Explained: What went wrong with Modi's security in Punjab yesterday?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to cancel his visit to Punjab's Ferozepur on Wednesday over a "major lapse in security." The main aspect of the lapse is how his cavalcade was stuck for 15-20 minutes on a flyover en route to his destination due to a protest by farmers. Meanwhile, the Punjab government also constituted a committee to investigate the lapses during Modi's visit.
Why does this story matter?
The incident has sparked a row with both Punjab's ruling Congress and Modi's BJP accusing each other of foul play. The BJP and the Modi government say that there had been a "security breach." However, the Punjab government and Congress say this was a face-saving effort by the PM as only a few people had turned up at the scheduled Ferozepur rally.
What happened yesterday?
The breach was a result of a series of lapses marked by miscommunication, political exigencies, and a failure by the state police, multiple officials told The Indian Express. Reportedly, the decision to go by road due to bad weather was promptly conveyed to the Punjab government. However, when the PM's convoy reached the flyover near Piareana village, the road was blocked by protesters.
Punjab DGP favored 'using force' to disperse protesters
When the PM's convoy was grounded on the flyover, Punjab's Director General of Police, Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, contacted senior members in the government, sources told TIE. Chattopadhyaya was reportedly in favor of "using force" to disperse the protesters so that the cavalcade could move. But he was told to exercise restraint as any action could put the state government in a fix, the sources added.
Authorities feared redo of 2015 anti-sacrilege protests
The Punjab government reportedly feared that any action may lead to what "happened during police action against anti-sacrilege protesters at Behbal Kalan after the incident of sacrilege at Bargari in 2015." In that incident, two protesters were killed in police firing while blocking a road.
10 SSP's were on duty for PM's visit
Notably, as many as 10 Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) and 10 officers of similar seniority were on duty for the PM's visit. Ferozepur Range DIG Inderbir Singh told TIE that the stretch where the PM's convoy was grounded was under Moga SSP. He went to the spot, albeit a bit late; reaching barely 15 minutes before the PM's convoy, Singh added.
Investigating what happened: Moga SSP
Meanwhile, Moga SSP Charanjit Singh Sohal said they had covered 35 to 40 kilometers. "We are looking into what happened on these 5 kilometers," he was quoted as saying by TIE.
Wanted to stop BJP vehicles: Protesting farmers
The group protesting on the flyover was only there to stop the "BJP vehicles," said Bhartiya Kisan Union Krantikari (Phul) Punjab General Secretary Baldev Singh Zira. "Had we known that the PM was actually traveling on this route, our reaction would have been different," Zira added. Notably, Zira was present on the spot when the incident happened.
Police informed PM's route: Zira
Zira admitted that Ferozepur SSP had informed them that the PM's convoy would take that road. However, the protesters thought it was a mere ploy to disperse them, he added. This is also evident in a video where Zira can be heard saying the PM has already reached the venue as the police asked protesters to vacate the road.
Retired police officials blame Punjab government
Meanwhile, a retired Punjab Police DGP said it was the responsibility of the state government to ensure security for the PM's visit as per norms. "You have to deploy additional security when you know protesters are there," they added. Calling it "unprofessionalism," another retired police officer said, "Given the long distance, the entire route should have been cleared and sanitized well in advance."
Punjab government forms committee to probe
Separately, the Punjab government formed a high-level committee on Thursday to investigate lapses during PM Modi's visit. The committee would comprise Justice (Retd) Mehtab Singh Gill, Principal Secretary (Home Affairs), and Justice Anurag Verma. The committee would submit its report within three days, the government said. Meanwhile, Punjab BJP President Ashwani Sharma rejected the committee, saying the CM is the "ringleader of the conspiracy."