In the passing away of KPS Gill, India has lost a man who infused strength into Indian hockey.
Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, 82, or more famously just KPS Gill, IPS, who served as the Director General of Police, Punjab, and was the President of the Indian Hockey Federation for 14 long years, breathed his last at a private hospital in Chandigarh on May 26 following a cardiac arrest.
The man with his thick, curled mustache and powerful looks, could scare away a lot of people by merely staring directly at them. Sports journalists hesitated to sit close to him. More so after the unsavoury episode when a sports scribe was beaten up by Gill’s henchmen at the press meet in Delhi.
Gill is the man who brought militancy in Punjab to an end. A man of immense guts, Gill ruled Indian hockey for long.
The Indian team never did well at any Olympic Games since the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal when the synthetic surface was introduced for the first time.
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India last won then Olympic hockey gold way back in 1980 when big hockey powers were part of the US-led boycott of the games and did not take part. Gill wasn’t around in 1984, 1988 ad 1992.
Gill was not the IHF President then or till 1994. The failure of the Indian team to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics caused a furore and the Indian Olympic Association illegally suspended the IHF and removed Gill without following due process of law.
Gill took the matter to court and the Delhi High Court ruled that the IHF was the only legal body to run the sport in India. The clandestinely formed Hockey India did not contest the judgement. But Gill’s poor health and lack of finances, led to the IHF not to pursue the matter. Hockey India took the support of its political masters to entrench itself as the governing body for hockey.
It must be mentioned that during Gill’s tenure, India won the gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games and for the first time clinched the Asia Cup in 2003. He was also instrumental in organizing the Premier Hockey League – India’s first franchise-based hockey venture held from 2005 to 2008.
Gill always stood by the players and left no stone unturned in providing them with everything. Money was never a factor for him. His friends in India and abroad always stood by him with tremendous financial support.
A few officials around him let him down badly too. He trusted them a lot and that led to his downfall eventually.
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Gill was also involved in a big personal scandal when IAS officer Rupen Deol Bajaj filed a complaint against Gill in 1988, accusing him of sexual harassment allegedly in a drunken state at a party. In August 1996, he was convicted under various sections of the IPC and was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs 2 lakh and to suffer three months rigorous and two months’ ordinary imprisonment and finally to serve three years of probation.
After final appeals before the Supreme Court in July 2005, the conviction was upheld but the jail sentences were reduced to probation.
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However, his excellent work as a tough cop and his involvement in hockey saw him being conferred with the Padma Shri award, in 1989 itself. There was a clamour for the award to be taken back after the SC’s verdict. But his splendid work in containing militancy Punjab ensured that it wasn’t taken away from him.
Indian hockey, and society at large, has lost a man of great courage and conviction. Gill lived by his principles to the very end. He had the capacity to put the fear of God in many. Gill will always remain in the hearts of the people of this country. He was easily the modern Lion of Punjab and Indian hockey. The likes of KPS Gill come once in a lifetime.
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