Chandigarh: Punjab Police chief Sumedh Singh Saini was on Sunday shunted out of the position by the state government. He was replaced by Suresh Arora as Director-General of Police, Punjab. The move has reportedly come at the intervention of the Union Home Minister, who had last week spoken to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal about the developments in Punjab in the wake of incidents of desecration of ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib.
“Saini has been transferred,” Punjab Home Secretary Jagpal Sandhu said, adding that he was given the new charge as Chairman of the Police Housing Corporation.
Arora, a 1982-batch IPS officer, was serving as the Director-General of Police-cum-Chief Director, Vigilance Bureau.
He had played a crucial role in fighting terrorism and was posted as SP (Headquarters), Amritsar, during Operation Black Thunder I, and as SSP Amritsar at the time of Operation Black Thunder II.
Under intense pressure to solve the incidents of desecration, especially the one at Baragri village in Faridkot, the Punjab Police had claimed to have found evidence to suggest an ‘international conspiracy’ behind the sacrilege. The police had also arrested two brothers, Rupinder Singh and Jaswinder Singh of Panjgarayin village in Fardikot, for their alleged involvement in the Bargari incident. The two were accused of receiving instructions and funding from alleged handlers in Australia and Dubai (UAE). The police claimed they had phone transcripts to support the claim.
The police theory, however, came under attack from several quarters, especially Sikh leaders and residents of Panjgarayin village. They claim the two had been sent money for treatment of injuries. Protests against the sacrilege have continued in the state, but have now turned more against the arrest of the two brothers.
The state police have also been attacked for not being able to solve the case when the ‘bir’ was reportedly first stolen in June. Subsequently, during the protests against desecration, tempers were particularly frayed when the police opened fire at protesters at Behbal Kalan village in Faridkot, which left two persons dead and more than 50 injured. The protesters claimed they were sitting on a dharna peacefully and the firing was unprovoked.
On the eve of Dasehra, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had made an appeal for communal tolerance in the wake of incidents that have sparked tensions among local communities in Dadri (UP), Faridabad (Haryana) and Punjab.
Concerned over the desecration of holy books in Punjab, Rajnath Singh last Monday had also spoken to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and assured him of “all possible help” from the Centre to tackle the situation. “Spoke to CM Shri Parkash Singh Badal who apprised me of the prevailing situation in Punjab. Assured him of all possible help from the Centre,” Rajnath had tweeted.
During the conversation, Rajnath conveyed to Badal that the Union Government was concerned about the situation in Punjab and asked him to take necessary steps to maintain peace in the state, sources said. He promised all help to defuse the tension in the state.
On Saturday night, in a meeting of senior SAD leaders, full support was extended to SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar. However, the subject of police investigation into the ‘bir’ desecration incident was said to have been avoided, indicating unease within the party over the matter.
The new DGP, Suresh Arora, has served as SSP in almost all districts, besides serving as the DIG, CM Security, after the assassination of then chief minister Beant Singh.
A postgraduate in law from the University of London, Arora has won various gallantry medals and awards, including the President’s Meritorious Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Prakram Medal.
The Election Commission of India had appointed Suresh Arora as the Director General of Police of Punjab ahead of the last Lok Sabha poll.
He was selected from among three officers, whose names were forwarded to the ECI by the state government for the post, after DGP Saini had proceeded on a long leave ahead of the poll, following which the Congress had sought his removal from the post.
Saini was believed to be close to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.