PM Modi's security lapse: Top Punjab cops knew protests would happen? Protesters were radicals?
A day ahead of the Prime Minister's visit on January 5, the message had been sent about the movement of the protestors near the VVIP zone.
The Ferozepur police had informed the top leadership in the state administration about the farmers' plan to blockade the traffic near Hussainiwala, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to address a public gathering on January 5, a sting operation by an English news channel revealed on Tuesday.
While on his way to Ferozepur, Prime Minister Modi's convoy got stuck on a flyover for 20 minutes as the agitating farmers had blockaded the road. The prime minister had to return to the national capital, thereafter. The security lapse triggered a political blame game between the BJP and the Congress with scores of Union ministers accusing the Punjab government of endangering the Prime Minister's life.
India Today news channel reporters met Ferozepur's Deputy Superintendent of Police Sukhdev Singh and enquired about the incident of January 5. The Deputy SP said that a report was sent on January 2 to the Additional Director General of Police about the plan to stop traffic on key roads and prevent BJP workers from reaching the rally site.
In fact, Sukdev Singh said that even after the January 2 report, they (Ferozepur Police) constantly updated senior police officials that they [protesters] would try to enter the pandal. If stopped by the Punjab Police, they threatened to stage a dharna on the road.
On being asked about how the farmers reached on the road, the officer reportedly said that the Baldev Singh Zira group (Bharatiya Kisan Union Krantikari-Phul) had planned to assemble, information about which was shared with the Senior Superintendent of Police.
'They marched and broke barricades. When they staged the blockade, we informed again,' he was quoted by the channel as saying. The police officer further said that he had handed over a note to Additional Director General of Police (Security) Nageshwar Rao, during his visit from January 2-4, that roads were being blocked.
Ahead of the Prime Minister's visit on January 5, Sukhdev Singh said he had sent the message to the Senior Superintendent of Police about the movement of the protestors. He even showed the message to the journalists.
"At 11.45 am, the agitating farmers gathered and started walking towards Moga road. This message was received by them at 12.07 pm. At 12.20, the protestors broke the Ferozshah barricade and started moving on the same road on which the Prime Minister was supposed to travel. I sent that message at 12.32 pm," the police officer said.
At 12.45 pm, the SSP was informed about the presence of 200-225 protestors on the VVIP route. At 12.50 pm, Sukhdev Singh received a call from the Senior Superintendent of Police, Bathinda, who asked him if there was a traffic jam. 'I told him there was a traffic jam and that the entire area was blocked. He said, 'We are doomed',' Singh said.
He further stated that the prime minister's convoy arrived at 12:52 pm and returned at 1:10 pm. DSP Sukhdev Singh also informed that Khalistani outfit 'Sikhs for Justice' had announced a Rs 1 lakh reward for anyone who threw a shoe at PM Modi during his visit to Punjab.
'We had this input on January 4,' he said. The media persons also met Station House Officer Birbal Singh at the Kulgarhi police station in Ferozepur. He said, "Some people are angry. They had assembled. It’s their place, their right. What can we do? The government didn’t order us to beat them up."
On being asked about what would have the police done if they had ordered, Birbal Singh said, "We could have used lathis, tear gas shells or bullets to disperse them. But elections are forthcoming. We couldn’t use force."
He also stated that the protestors were not farmers but "radicals in the garb of farmers". As per the SPG protocols, the shops have to close. But on that day, even the liquor shop was opened. One of the shopkeepers confirmed this to the journalists. The shopkeeper said his shop remained open throughout when the prime minister’s convoy arrived. He also said that the protesters were all outsiders and not people from the area.
The correspondents also met the sarpanch of the nearby Pyaregaon village. He said that the locals were urged by protesters to join the blockade. Sarpanch Nichattar Singh said that the protesters sent out a message at the gurudwara asking people to assemble. Ten minutes before PM Modi's arrival, they sought help from farmers who had blocked the road. The crowd was arranged by Kisan unions here. He added, "That day, two youths with lathis in hand came running and called everyone."