Background of the S. Paramraj Singh
S. Paramraj Singh Umranangal is a senior IPS officer who belongs to a prominent political family in Punjab. His family was at the forefront of the effort to maintain national unity during the dark days of militancy in Punjab. His grandfather, Sardar Jiwan Singh Umranangal, though himself a former Akali legislator and minister, was one of the few courageous voices of the time who openly condemned the militant takeover of the Golden Temple by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers and their anti-national activities.
Not only that, he was the sole Sikh leader who went around the countryside preaching peace and amity between Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab when most others were too afraid to make any public statements for the fear of the militants. Because of his staunch public stand, he immediately became a target for the terrorists and though he survived several attempts on his life, his son, who was the father of S. Paramraj Singh, was ambushed and killed in broad daylight.
S. Paramraj Singh, who had just been accepted into the police force around that time, was also similarly targeted but bravely faced the armed insurgents and survived several violent encounters with them. Over the years he was recognized several times for his courage and commitment to the nation and was nominated twice for the president’s medal.
Introduction to the Current Crisis
In June 2015 Punjab was rocked by a series of sacrilege incidents intent on spreading communal hatred in which the pages of the holy Guru Granth Sahib were found torn and scattered in different places all over the State. This led to much public anger and protests in several places. In Kot Kapura, several thousand protesters blocked the city center and brought civil life to a halt. The ruling Akali-BJP government faced intense criticism and pressure to act and so they rushed hundreds of police officers to the town.
These included police officers and men from nearby districts besides Faridkot district, under which jurisdiction lay Kot Kapura. Several of these officers were sent there to hold negotiations with the leaders of the protesters and to persuade them to lift the dharna. S. Paramraj Singh was posted as a police commissioner in Ludhiana but had served as the IG of the Bhathinda range earlier because of which he was familiar with the local populace and had close personal contacts with many civic leaders there.
Accordingly, he was directed by the DGP Punjab to go to Kot Kapura in an attempt to bring about an amicable end to the crisis. S. Paramraj Singh was not the only officer to be directed thusly. Several other senior officers of SSP, DIG and IG rank from adjoining districts of Moga, Ferozpur and Bathinda were also directed similarly and sent there.
The Incident (October 14th 2015)
After some back and forth parleys between the protesters and their leaders, it was agreed by all that the dharna would be lifted peacefully on the morning of October the 14th and the protesters would formally yield to civil arrests by the police. Accordingly, the district administration was informed and transport buses were arranged by the local police officers. Several senior police officers were present in Kot Kapura to monitor that process.
These included the ADGP law and order, two other IGs, several DIGs and SSPs, besides S. Paramraj Singh, who was also an IG but not the senior most officer on the spot. Close to one hour of the incident was recorded on the CC cameras installed in the chowk. Out of this one hour, more than fifty minutes of the footage shows polite conversation between the police officers and the protesting leadership while the protesters initially allowed themselves to be arrested peacefully and led away.
In the last few minutes of the footage a sudden scuffle is seen between the two sides followed by brickbats by the angry public that initially drove the police away. At the very end of the recording the police is seen to counter charge and drive away the protesters. The public is seen brandishing lathis and swords, attacking the police vehicles and the police is seen using a water cannon, and damaging some sound systems etc.
At no time is the S. Paramraj Singh seen giving any directions or handling any weapon. The same day, there was another police firing at a nearby village of Bargari in which two individuals lost their lives. S. Paramraj Singh was never present in Bargari nor did he have any direct authority over the police force present there.
The clash in Kotkapura resulted in many injured, including over forty police officers. There was one IGP rank officer among them. One person, presumably a protester, was shot in the leg and required hospitalization and subsequent surgery. Another, a police officer suffered grievous injury and still remains paralyzed waist down. None of the injured police officers or the protesters were compensated.
Yielding to public pressure, the Akali-BJP State govt. instituted a commission of inquiry by a retired judge and another commission was appointed by the subsequent Congress State Govt. Both commissions found many lapses by multiple individuals but no one individual was held solely responsible for the clash. Neither were these unfortunate happenings considered premeditated although errors of judgment were cited.
After the recent SIT was set up, S. Paramraj Singh cooperated fully with the SIT and met with them several times. He truthfully gave account of all the happenings to the best of his ability yet in early 2019, he alone among several other of his peers present in Kotkapura, was arrested and charged with an attempt to murder one of the individuals injured in Kotkapura. S. Paramraj Singh has since been released on bail by the Faridkot district court.
In his order the judge agreed with the defense council that not only was the riot there that day spontaneous but also that many police officers too were injured during it. He also agreed that there was no evidence that S. Paramraj Singh had any direct role in the injuries sustained by protesters.
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