Who is Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga and why IPS officers of 3 states acted as pawns in BJP-AAP proxy war?

IPS officers serving in Punjab Police, Haryana Police and Delhi Police would’ve been involved in events relating to Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga’s arrest. Why didn't they act in non-partisan manner?

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter
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Rahul Gul

Among other grave implications, the dramatic saga surrounding arrest of Delhi BJP functionary Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga by Punjab Police and his subsequent ‘rescue’ by Delhi Police, with more than a little help from Haryana Police, again demonstrated the absolute sense of subservience with which Indian Police Service officers now toady to their political masters, in utter disregard of the oath of allegiance to the Constitution taken by them, swearing to enforce the law strictly, without fear or favour.

To begin with, the very fact that the Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar Police unit of Punjab Police registered an FIR against Bagga, national secretary of BJP’s youth wing and a spokesperson of Delhi unit of BJP, indicated a clear directive given by AAP’s leadership to the state’s police brass to ‘fix’ Bagga.

Bagga is an old and known adversary of AAP supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. In fact, he first came into the eye public after assaulting lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, then a core member of so-called Team Anna in October 2011, for calling for a referendum on Kashmir.

Bagga, part of an outfit called Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, along with an associate from right wing group Sri Ram Sene, barged into the lawyer’s Supreme Court chambers and attacked him, an event which inadvertently streamed live on a TV channel that was interviewing Bhushan at the time. He went on to slap and punch the lawyer in the face, pinned him to the ground, repeatedly kicked him in the face and chest, and tore his shirt while abusing him for his “separatist” remarks.

Kejriwal, it may be recalled was closely associated with Bhushan and Anna.

Today, Bagga was picked up by Punjab Police in connection with an FIR registered against him by SAS Nagar Police on April 1, referring in part to his alleged remarks made on March 30 when he was part of a BJP youth wing protest outside Kejriwal’s official residence in Delhi.

Bagga has been highly vocal against Kejriwal on social media, and he allegedly made a ‘threatening’ tweet against Kejriwal over his remarks on 'The Kashmir Files' movie.

The FIR was filed under Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony); 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief); 505 (2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes); and 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

It was filed on the basis of a complaint by Punjab AAP spokesperson Sunny Singh Ahluwalia, which alleged that Bagga’s comments amounted to “… criminal intimidation… to cause violence… imminent hurt to Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders in a pre-designed, well planned, orchestrated manner….”

The Punjab Police claimed that Bagga was served five notices under Section 41 A of the Cr.PC to join the investigation, but ignored them.

Who is Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga?

It would be instructive here to briefly trace how Bagga rose to a position where his arrest evidently attracted the attention of those in the top echelons of the Modi government, without whose explicit directions such an unprecedented, controversial and elaborate ‘rescue operation’ by the Delhi Police would not have been mounted and accomplished.

In 2011, after he was arrested for the assault on Prashant Bhushan, Bagga’s father Preet Pal, who ran a garments shop, was quoted as saying in a media report that he was an active member of BJP Yuva Morcha, with their flat in Vishnu Garden, a lower-middle class colony in west Delhi, filled with his photographs posing with BJP leaders such as LK Advani and Rajnath Singh.

Following the incident, Bagga became something of a social media influencer, going on to amass almost two lakh followers on Twitter (today, the count stands at over nine lakh).

In July 2015, Bagga found himself among the #Super150, a group of social media influencers greeted by PM Narendra Modi at his official residence on the sidelines of the Digital India launch.

Larry Price, who documented Modi’s 2014 election campaign in his book ‘The Modi Effect’, quoted Bagga on his efforts to make Modi more relatable to the youth: “Having watched Bruce Springsteen perform for Barack Obama, he and some friends staged a small rock concert. Concerts need T-shirts and these too, were a deliberate attempt to co-opt the Obama campaign, although with a very Indian twist. ‘We launched T-shirts because there were many people blaming Modi for the 2002 riots,’ said Bagga. “The first T-shirt was a quote from Modi, ‘India First is my definition of Secularism’. And the second T-shirt had Modi’s face with the tagline, ‘Face of Development’.”

Bagga is also known as an ardent follower of Art of Living propagated by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, with a photograph on social media depicting the latter smiling benignly at him while he is seated near his feet.

The so-called Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, incidentally, orchestrated a number of other altercations. They barged into an event being held at India Habitat Centre to launch Arundhati Roy’s ‘Broken Republic’, calling her essays “anti-Indian Army and pro-Kashmir azaadi”. They heckled Syed Ali Shah Geelani at an event organised by the Centre for Study of Developing Studies in Delhi.

The fringe group locked the Jammu & Kashmir House in Delhi to demand that the Amarnath Yatra be extended by 120 days. They also disrupted a rally organised by the Popular Front of India “because they perpetrate love jihad.”

Bagga was known to make phone calls to TV news journalists, informing them well in advance about his intent to disrupt and assault in order to get coverage.

Bagga is also the editor of NaMo Patrika – an online portal started by the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena to highlight schemes and initiatives launched by the Modi government.

Bagga’s proximity to the RSS and several BJP leaders was seen as the reason for his elevation to the post of Delhi spokesperson. In 2020, during Delhi Assembly elections, he was named as BJP’s candidate from Hari Nagar, but lost.

