Need for balance

The Union government’s decision to strip the disgraced former Haryana Director General of Police S P S Rathore of the President’s Police Medal may have opened a Pandora’s Box. Former Punjab cadre IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj who won a case of sexual harassment against K P S Gill, the high profile former DGP of Punjab has now demanded that he be stripped of the honours. Gill, who contributed much to exterminating the Khalistani movement in the ’80s and ’90s had ‘manhandled’ Bajaj at a dinner in 1988. Bajaj, spouse of another senior IAS officer was not someone who would accept such humiliation and went the whole distance to get justice which she did, eventually. The supreme court punishment to Gill included payment of Rs 2.5 lakh to Bajaj in lieu of a jail sentence of three months, supervised probation and a strict warning not to drink in public.
Gill clearly was someone who could be offensive under the influence of liquor. Although he crushed the extremists in Punjab, his tendency to fight violence with violence made him despised by someone as eminent a policeman as Julius Ribeiro. Later, the manner in which Indian hockey has floundered under Gill’s helmsmanship has also earned him much odium. Some may argue that he did not deserve a national honour. But then, many men who have received public honours in India have not deserved it, and national honours have been cheapened by being conferred on them. To that extent, Bajaj’s broadside against Gill has helped to bring into question the worth of national honours.

However, revoking Gill’s Padma Shri would bring in its train many more such demands. Will someone demand that Mohammed Azharuddin be stripped of his Padma Shri and Arjuna Awards because he was guilty of match-fixing? Will someone demand that Sunita Rani who won two medals including a gold in the Busan Asiad be stripped of her Padma Shri because she tested positive for a banned substance? But, much as Bajaj needs to be admired for her tenacity in pursuing a case which, considering the clout Gill enjoyed at the time, her present demand for stripping Gill of the Padma Shri award he received for his labours in Punjab needs to be looked at as an attempt to rewrite history. Thanks to her efforts, Gill got his just deserts. She would do well do leave it at that.

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