A senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer, posted with a strategic department at the airport, was arrested on Saturday for the "heinous crime" of ferrying a lawyer and two terrorists who were being allegedly taken out of Kashmir valley for a possible terror strike.
The officer is Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh, who was arrested from Mir Bazar in Kulgam district, along with terrorists belonging to the banned outfit Hizbul Mujahideen — Naveed Baba who was its district commander, and Altaf — and an unidentified lawyer who was working as an overground worker for terror outfits.
Who is Davinder Singh?
Davinder Singh was posted with the anti-hijacking unit at Srinagar Airport and was one of the officials who received the 16-member delegation of foreign ambassadors which visited Kashmir on Thursday. On August 15, 2018, he was awarded a police medal for gallantry for his anti-militancy duties in Jammu and Kashmir.
Singh, who had joined the counter-insurgency Special Operations Group (SoG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police as a sub-inspector, rose quickly to the rank of a DSP. His name had surfaced during investigations in the 2001 Parliament attack when convict Afzal Guru had levelled serious allegations against him during his defence in the trial court.
Afzal Guru had alleged in his defence that Singh tortured him and threatened to kill his family unless he carried out his directions. Guru alleged in a written affidavit and through statements carried in the local media that Singh had forced him to carry the Parliament attack terrorists to Delhi, hire a flat there and also buy a second-hand white ambassador car for the use of the terrorists. It was this white ambassador car that the terrorists used during the Parliament attack in 2001.
But back then, both the state police and the intelligence agencies had dismissed those allegations as a figment of imagination of a terrorist's mind.
How Davinder was caught
The Shopian Superintendent of Police received a specific intelligence input that two militants were travelling in a vehicle on the national highway towards Jammu. However, they did not expect a police officer to be sitting inside.
The entire operation was monitored by the Deputy Inspector General of Police (South Kashmir) Atul Goyal who himself stood at an intersection to intercept the vehicle. As the car approached the checkpoint, the vehicle was stopped and the four were arrested. Singh, who tried to throw his weight around the policemen present, faced Goyal's ire.
Immediately, police teams were sent to various places, including Singh's residence from where two pistols and an AK rifle were seized.
"The police put barricades and intercepted the vehicle. It was found that a DSP, a lawyer and two militants were travelling in the car for Jammu,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said.
Two top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen -- Naveed Baba and Rafi Ahmad -- of Budgam were the two militants arrested. Naveed Baba is a former policeman who disappeared in 2017 and joined militancy. He was the second top commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in south Kashmir area after Riyaz Naikoo.
The IGP said the militants and the officer were interrogated by the police and then all agencies, including intelligence agencies IB and RAW, working in the valley. He said the case has been registered into the incident under the Unlawful Activities Act and the Arms Act.
Police told IANS that Davinder Singh had been harbouring terrorists in his home in Jammu and also in his ancestral home in Tral town of Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Asked if any recovery has been made from the officer's residence, Kumar said some recoveries have been made. "It is a matter of investigation and the recovery has been brought into the case FIR," he said.
On whether his involvement with militants was a bigger security risk as the officer was posted in the anti-hijacking unit of the police at the Srinagar airport, the IGP said, "The joint interrogation is on in which all agencies, security forces, police, IB, RAW, CID, all are involved and that has been done as this is a sensitive matter and so that no loopholes are there." He said the owner of the vehicle is being verified.
The IGP denied allegations about police's involvement with militants, saying "it cannot be generalised". He also said the J&K police was at par with the NIA to carry out the detailed probe.
The probe against Davinder
The arrest of the decorated officer, while accompanying two wanted terrorists to Jammu days before the Republic Day, has again raised the questions posed by Guru. Senior police officers probing the case have expressed surprised over his role in it and have said that the first question posed to the officer by all investigators is "how could you do this".
Terming this as an exceptional case where a senior police officer was involved in such a crime, IGP Vijay Kumar told reporters that he would be dealt as per the law and the way the police has been treating other terrorists.
"It is a heinous crime and he will be treated at par with other terrorists," Kumar said, adding that all three were being subjected to intense questioning by a joint team from central security agencies as well as the police.
The IGP said there was no record of the arrested police officer's involvement in the Parliament attack case as was being reported in a section of the media. "We have no such records and I have no information, but we will ask him about this," he said.
To a question about whether his posting at the airport was a security breach as the officer was also seen with the envoys of various countries who visited the valley earlier last year, Kumar said the police had no information about the officer's involvement till Saturday.
"He was on duty and how could we have stopped him from that as we had no information about his involvement in anything," he said.
While refusing to divulge details of the probe so far, Kumar said that after the news spread about their detention on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway in south Kashmir on Saturday, some militants escaped from a hideout in Shopian.
On Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir police put out a series of tweets clarifying that Davinder Singh had not been awarded a gallantry award by the Ministry of Home Affairs. "Dysp Davinder Singh is not awarded any Gallantry or Meritorious Medal by MHA as has been reported by some media outlets/persons Only gallantry medal awarded to him during his service is by the erstwhile J&K State on Independence Day 2018.for his Participation in countering a Fidayeen Attack by Terrorists at District Police Lines Pulwahma on 25/26 Aug 2017 when he was posted there as DySP District Police Lines Pulwama," the official handle of the Jammu and Kashmir police tweeted.
It is to clarify that— J&K Police (@JmuKmrPolice) January 14, 2020
Dysp Davinder Singh is not awarded any Gallantry or Meritorious Medal by MHA as has been reported by some media outlets/persons Only gallantry medal awarded to him during his service is by the erstwhile J&K State on Independence Day 2018.
(With inputs from agencies)
Note: This article has been updated to include the statement by Jammu and Kashmir police on the medal awarded to Davinder Singh)