Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta in Panchkula Friday. (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)
Raising questions over Pakistan’s intent in agreeing to throw open the Kartarpur Corridor, the Punjab Police chief, Dinkar Gupta, Friday said the visa-free passage cleared for Sikh pilgrims was “a huge security challenge from terrorism point of view”. Claiming that there were reasons why the Corridor was not opened all these years, Director General of Punjab Police said that some elements based in the neighbouring country were “trying to woo the pilgrims and making overtures to them”.
“Kartarpur offers a potential that you send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist actually. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an IED,” Gupta said.
He was speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange in Panchkula.
The Corridor, connecting Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, was thrown open on November 9, three days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikhism founder. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the portion of the Corridor falling on the Indian side while his counterpart Imran Khan inaugurated the part on the Pakistani side.
“It is a huge concern...that is why it was not opened for all these years. I was in Intelligence Bureau for eight years...I used to handle it over there. The feeling was that it (the Corridor) will be a huge security challenge. But after that as the community wanted it, the disapora wanted it, it was decided why cannot this dream be realised. So all those security concerns were put on the backburner. And we also gave our go ahead,” the DGP said.
Gupta said that he was in Delhi last week where there was brainstorming session on Kartarpur Corridor. “They (Pakistan based elements and agencies) have already tried to find potential (people for radicalisation). People who are going there, they are trying to woo them, making overtures to them. We are also concerned about the phones, which are going there. Earlier the traffic to Pakistan was only a few jathas at Baisakhi and gurpurab. (now) The footfall, the numbers are huge. This is huge potential. So, it is a security challenge,” Gupta added replying to a query on whether Pakistan’s offer to do away with passport combined with Referendum 2020 posed a security challenge.
People on their first visit to Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara on November 9, 2019. (Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)
Asked about India getting an ingress as well through Kartarpur Corridor, Gupta said, “We are a very benign State...It is a security concern for both the countries”.
The DGP’s views echoed sentiments expressed by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who in the past had maintained that while he was extremely happy, as a Sikh, at the opening of the Corridor, “the threat it posed to our country could not be ignored”.
Amarinder had repeatedly warned that Pakistan was trying to win the sympathies of Sikhs by opening the Corridor to further the Referendum 2020 agenda, an ISI-backed campaign by the foreign-based organisation Sikhs for Justice for a separate Sikh state. SFJ has been banned by Indian government.
Responding to another question, Gupta said, “We were able to contain terrorism to a large extent in Punjab in 1993. After that there were sporadic incidents. Pakistan is always looking for foot soldiers to carry out terrorist incidents”.
Gupta also expressed concern over the use of drones to drop weapons and drugs into the Indian side from across the border. He said that Army Naik Rahul Chauhan, who was among the three arrested for using drones for smuggling in arms and drugs last month, had done “courses in the army on drones”.
SAD leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa condemns Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta's #IdeaExchange statement on Kartarpur corridor being a potential training ground for terrorists.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) February 22, 2020
“We recently caught Army Naik Rahul Chauhan who is from Karnal. He was posted at the Jat Regimental Centre in Bareilly. He was earlier posted in Nowshera in Jammu & Kashmir. He had done courses in the army on drones. And he was instructor of drones to other army chaps as well. He says he got calls from Pakistan while he was in Nowshera. He was posted for couple of years in J&K. There he got plugged into the drug smugglers’ network.”
The DGP further said that Punjab Police were looking for anti-drone technology on the lines of Israel, United States and Australia. “We have scheduled presentations and demos in the border area in March,” he said, adding that the BSF and the Air Force were also looking at the technology. “We are looking at how to deploy it (drones) across 553 km border on flat land. It is a huge challenge”.
Gupta said since operating drones needed a clear line of sight, the Punjab Police were also looking at “having some vegetation...some tall trees to break the line of sight.”
To a question on cyber crimes, the DGP said, “We are building capacity for cyber crime investigation. We also trying to build capacity to extract information from mobile phones”.
On gangsters and criminals operating from jails, Gupta said the prisons “are a problem area”.
“This problem has increased partly because of huge number of under-trials,” he said, attributing the problem areas in jails to under-staffing, and big prisons housing upto 3,200 inmates.
The DGP said there was a proposal to install full body scanners in the jails. He said that the CM has also cleared a proposal where he mooted the idea that there was “a need to hire an international consultant who can convert one or two of our jails into proper maximum security jails.”
On government’s fight against drugs, Gupta said it was “a constant, continuous battle”.