Did Cops Know About Honeypreet’s Hideout? A Reporter’s Diary Entry
Did the cops know where Honeypreet was hiding? How is it that a journalist reached her before police did?
“Please wait till 26 September, everything will be clear about Honeypreet,” a senior Panchkula police officer told me. I had approached him for details about the hunt for the aide and self-proclaimed “adopted daughter” of convicted rapist and Dera Sacha Sauda head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Honeypreet was arrested on 3 October but I met the officer, whom I cannot name, at his office on 20 September while she was still on the run. The officer had then told me to be patient.
Why is the media getting impatient? You meet me after 26 September, I will tell you everything.Senior Official, Panchkula Police
The officer’s mention of a specific date (26 September) set off alarm bells in my mind. “Why 26 September? Are you sure you will arrest Honeypreet by then?” I asked. “Or have you been tipped-off about her location and are waiting for the right moment?’
The officer was quick to realise his error. He tried to cover it up, saying: "No, no, Madam, we don’t have any tip-off about her. If we did, she would have been behind bars by now. Why would we wait?”
The officer failed to convince me. His gestures and fake smile made it obvious that he was trying to mislead me. But I’m no expert on body language, so how could I be sure? I thought I was reading too much into it.
Honeypreet Spotted in Delhi
A few days after my meeting, Honeypreet’s lawyer, Pradeep Kumar Arya, told the police that the second-in-command of the Dera had visited him at his Delhi office to file a transit anticipatory bail in the Delhi High Court. The bail plea was dismissed a day later, on 26 September, with the court telling Honeypreet, via her lawyer: “The easiest way out is for you to surrender.”
With her anticipatory bail application, a few things became very clear. First, Honeypreet had been moving around in a burkha, so as to meet her lawyers in secret and chalk out the future course of action. Two, she never crossed the international border. But humare 7 states ki police Honeypreet ko phir bhi pakad nahi payi (the police of seven states’ failed to arrest Honeypreet”).
After it was confirmed that Honeypreet was in Delhi, I telephoned the same senior police officer. “You were right, sir. Everything is clear now,” I told him.
Why did you tell me it would all be clear on 26 September? Did you know she planned to file an anticipatory bail by then?
Madam, what are you saying? How can we have any information on her legal plans? Agar pata hota ki woh kaha hai toh kya utha nahi lete. (Had we known, we would have arrested her.)
But sir, 26 September ko hi kyu hume pehli baar Honeypreet ke bare me pata chala? (How is it that on 26 September itself we got any information about Honeypreet?)
Nahi madam. Aap kaisi baat kar rahi hai? (No madam, what are you saying?) Ok madam, I am going for a meeting.
With that, he hung up on me. If he hadn’t, I would have asked him whether the police had been giving her time to file an anticipatory bail in the Delhi High Court.
“Journalists Just Want Paid Trips to Nepal”
After Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted, several news outlets reported that Honeypreet had travelled to Nepal. I don’t know what sources these journalists may have spoken to, but when I asked senior police personnel to confirm whether Honeypreet was in Nepal, they all denied it.
It appeared as though the news channels – Hindi/English/Regional – were more obsessed with what they called “Finding Honey” than with anything else of importance going on at the time.
The reasons were obvious, this was a story that would bring them high TRPs and social media attention.
But I was also one of many journalists who was on Honeypreet’s trail. I traveled to Chandigargh to meet some top cops, and luckily, I met them the day I arrived. My first question to all of them was "Is Honeypreet in Nepal? Could you please confirm?"
The police officer responded, with his eyes fixed on the TV, where a news channel was proclaiming that Honeypreet was seen in Pokhara:
Madam, we don’t know. Maybe the Nepal Intelligence officers must have called TV journalists and told them that Honeypreet was seen in Pokhara. Aapko koi call nahi aaya Nepal police se? (Didn’t you get any phone call from Nepal police?)Senior Official, Panchkula Police
This was not the first time that a police officer had given me a sarcastic response about media and journalists. But I had to bear with it.
I was tempted to tell him that it could have been a police officer who planted that false information in the first place, but in in the interests of gathering more information, I stayed quiet. Hum journalists ko bhi gussa peena padta hai (Journalists often have to hold their tongues.)
"Maybe journalists cooked up the Honeypreet in Nepal story because they wanted to travel to Nepal on office budget,” he said with a smile. I didn’t rise to the bait. "Sir, we (journalists) don’t know where she is. If you do, then please tell us”.
“Hume nahi pata wo kaha hai, aapko koi lead mile toh batayiye. (We don’t know where she is, if you get a lead, let us know)," he said, seeming cocky rather than embarrassed or ashamed at this protracted police failure.
Police More Focused on Media Reports Than on Honeypreet
When I met another top cop in Panchkula, after initial greetings, his first sentence was:
“Madam, now what do you want to know about Ram Rahim, I have told the media everything.”
When I thanked him for briefing the media about Ram Rahim’s activities in jail, he said “It is not a routine procedure. We were forced to brief about Ram Rahim."
“Dimaag kharab kar diya tha TV channel walo ne chala chala kar ki Ram Rahim jail mein ro raha hai Honeypreet se milne ke liye. Aisa kuch bhi nahi tha. Tang aa gaye the hum.”(TV channels were driving us crazy by airing that Ram Rahim is crying in jail to meet Honeypreet. This is not true. We are fed-up of media). I could see the frustration on his face, and felt a little sorry for the man.
“Aap Delhi se itni door se aaye hai toh maine milne se mana nahi kiya, lekin mere pass kuch nahi hai aur batane ke liye. (I am meeting you just because you have come all the way from Delhi. But I have nothing more to share with you),” the officer added. He was frustrated, but he spoke to me for about 15 minutes about Ram Rahim.
It stretches the credulity that Honeypreet, who was hunted by the police forces of seven states, evaded capture for a full 37 days, only to be unearthed by journalists and only then be arrested by police, just 10 kilometres from Panchkula.
In my two-day visit to Chandigarh and Panchkula, I noticed that none of the officers seemed stressed or fatigued. Instead, all of them seemed full of confidence. Most of the personnel I spoke to ended the conversation with, “Pakadi toh jayegi hi Honeypreet (Honeypreet will be arrested)” — as if they were all just waiting for the right moment.
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