March 16, 2015
There was a time, not very long ago — one year short of 30, to be precise — when only a Christian was chosen to go to Punjab to fight what then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi termed “the nation’s battle” against separatists. I had accepted a “demotion” from secretary in the Union home ministry to DGP of the state of Punjab at the personal request of the prime minister.
Then home secretary, Ram Pradhan, and my dear friend, B.G. Deshmukh, then chief secretary to the government of Maharashtra, were flabbergasted. “Why did you accept this assignment?” they asked. The same question was put to me over the phone by then President Zail Singh. But Arjun Singh, the cabinet minister who personally escorted me by special aircraft from Delhi to Chandigarh, remarked that when my appointment was announced the next morning, the Hindus of Punjab would breathe more freely and rejoice. I presume Hindus would include RSS cadres who had been pinned into a corner by the separatists.
When 25 RSS men on parade were shot dead in cold blood one morning, then Punjab Governor S.S. Ray and I rushed to the spot to console the stricken families. The governor visited 12 homes, I visited the rest. The governor’s experience was different from mine. He was heckled and abused. I was welcomed.
Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend have now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practising a religion that is different from theirs. I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.