Parkash Singh Badal and the ‘Secret File’ on Punjab’s Drug Barons
A list naming Punjab’s drug lords & politicians involved was prepared in 2007 about which Sukhbir was kept informed.
Punjab’s drug problem is now firmly in the spotlight, thanks in part to Pahlaj Nihalani and ‘Udta Punjab’. Back in January when the Pathankot attack exposed our vulnerabilities, Shashi Kant (a former intelligence official with Punjab police) wrote this piece on the nexus between drug lords and politicians in the state. It holds particular relevance in recent times.
Ticking Or Defused Bomb?
- In 2007, a list naming the state’s drug lords and politicians involved in the nefarious trade was prepared.
- Sukhbir Singh Badal was kept informed under the instructions of his chief minister-father
- When the list was taken to the CM, Badal senior said ‘Such things are not brought in writing, you could have verbally told me about it’.
- Soon enough, the state’s intelligence chief was booted out of the department.
- The list of names – a veritable bomb – has been submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
It was an autumn afternoon in 2007 when I stepped into Chandigarh’s Sector 2 office-cum-residence of the newly-elected Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, armed with a ‘Top Secret’ document that contained the names of several police officers and politicians found to have been directly or indirectly involved in the nefarious cross-border drug trade.
As the dastardly terror attack in Pathankot, preceded six months ago by the strike in Dinanagar in adjoining Gurdaspur district, continue to haunt me, an almost audible whisper of Badal senior torments me. This is what Badal senior said in chaste Punjabi:
Kaka jee, estra dee gallan kagaz te nahi likhian jandi. Tussi eh sab kuch mannu zubani dass sakde see (Such things are not brought in writing, you could have verbally told me about it).
Those words struck me as a thunderclap. My initial reaction was one of complete disbelief.
The SAD-BJP government had just assumed power in Punjab after the 2007 assembly elections, replacing the Congress. Immediately after, I was summoned by Sukhbir Singh Badal to his Sector 9 house in Chandigarh. I had known him for years and every one, somehow or the other, perceived me to be close to him.
Sukhbir was neither party president nor deputy chief minister at that time. He introduced me to his dad, the Chief Minister-elect, saying good things about me and declaring that I was to head Punjab Police’s Intelligence Wing, and that being an “activist officer with a sound intelligence background”, I could help the ruling party clean up the administration which would help them “remain in power for at least the next 25 years.”
I was a fool to have literally accepted Sukhbir’s words, failing to realise that despite being a friend, he was first a politician and that too under the shadow of his astute politician father. By the end of the first week of March 2007, I was in the saddle as the intelligence chief of Punjab Police. Soon, I was summoned to Sukhbir’s Safdarjang Road residence in Delhi where he and his wife Harsimrat Kaur warmly received me. They were bubbling with happiness, with visions of a corruption-free Punjab, which could become the country’s premier state.
The Making of the List
I briefed them at length and we mutually drew up an action plan. Returning to Chandigarh, and in consultation with my IGP Viresh Bhawra and DIG Varinder Kumar, we started compiling lists of black marketeers, the land mafia, corrupt officials and politicians, drug dons and barons etc, besides conducting numerous other exercises.
Information about our “volatile” activities spread like wildfire and there was panic in bureaucratic, police, political and other circles which were under our scrutiny. Anxious enquiries poured in but our lips were sealed. Those targeted began queuing up at the CM’s office and houses of Sukhbir in Chandigarh and Delhi. The reactions of the CM and his son were different – while the former was worried about the political impact, the latter was upbeat.
Since Badal senior and junior were on the same page, I kept Sukhbir informed. Soon my proximity to him and his wife became a cause of envy and I became an eyesore. But I was not worried because Sukhbir told me not to bother about the efforts of various quarters, including politicians and my colleagues in the police and bureaucracy, to poison the CM’s ears.
It was under the direction of the CM that Sukhbir was kept in the loop. It was all hunky dory till we informed him about the increased inflow of drugs, its social cost and the people involved in the smuggling racket. This information, compiled from numerous interrogation reports, field intelligence, and information received from sister agencies under the Central government as also armed forces etc, startled him.
Sukhbir instructed me to take detailed information, including a list with the names of Punjab’s top drug smugglers and dons, to the CM. It was a ‘Top Secret Personal’ four-page, single-spaced list. It was almost a “who’s who” of Punjab and contained the names of several politicians, including some sitting and former ministers/MLAs, officers belonging to security forces, including the police, civil and other officials, civilians and even front organisations. The list was a bomb.
Badal Senior Turned Pale
I took it to the CM and briefed him. He turned pale, the colour draining from his face as he read the list and then came the whispering snarl, “kake ji…” He held on to the list for some time as a hushed silence fell over the room. He then ordered me to leave. Since that meeting, the list has not seen the light of the day. The frequency of meetings with the CM reduced before I was booted out of the department.
Unless destroyed, the list must be tucked away in some file. It remains the most sought after document in Punjab, with even the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking it. Strange statements have emanated from the Punjab government, ranging from ‘The list does not exist’ to ‘It is not traceable’ to ‘It has been tampered with’.
And ‘The curious case of a missing list’, which sounds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, goes on. Had the list been acted upon and the drug smugglers ‘restrained’, almost a generation could have been saved in Punjab. It would not have become a hub of drugs and narcotics trafficking, there would not have been terror infiltrations, there would not have been the ISI’s ‘sleeper cells’ and there would have been no Dinanagar and Pathankot.
(The writer is a former additional director-general (intelligence), Punjab Police)
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