CRPF DIG’s Death in J&K: Official Inquiry Begins Into SOP Breach
Amid reports that the officers of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on training or leave were hurriedly recalled and directed to return from Delhi and Jammu to Srinagar while ignoring precarious conditions on the highway last week, a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the death of a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) and his driver.
DIG Operations Srinagar (North) Shailender Vikram Singh got killed on the spot along with constable-driver Navin while his security officer, assistant sub-inspector Sareer Ahmad Khan, sustained critical injuries when their Scorpio was crushed under a landslide near Samadhi Morh, 163.25 km from Jammu in Ramban district, while travelling on the risky highway from Jammu to Srinagar on Sunday, 15 December.
The Alleged Breach in Procedure
Jammu and Kashmir Traffic Police officials maintained that a cavalcade of three DIGs of CRPF was on the way from Jammu to Srinagar when a landslide hit the last Scorpio in Ramban area at 7:05 pm on Sunday.
“Even as we had not cleared the highway for the movement of traffic, the cavalcade of the three DIGs, waiting at headquarters of CRPF’s 84th battalion at Ramban, surged towards the valley. Local units of CRPF’s 84th battalion, based at Ramban and 24th battalion, stationed at Banihal, had coordinated the passage of the cavalcade without clearance from our department. This is how the fatalities sometimes happen”, said a senior officer of J&K Traffic Police.
Well-placed sources in CRPF revealed to The Quint that vehicles of DIG Operations (Intelligence and Training) Srinagar sector, Ashok Samyal, and DIG Group Centre, Srinagar, Jagdesh Narayan Mena, had crossed the fatal point. Both the senior officers with their drivers and the PSOs had a providential escape as the landslide hit only the third vehicle of the cavalcade. A critically injured ASI Sareer Khan was evacuated, rushed to Udhampur and admitted to the Army’s Command Hospital.
CRPF has taken a serious note of the alleged breach of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and ordered a high-level inquiry under Inspector General, Jammu Sector, Ms Charu Sinha, a 1994-batch IPS officer.
The Urgency to Travel
The Quint learned from well-placed sources that an urgent signal, logged under No: G.I-1/2019-Ops Dated 12-12-2019, at the office of CRPF’s Kashmir IG, was communicated to the DIGs and Commandants, who were on leave or had just completed their training courses, to immediately return to Srinagar by road without waiting for the force’s chartered flights. It was pointed out that all the flights in the Jammu-Srinagar sector had been cancelled due to bad weather.
The communication directed the DIGs and Commandants to call their vehicles and escorts from Srinagar, club their cavalcades and move by road from Jammu to Srinagar without waiting for regular transient convoys.
The group of three DIGs arrived in Jammu from New Delhi and, as directed, called their vehicles and escorts from Srinagar. While as the 260-km long highway, the only lifeline to the valley, remained intermittently closed for traffic due to snowfall, rain and resultant landslides in Ramban-Qazigund area, no flights could be operated due to dense fog and poor visibility at Srinagar airport from 2.00 pm on 6 December to the afternoon on 14 December.
Even as all the scheduled and chartered flights operated in Srinagar-Jammu sector on Sunday, 15 December, and all the three DIGs were booked on a chartered flight from Jammu to Srinagar, they decided to travel by road.
“They had even collected their boarding cards. But apparently under stress of reaching Srinagar anyhow on Sunday itself and perhaps fearing cancellation of their flight, they left by the road. Their seats on the flight were subsequently given to three constables who reached their destination in Srinagar by the same flight”, said an official. He revealed that the three DIGs had completed their training course at Mount Abu in Rajasthan the previous week and had subsequently stayed on leave with their families in Delhi and around.
DIG Shailender was with his wife in New Delhi while his only daughter was in New Zealand when he received the order on 12 December to immediately return to Srinagar without waiting for a flight. He left for Jammu next day and called his vehicle and escort from Srinagar on the same day. In the evening on Sunday, the officers reached Ramban and waited for the road clearance at a battalion headquarters for over an hour. Thereafter, they left for Srinagar without seeking clearance from J&K Traffic Police.
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