riot mob or were simply standing by.
    The riot mob was from outside the area, then why were no order given to stop them, just like in Gujarat 2002 the mob operated in impunity.
    The difference with Gujarat is instead of being massacred, Muslims fought back, many innocent Hindus were attacked by Muslims but the riots were started when outsiders came in. Both sides lost innocent lives but the vast brunt of burnt property was of Muslims.
    The police did nothing to stop the mob who were even preventing ambulances from entering hospitals, until a court order forced them to do so.
    This was a planned pogrom against Muslims by the State, else how does one explain the absence of the police for three days. Over 3000 calls for help were made by both communities to the police switchboard.
    Who gave the orders for the police not to intervene?
    It is a well known fact a riot cannot last more than a few hours without police connivance.
    This police inaction must be investigated, why were mobs allowed to come in and torch Muslim property.
    Hindus themselves have testified that it was when large number of outsiders came in and launched attacks the trouble started
    Who were these outsiders?
    Muslims live in fear, they know the police will not protect them. They are making arrangements to protect themselves. They noW know they must fight to live, else in future situations like these there are dead. They is so much hate spread by one political party for years that the relationship between communities has been poisoned.
    The know this was a pogrom the state has shown it’s not there to protect them. This is despite the NSA Ajit Doval coming to the area afterwards to do damage control.
    When this happens then there is no state, or the state acts for one community only.
    Do we want INDIA to become like Lebanon or Israel.

    • As many as 43 deaths have been recorded so far. The entire system, including the police, under Patnaik, failed Delhi.

      Patnaik’s tenure, which will be completed tomorrow, has been marred by controversies and failures. His scheduled retirement was on January 31, but was given a month’s extension due to Delhi assembly election.

      An instance of his gross failure to lead his force was the violent attack on students of Jawaharlal Nehru Univerity armed and masked thugs on January 5. The cops remained mute spectators as the goons wreaked havoc. They also were “inactive” during Jamia Milia Islamia University chaos.

      Despite clarion calls given by politicians, Patnaik did not feel the need to visit the spots and lead his force into restoring normalcy.

      Patnaik’s inaction isn’t unusual, and there is a reason for it. The reason: His closeness with a former Gujarat IAS officer, who is posted at Prime Minister Office (PMO).

      Another reason is his association with Alok Verma, the darling of the Lutyens brigade. He was removed from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for his attempt to dilute a corruption case, as alleged by Rakesh Asthana, his rival aspirant.

      Verma was loved by the Lutyens club because they found an opportunity in building a false narrative of his removal from the coveted post of CBI Director. They alleged that the central government took this step when Verma was about to take a decision whether the Rafale fighter jet deal with France was a fit case for a probe by the CBI or not.

      Patnaik’s association with Verma, who was also his predecessor, was so thick that he continued to make transfers allegedly on his behest, even after his removal from CBI.

      These ties with the powerful leadership made him an “arrogant” officer, who subjugated police officers flagging loopholes in the city’s law and order. He also managed to save his skin after the humiliation of four Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers outside Verma’s residence, who wanted his ouster in 2018.
      Just a simple IPS OFFICER , can have crores of worth of land in lyutens DELHI , in odisha and don’t know yet where else !!where did this all come from?
      he is also supposed to have very close ties with Khangress aala command in Tuglak road !
      PMO has thousands of beaurocracy in office who misguide diffuse ,diverge ,mis interprete commands n decisions of higher ups !!need to read the other side as well
      secondly TAHIR AAP sansad is an illegal bangaladeshi immigrant himself !! his parents moved in . he was just a labour 20 yrs ago in UP ! N NOW HE HAS CRORES OF PROPERTY IN DELHI !! HE IS SAID TO BE OIC AGENT IN INDIA . thus when OIC MET IN NEPAL ON 14-15 FEB huge funds were sanctioned for these riots n TAHIR WAS THE KEY with a huge team of HIRED leaders to monitor THE WELL GOING OF THE MISCHIEF !1 cos PLANNED HOUSES / business/ schools WERE MARKED AT NIGHT ON THE DOORS n fired burnt killed !!with targeting hindus . this is completely political funded via ISIS- OCI- PFI

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