The latest terror encounter to hit India played out in Gurdaspur, Punjab. K P S Gill was Director General of Police in Punjab, widely acclaimed for stamping out cross-border militancy. Speaking with Rohit E David, Gill discussed new terrorist violence, police, politicians, vital steps India’s government must take — and why he thinks it’s time to focus on ISIS over ISI:
Did a serious security lapse result in the Gurdaspur attack?
No, there was no lapse. We need to understand that an international organisation is planning attacks — and India is a prime target. The terrorists zeroed in on Punjab because it’s closest to the Pakistan border.
In the last 20 years, since militancy’s been wiped out from Punjab, what steps has the government of India taken to strengthen policing along the international border? Absolutely none.
The Punjab police gave a befitting response to the terrorists. The sad part is, today we’re sending our teams to learn counterterrorism in the United States. They should take lessons from Punjab police who’ve dealt with terrorists.
But we have political leaders now who call cops ‘thullas’ — imagine, these are the leaders who’ll sit down and work on counterterrorism policy.
Is state police equipped to tackle terrorists?
Absolutely. We got AK-47s over objections from the then-home minister. I threatened joint-secretaries, saying, if you don’t give these to us, we’ll get them through smugglers or Pakistan.
Only then, they gave these to us.
What role did Pakistan play in earlier terrorist violence in Punjab?
They had a very major role. Leaders of militant outfits targeting Punjab stayed mostly around Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. They planned activities from there. The first AK-47 in the hands of terror groups came by the sea route, brought from Pakistan and distributed amongst terrorists. There was no such ammunition in Punjab before.
This led to a great escalation of terrorism.
What trends are visible in terror attacks emanating from Pakistan now?
We need to keep Pakistan aside — now, the attention should actually be on ISIS. They have much larger funds. I feel Pakistan’s state is subservient to ISIS — and the terror attacks in Punjab have undoubtedly been carried out by ISIS.
Are there trademark ISIS signs, different from Pakistan terror groups?
There’s no difference. All terror groups in Pakistan have links with ISIS. ISIS has absorbed several militant organisations globally. They operate through them.
Farooq Abdullah reportedly feels it’s legitimate for Kashmiri youth protesting unemployment to wave ISIS flags — what’s your view?
That’s a convenient political statement. It is illegal for anyone to wave a terrorist organisation flag in the country.
Is there any Khalistan angle to the Punjab attack?
Forget about Khalistan — that’s been completely defeated.
Facing such violence after years, what should Punjab’s government do?
This is not only related to Punjab. We’ve killed the terrorists who came across the border.
But India needs to strengthen border policing, which the government of India should think about.
Border security all over India remains a major issue.
Do we need stronger political will to fight new-age terrorism?
We need good sense to fight terrorism — nothing more.