Home Ministry officials visited a flyover in Bathinda, Punjab, today to investigate security lapses during PM Narendra Modi’s campaign visit on Monday. The PM’s convoy was held up for 20 minutes by protesting farmers.
S Suresh, the inspector-general of the SPG — the Special Protection Group, tasked with protecting the Prime Minister — spent 45 minutes at the Pyarayana flyover with Sudhir Kumar Saxena, Secretary (Security), Balbir Singh, Joint Director of the Intelligence Bureau, and Balbir Singh. After that, they headed to the Border Security Force’s sector headquarters to continue their investigation. Punjab’s Director General of Police Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, as well as other senior police and civil officials, including those involved in the Prime Minister’s visit Wednesday, have been summoned to testify today.
Bathinda’s top cop has been asked to respond to a notice from the Home Ministry within a day. In a letter to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Punjab Chief Secretary Anirudh Tewari discussed the state’s inquiries. Police had filed a complaint and a two-member committee – Justice (retd) Mehtab Gill and Principal Secretary Anurag Verma of Punjab’s Department of Home Affairs – would report in three days.
Punjab will conduct its own investigation parallel to that conducted by the Union Home Ministry, which is investigating “serious lapses” in security arrangements. The Prime Minister was in Ferozepur speaking at a rally ahead of next month’s Assembly election.
It is also likely that the Supreme Court will hear the case today. Lawyers’ Voice, the NGO behind the petition, has called for Mr Tewari and the Director-General of Police, Siddharth Chattopadhyaya, to be held accountable and suspended pending action.
A massive row broke out Wednesday as PM Modi was stopped on a flyover for 20 minutes while on his way to Ferozepur for an election rally. Protesting farmers blocked his convoy as he traveled 100 kilometers from Bathinda to the rally by road after bad weather grounded his helicopter. He was stopped 10 km from the rally venue.
Farmers who blocked the road claimed they had no idea PM Modi was on his way. They admitted they were forced to move by state police once it became clear he was traveling by road, but saw the request as a way to make them abandon their protest.
However, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha – the umbrella group of farmers’ unions that led protests against the scrapped farm laws – has objected to reports the Prime Minister had said he had “somehow saved his life” in the incident. According to SKM, the prime minister is using the farmers’ movement in order to conceal the failure of his rally.
There have been questions raised over the sequence of events leading to the convoy being stuck on the flyover. There are also some big questions, such as why was he traveling the unsanitized route? And why did the PM’s security detail agree to a road trip, if there was intel about protesting farmers, and did the police clear the proposed route in advance (did they have enough time?)?
In a press release issued yesterday, the BJP said Punjab Police officers were directed to make “necessary security, traffic and route arrangements” for the visit of the prime minister. The BJP claims these memos also advise farmers to make diversion plans in the event of roadblocks caused by farmers’ dharnas due to bad weather.
As a result of the incident, a bitter feud has also arisen between the Congress and the BJP, which accuses the former of plotting to kill the Prime Minister. The Punjab Chief Minister denied any such charge. “As a Punjabi, I would die to protect you (the Prime Minister)…but there was no danger. No security breach occurred,” he said.