IT SOUNDS like a daily crime report from Ciudad Juārez on the US-Mexico border. But this shocking incident, took place in Punjab’s Amritsar city, on the India-Pakistan border. For 23-year-old Robanjit Kaur, the trauma of seeing her father, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Ravinderpal Singh, being shot dead in cold blood before her eyes, by her molester — a general secretary of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — is something no daughter can forget. Robanjit was standing with her father and uncle after her IELTS training class, ready to drive home. At 2:45pm, as they stood in the Chheharta locality of the city, barely 500 metres from the police station, they were spotted by SAD general secretary (Amritsar) Ranjit Singh Rana in an SUV, accompanied by four other friends. Rana stepped out, and brandished his .32 bore pistol before taunting Robanjit’s father for approaching the police to complain about his daughter’s repeated harassment at Rana’s hands.
“I warned you twice to stop harassing my daughter. I went to the police because you refused to mend your ways,” were her father’s last words, before Rana pulled the trigger, saying, “I’ll pick up Robanjit right in front of you and let me see what you do about it.” Rana fired repeatedly at both Robanjit and her father. While Robanjit was hit by a bullet on her left hand, her father got shot in the right leg. When Rana exhausted the bullets in his pistol, he asked his friend to get him his .315 bore rifle from the SUV. As her father took refuge in his Ford Figo, Rana’s friends came back with the rifle and dragged the ASI out of the car before throwing him to the ground and pumping him with bullets. When Robanjit, almost by impulse, fell on her father, Rana hit her on her head with the rifle butt, while her uncle screamed “He killed him. He killed him” to the onlookers. Rana and his friends stowed their guns in the SUV and drove off unperturbed by the mayhem and oblivious to fear of the law.
It took two IGs, one DIG, five SSPs and a posse of around 1,000 cops to arrest Rana 24 hours after the crime. The Punjab Police says they chased Rana through two villages before he finally surrendered at a village on the Pakistan border, in the drug-torn district of Tarn Taran. In custody now, Rana regrets killing the ASI in cold blood. By the look of it, this is an open-and-shut case. Rana and two of his accomplices, who were named by Robanjit, are under arrest. Rana has confessed to the crime. The police is yet to submit a chargesheet, but the investigation would proceed on expected lines with Rana and his accomplices being charged under Section 302 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (murder and attempt to murder). Unless the Punjab Police botches up the investigation, there is no way Rana can evade a possible life sentence, or even death, in case the court considers it to be the rarest of rare cases.
Political observers believe that Punjab’s social order has broken down and that to blame only the Akalis for it would not be fair. The Congress is equally responsible for the decline. “The brazenness in social conduct has reached unimaginable proportions in Punjab. Nobody, irrespective of political affiliations, is safe right now in the state. Since 1992, successive governments have failed to check the rise of criminal elements; in fact, they have actively provided political backing to people who violate human rights. There’s no reigning in them now!” says Pramod Kumar, Chairman, Punjab Governance Reforms Commission.
But the last six years of Akali rule have seen a particularly deplorable decline in the law and order situation. Rana is just one of the several miscreants the Akali Dal has sheltered in its fold, both formally and informally. People in the district who brandish their affiliation with the Akalis often ride into the party structure the same way as Rana did. That Rana was high on a heady cocktail of political backing and invincibility was amply demonstrated when he fired at the policemen when they came to arrest him in Rajoke village, in Tarn Taran.