Raipur: Senior IPS officer S.R.P. Kalluri of the Chhattisgarh cadre is one of the most controversial figures in the country’s recent police history. From the time his service in the state began, he has been accused of rape, murder, extra-judicial killings and engineering fake surrenders.
He has often been transferred under a cloud of allegations, then surprisingly re-instated in a superior position. Other officers in a similar position facing similar allegations have been suspended or terminated – or, at least very least, did not get another posting. But here is Kalluri, phoenix-like and resplendent in his new role as the head of the Economic Offences Wing and Anti-Corruption Bureau of Chhattisgarh.
Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel sprung a wild surprise by bringing in the officer he once called a “rapist … [whose] place is behind bars”.
Baghel defied other senior police officers, who had objected, and counselled the new chief minister against trusting Kalluri, pointing out that he was the “blue-eyed boy” of union home minister Rajnath Singh – who gave him a free hand to call him directly, at any time of the day, by-passing the state brass and the chain of command on anti-Naxal operations.
Kalluri is also considered close to Baghel’s nemesis, former chief minister Ajit Jogi.
Kalluri’s story goes back to when Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. He became superintendent of police of Bilaspur and grew close to Jogi due to his ability to follow orders without delay and to satisfaction. Jogi’s constituency, Marwahi, falls in the district and Kalluri apparently delivered on every demand. But he came into his own as a “hunter of Naxals” when he was posted in Sarguja region beginning in 2006.
The Ledhabai gang-rape case hit the headlines in 2007, when he was accused of raping a tribal women in custody and encouraging an entire thana to do the same for ten days. His role in the Tadmetla and Moropalli rape-pillage and murder has been documented by multiple agencies, including the CBI, but none of these charges have been pursued.
There was no trick in the book he did not try in the Naxal affected regions of north and south Chhattisgarh. He has been accused of pillaging and killing through ‘Special Police Officers’. There was an unusual spurt in Naxal body count and surrender figures from 2014, when his reign as Bastar IG began, to the beginning of 2017, when he was sent on leave.
Like any divisive figure, he also built a following in Bastar, even sponsoring a social organisation to oppose “urban naxals”. He threatened and deported activists, lawyers and journalists whom he believed were detrimental to his scheme of anti-Naxal operations.
So how come he is back – now with the new government? An insider told The Wire that “Kalluri’s ability to produce results is being cleverly used by the chief minister, who has given him specific targets”. He will perform or perish. It might be a great chess move, even if it doesn’t look that way just yet.
The three key cases
There are two case whose files have been re-opened by the Baghel government. One is the Jheeram mass massacre of Congress leaders in 2013; the other is the much more confusing NAN case. In both cases, Kalluri could be the key. There is a third one too known as the Antagarh CD case.
It was widely rumoured that there was an ulterior motive behind the murder of Congress leaders Mahendra Karma, Nand Kumar Patel, Vidya Charan Shukla and 34 others at Jheeram by the Naxals. The BJP rumour mill suggested that it could be Jogi who had fortuitously flown out of the venue in a chopper immediately after a public meeting.
Raman Singh survived the massacre and even won the ensuing elections six months later, but it is significant that Baghel wants to re-open the file and has even withdrawn it from the National Investigation Agency which has slept over it for so many years. Kalluri could provide grit for the investigators.
The NAN case will be tackled by him directly. NAN, or Nagrik Apurti Nigam, is the official purchase agency of the state government. In investigations done over past three years by the economic offence wing (EOW), irregularities and corruption cases have been filed against two IAS officers – Anil Shukla and Sunil Tuteja.
But in its very first meeting the cabinet has expanded the scope of investigations to include many more people “who have been left out”. On his first day in office, Kalluri on Thursday suspended the inspector overseeing the investigation.
Inspector Sanjay Devsthale has been attached to the PHQ during his suspension and has been accused of dereliction of duty and compromise in investigations which appear to have left out influential people. It should be recalled here that former chief minister Raman Singh had become emotional in the assembly when Baghel and others raised the issue of his wife’s links with the NAN scam.
The Jogi tapes
The third and equally onerous task in front of Kalluri would be to investigate the Antagarh tapes. It is believed that the Jogis had bribed the official Congress candidate to withdraw from the race of the Antagarh by-elections in 2014. Baghel had played the tape to Rahul Gandhi to convince him that Jogis were weakening the party from inside.
The role of Amit Jogi was deemed crucial and Baghel, as PCC president, immediately suspended him from the party. It will be Kalluri’s duty to file a chargesheet against the Jogis for “disrupting the democratic process of elections through bribes”.
Baghel has been clever and resourceful, but it will have to reflect in the final results. Kalluri will have to deliver or vanish forever in the grim lights of loop line postings in the PHQ.