Bagga’s arrest by Punjab Police on Friday morning quickly made it to the headlines on the television, web-based sites and news aggregators, thanks in no small part to news agency ANI, as did his father’s allegation that he was ‘punched in the face’ during the process. Adding fuel to fire, a tweet by BJP leader Kapil Mishra alleged that ‘50 policemen’ had barged into Bagga’s residence to arrest him.

A couple of hours later, news filtered in that the Senior Superintendents of Police (SSP) of as many as three districts in Haryana had personally converged on NH 1, linking Delhi to Chandigarh, in an attempt to intercept the Punjab Police vehicle, after Delhi Police lodged a case of kidnapping, besides alleged assault on Bagga’s father, at PS Janakpuri.

The vehicle was flagged down near Pipli in Kurukshetra district, and Bagga was reportedly escorted to a farmhouse. Asked why the Punjab Police team had been stopped, a Haryana Police official was quoted as saying that there was information that Bagga had been “forcibly” picked up from his residence. “We have to verify and crosscheck these things,” he said. Senior Haryana police officials were present at the spot.

The Punjab Police quickly reacted to the unexpected developments. SSP, SAS Nagar shot off a letter to his Kurukshetra counterpart, saying that the move to stop the Punjab Police team was tantamount to “illegal detention” and amounted to “interference in the administration of criminal justice system”.

At 3 PM, news broke that it had rushed an Additional DGP rank officer to Kurukshetra. By this time, a Delhi Police team, acting uncharacteristically swiftly, was already en route to pick up Bagga after obtaining search warrants from a Dwarka court.

Even an urgent petition by Punjab Police before Punjab & Haryana High Court praying for directions to keep Bagga in Haryana did not pass muster, with the court now set to hear the case on May 7.

Meanwhile, Punjab Police dismissed allegations that it did not inform Delhi Police of its intention to arrest Bagga, contending that its personnel had been present at PS Janakpuri since the evening of May 5.

Further clarity on these procedural issues is awaited, even as senior retired IPS officers pointed out, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that the primary issue here was that even if the whole episode reflected a proxy war between the AAP and BJP, the concerned officers handling various teams were duty-bound to assert their authority and uphold the law of the land rather than carrying out impulsive orders from political leaders.

FIR against Bagga and his subsequent arrest amounted to vendetta politics on part of the AAP’s leadership, but the ensuing events gave the impression of a circus playing out, they said.

The following questions need to be answered:

1. Was Punjab Police justified in lodging an FIR against Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga and arresting him today?

2. If Punjab Police formally arrested him, it would have been required to inform local police, i.e. Delhi Police, and move a local court for a transit remand to take him to SAS Nagar. Was it an ‘informal arrest’? Who took the decision to send the team to Delhi?

3. Assuming that Punjab Police did not inform Delhi Police of its intention to arrest Bagga, the latter would have heard of the news on media. Before lodging an FIR under Section 363 of IPC (Punishment for kidnapping) at the instance of Bagga’s father, the DCP of South West district, the IPS officer in charge of the area, or his/her higher-ups – Additional CP, Joint CP, Special CP and Commissioner of Police – just needed to call up their counterparts in Punjab to verify the whole thing. Why didn’t they do that?

4. Assuming that the Haryana Police intercepted the vehicle in which Bagga was being taken at the request of Delhi Police after the latter lodged an FIR, its personnel would have been shown identity documents by the team of Punjab Police. The same could easily have been verified by the concerned IPS officers serving with Haryana Police from their counterparts before ‘detaining’ them. Why wasn’t this done?

5. If the individuals in the vehicle were indeed bonafide Punjab Police personnel, Haryana Police had no business taking them and their official vehicle to another location and wait for Delhi Police team to arrive, and then hand it over to them. Who is responsible for making this decision?

6. Considering that the whole incident became public by noon, with all news headlines blaring about it, and official letters being issued and exchanged, Delhi Police could not have officially taken Bagga’s custody and brought him back to Delhi. Who ordered this?

7. Why didn't any of the concerned IPS officers stand up to the political pressure being exerted on them, speak their mind and put their foot down rather than carrying out legally-flawed orders?

The partisan conduct of the concerned IPS officers brings to mind an observation made by the Supreme Court of India about police officers while hearing a bail petition of senior Chhattisgarh cadre IPS officer GP Singh. It said: “It is a disturbing feature across the country. First, they actively register cases against opponents of those at the helm of power. They face the misuse when the latter come to power. This is a clear misuse of the system.”

The 'mission statement' posted on the website of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVPNPA), where IPS officer receive training as probationers after being selected by the UPSC on the basis of the civil services exams, says:

'The primary purpose of the Academy is to prepare leaders for the Indian Police, who will lead/command the force with courage, uprightness, dedication and a strong sense of service to the people. Academy will endeavour to inculcate in them, such values and norms as would help them serve the people better. In particular, it will try to inculcate integrity of the highest order, sensitivity to aspirations of people in a fast changing social and economic milieu, respect for human rights, broad liberal perspective of law and justice, high standard of professionalism, physical fitness and mental alertness.'

Unfortunately, this 'mission' clearly remains unaccomplished to a large degree.

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    Published: 06 May 2022, 10:10 PM