New Delhi, February 29
Outgoing Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik’s last few months in office were riddled with allegations of “inaction” and “failure” to contain northeast Delhi’s communal violence, “inept” handling of Jamia and JNU cases and undermining the morale of the force with his own men heckling him for not taking a firm stand for their rights.
The national capital witnessed the worst riots in last three decades this week, with allegations of police acting as mute spectators when angry mobs ran riot on the streets of northeast Delhi.
A 1985-batch officer, Patnaik was a dark horse in the race for the top job and assumed office on January 31, 2017 to serve perhaps one of the longest tenures as Delhi Police chief.
Faced protests from own force
There were unprecedented protests in November last year by his own force when hundreds of Delhi Police personnel staged a dharna outside the old police headquarters against its top leadership for not standing by them.
The police personnel were upset because the top leadership had not taken a stand when over 20 police personnel, including senior officers, were manhandled at the Tis Hazari court.
Patnaik was forced to come out and pacify the hundreds of police personnel and families.
During his tenure, the national capital also witnessed widespread anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, including at Shaheen Bagh.
In December last year, the Delhi Police came under severe attack after security personnel barged into the Jamia Millia Islamia library following violent protests in the area and cracked down on students, many of whom were severely injured, including one losing his eye.
JNU case: Under fire for ‘inaction’
Three weeks later, the Delhi Police again came under fire, but this time for “inaction”, when masked mob went on a rampage in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, thrashing students and teachers.
Students alleged that they called the police several times but received no help. Not a single person has been arrested in the case so far.
His last few months also saw spurt in crimes like snatching and gang wars in the different parts of the national capital.
Former Delhi police commissioner Ajay Raj Sharma said he would have preferred criticism for “overaction” than for “not acting”.
“Every leader chooses to have his own style of functioning. The present leader of the force acted in the way he felt right. If ever action is taken against me, I would like it to be taken for ‘overaction’ but I would have never liked to be hauled up for not taking action,” said former police chief Ajay Raj Sharma.
“If any offence has taken place, the police has to act. If any person is getting violent, or giving provocative speeches, they should be arrested,” Sharma said alluding to criticism of Delhi Police over the communal violence.
Another former Delhi police chief, requesting anonymity, said had incidents like JNU and Jamia not occurred, his tenure would have ended on a better note.
“But there was also no action taken when a woman IPS officer was assaulted during the Tis Hazari clashes. The lack of leadership was reflected when the police did not know how to handle the JNU violence.
“When mobs were running riot in northeast Delhi, the force on the ground did not know how to contain it,” the officer said, adding that this was for the first time after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Delhi Police had to face criticism for “inaction”.
The alleged failure of the Delhi police to check the communal riots in northeast Delhi that broke out on Sunday night and involving those for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act also came under the scanner of the Supreme Court which rebuked it for failing to act “professionally”. The riots have left 42 people dead and around 200 injured.
Patnaik was supposed to retire in January this year but was granted a month’s extension owing to Delhi Assembly elections.
During his tenure, the Delhi Police also got a new address at Jai Singh Road in Lutyens Delhi.
Charge sheets were also filed in the JNU sedition case, involving former students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, and 2014 Sunanda Pushkar case.
As an officer, Patnaik has handled several critical assignments in Delhi Police. He has the rare distinction of heading both the crime branch and the southern range as joint commissioner.
Some of the cases that he has handled include those related to parcel bomb, the dreaded Asghar gang of dacoits and the Bombay blast accused.
During his 35-year-old stint, the IPS officer also served in the elite Special Protection Group and is credited with planning and managing the security of the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. — PTI