The police forces of Delhi and Haryana, which report to BJP governments, were marshalled on Friday to scuttle AAP-administered Punjab police’s arrest of Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga from his home in the capital over alleged hate speeches.
The dramatic development — two state police forces squaring off against a third to free an accused — prompted a former Intelligence Bureau director to wonder whether the country’s police were acting as “personal militias of the ruling parties”.
While the cops from Punjab were passing through Haryana after arresting Bagga, they were stopped by Haryana police and allegedly detained at Kurukshetra police station.
The move came apparently at the behest of the Delhi police, who report to the Union home ministry and had registered a complaint of kidnapping from Bagga’s father.
A Delhi police team arrived in Kurukshetra in the afternoon, apparently with a search warrant from a Delhi court to trace Bagga. It left with Bagga, after which the Punjab cops were allowed to go.
Picture tweeted by Naresh Balyan of AAP shows Bagga. PTI Photo
The former Intelligence Bureau director flagged how the police of BJP-ruled Assam had arrested Congress-backed MLA Jignesh Mevani — an elected representative — in BJP-ruled Gujarat over a tweet on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After Mevani got bail, the Assam police rearrested him in a sexual harassment case, which a court later said was “manufactured”.
“Gujarat police had cooperated with Assam police in his arrest as both states are BJP-ruled. Whoever is in power is now misusing the police,” the former IB director said.
A Haryana officer said the Punjab team was stopped following information from the Delhi police that Bagga had been “forcibly” picked up from his home in Janakpuri.
“They were taken to a nearby police station in Kurukshetra for verification. We questioned the police team,” the officer said.
Following the face-off, the senior superintendent of police, SAS Nagar (Mohali) protested to his Kurukshetra counterpart.
“This (is) tantamount to illegal detention and interference in administration of criminal justice system. It is submitted that the police party along with the arrested accused may be released so that he may be produced before the court of Hon’ble Inderjeet Singh, Mohali, well within time as per law,” the SSP wrote.
A former IPS officer said the action by the Delhi and Haryana police had set a bad precedent that could “have repercussions for future police actions”.
“If every state adopts such a strategy, it will become difficult to make inter-state arrests,” he said.
The Delhi police were also accused of detaining a smaller Punjab police team that had come to Janakpuri police station to report Bagga’s arrest. Officers in Delhi denied any detention, claiming the Punjab cops had stayed back of their own will.
They accused the Punjab police of violating due process by failing to produce Bagga before a Delhi court and seek transit remand.
But a Punjab officer said a transit remand is required only when the accused cannot be produced before the competent court within 24 hours of arrest.
The cyber crime wing of the Punjab police had registered the case against Bagga, a vocal critic of AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, accusing him of instigating violence, promoting enmity and criminal intimidation through speeches, interviews and social media posts.
The FIR was registered on a complaint from AAP leader Sunny Ahluwalia, a Mohali resident, on April 1 after Bagga allegedly made provocative remarks during a BJP youth wing protest outside Kejriwal’s residence in Delhi.
Punjab police sources said Bagga had been arrested after he ignored five notices to join the investigation.
Saurabh Bharadwaj, chief spokesperson of the AAP which governs Delhi but not its police, highlighted how, in BJP-ruled states, Opposition politicians faced ED and income-tax raids, arrests and NIA summons.
“The BJP has always used the police against those who oppose them. But if any other party works with impartiality, then… the BJP feels that other people have also become like them,” he said.
The BJP protested against the Punjab police outside the Janakpuri police station where a Mohali DSP was present, and outside the AAP office where they breached barricades but were prevented by police from entering. The party’s youth wing demonstrated near Kejriwal’s residence.
Senior BJP leader and former MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa told reporters that Kejriwal wanted “to silence and intimidate those who are speaking the truth against him and exposing him”.
After the AAP came to power in Punjab in March, the state’s police have registered FIRs against Delhi BJP spokesperson Naveen Jindal — for sharing an allegedly doctored video of Kejriwal — and Congress leader Alka Lamba and AAP rebel Kumar Vishvas for alleging Kejriwal is backed by Khalistani separatists.
Delhi MLA Atishi Marlena of the AAP said: “The BJP is trying hard to save a goon, a rioter… because it is a party of goons, rioters and those who commit violence.”
She provided a list of Bagga’s alleged misdeeds: “He broke into the Supreme Court premises and attacked an innocent lawyer; he interrupted and attacked people at a programme at the Ramlila Maidan; he barged into a book launch and launched an unwarranted attack on the poor author; he has a criminal case against him for igniting riots at one of Amit Shah’s road shows….”
Marlena said Bagga faced cases for allegedly forcing his way into a home in January 2014 and attacking people, and for allegedly inciting riots, spreading communal disharmony, and similar charges.
Punjab, Centre, Haryana: What happened?
⚫ Police from Punjab, governed by AAP, reach Delhi, arrest BJP leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga on pending charges of hate speeches and head back by car with the accused, passing through Haryana
⚫ Another Punjab police team informs Janakpuri police station in Delhi of Bagga’s arrest
⚫ Delhi police, who report to the Union home ministry headed by Amit Shah, allegedly detain this Punjab police team, say they should have been informed beforehand and not afterwards
⚫ Police in Haryana, governed by the BJP, block the highway and stop the Punjab police car, saying they are acting on a kidnap complaint filed with Delhi police
⚫ Punjab police show documents but are taken to Kurukshetra police station by Haryana police
⚫ A Delhi police team reaches Kurukshetra police station
⚫ The Delhi police team brings Bagga back to the capital. Bagga is expected to be taken to a duty magistrate’s house in Gurgaon in Haryana