Around the time Davinder Singh of Tral joined the Jammu and Kashmir Police service in 1989-90, Constable Mohammad Shafi Mir of Shopian switched over to militancy. Coming from a Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) background, Shafi Mir was among the founders of Hizbul Mujahideen. He was in a group of 56 police personnel who crossed over to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and returned with arms and ammunition after undergoing guerrilla training.
Operating under ‘Chief Commander’ Master Ahsan Dar, Shafi Mir was assigned the code-name of Shabnam and appointed as the first ‘District Commander’ in Pulwama.
Charge Sheet To Be Filed Against Davinder & Co-Accused In Next 10 Days
Thirty years later on 11 January 2020, when Davinder had risen to the ranks and was close to his promotion as Superintendent of Police (SP), he was arrested in a dramatic operation by the J&K Police near Mir Bazar, Qazigund, while escorting Shafi Mir’s son, Irfan, a fugitive constable-turned-militant, Syed Naveed Mushtaq, and one Arif, driving from Srinagar to Jammu. Subsequent raids on their residences and hideouts led to more arrests and seizure of arms and ammunition. In view of their disclosures and sensitivities attached to it, the investigation was later handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Highly-placed sources disclosed to The Quint that the NIA had completed the investigation and the charge sheet would be filed against Davinder and his co-accused in the central agency’s designated court in Jammu in the next 10 days.
Under the law, the NIA is supposed to file the challan within 180 days of the detainees’ arrest, that is, before 13 July 2020.
‘Watertight Case of Terror-Links For Money Against Davinder’
“We have a watertight case with concrete evidences of Davinder Singh’s years-long involvement with terrorism. Our charge sheet will in fact uncover a decades-old, deep-rooted nexus between some black sheep in the Police and terror networks in Jammu and Kashmir. We have no doubts about conviction in this particular case,” said a senior official.
“He had no conviction for any political ideology but he was immensely driven by his infinite greed for money. Lastly, his greed for a Toyota Fortuner (car) proved to be his nemesis,” said an official, narrating how Davinder had, even in 2018-19, arranged for safe accommodations for Naveed at Sainik Colony and Chawadi in Jammu against payment of Rs 7 lakhs.
In January 2020, Davinder struck a deal with Irfan and Naveed for a Toyota Fortuner and cash.
Officials insist that all such secret deals and covert operations were Davinder’s own misadventures – and none of the State or Central agencies were on board, nor had they given him the mandate for his escapades.
Links With Pak High Commission & Hizb Top Brass in Islamabad
With the help of human and technological evidence, the NIA is claimed to have established that Davinder had remained in touch not only with the Hizbul Mujahideen men in Kashmir and the organisation’s top brass in Islamabad, but also with officials of the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi. Initially, his liaison had been established by Irfan, but subsequently he was independently chatting with and speaking to his contacts in New Delhi and Islamabad through WhatsApp.
The NIA insiders identified Mudassar Iqbal Cheema as Davinder’s key contact at the Pakistani High Commission in 2015-16.
In 2018-19, according to them, Davinder had been in touch with Shafqat Jatoi at the Kashmir Desk of the Pakistani High Commission.
NIA has discovered how Irfan had constructed a three-storey house with a secret hideout in it for Naveed and some other militants at his village, Diaroo, in Shopian. With Davinder’s knowledge, Irfan had travelled under the garb of a ‘Track-2’ group with the help of the Pakistani High Commission from New Delhi to Islamabad, and stayed at the ‘ISI-Hizb guesthouses’ at Burma Town, in Islamabad, for about a year. He is known to have visited Pakistan about five times.
“Irfan had been engaged for organising youth seminars in Shopian and Pulwama. After receiving funds from the Pakistani High Commission, he held two to three seminars in South Kashmir and played a role in recruitment of the Hizb cadres,” said an official source. He revealed that Irfan had been operating several applications in his exchanges with the officials at the High Commission and other contacts across Pakistan and PoK. “We are in possession of incontrovertible evidence of this group’s liaison with the ISI operatives and the Hizbul Mujahideen top brass in Pakistan. Their level of confidence was so high that even Davinder had not deleted any data from the phones he operated”.
Davinder’s Track Record of Counter-Terror Ops in J&K
Davinder was considered to be one of the most trustworthy officers in the J&K Police as he had volunteered his posting in the first counterinsurgency group, known as the Special Task Force (STF), when it was created by the then Director General of Police MN Sabharwal, in 1994-95. For years of his service in the STF and later, the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the J&K Police – in which he participated in a large number of counter-terror operations – nobody trusted what Afzal Guru had written to his lawyer from Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Guru had claimed that Davinder had asked him to arrange for an accommodation and a vehicle for the Pakistani terrorist, Mohammad, before the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on Parliament in December 2001.
Davinder was posted at Srinagar Airport as Deputy SP of Anti-Hijacking Wing of J&K Police, when he surfaced on the radar of District Police of Shopian in 2019. Electronic surveillance made it clear to the police that Davinder had visited certain contacts, including Irfan and constable-turned-militant Naveed, in South Kashmir.
Irfan’s Father Died In An Encounter with 80 Militants On LoC In 1993
After his BA, LL B from Pune, Irfan practiced law at the District Court of Pulwama for seven months. Thereafter, he started the business of buying and selling second-hand cars. Being the son of an important JeI activist and the first district commander – who had deserted the Police in 1989 and joined militancy – it didn’t take him long to win the confidence and support of the Pakistani High Commission. After deserting the Police, Irfan’s father Shabnam had visited Pakistan several times and led groups of guerrilla recruits for training in 1989, 1990 and 1993. It was the first infiltration attempt from Nowgam sector when Shabnam’s group of 89 militants was intercepted by the Army and engaged in a fierce encounter.
Around 80 militants – the highest number in an encounter in the last 30 years – including Shabnam, were killed in this gunfight.
Constable Naveed decamped with four INSAS rifles from his post at the Food Corporation of India warehouse at Chandpora in Budgam in July 2018 and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen. He had been given arms and ammunition in Budgam even as one of his police officers in Leh had written that he should be put under surveillance. He had also carried a slain militant’s body from Shopian to his village, Nazneenpora, while leading pro-azaadi and pro-Pakistan slogans when he was still in the police service.
How Davinder Singh’s Gang Surfaced on the Police Radar
Towards the end of the year 2019, the Shopian District Police arrested an over-ground worker of the Hizbul Mujahideen. Over his disclosures, the police tapped Irfan’s cellphone. Intercepts led the police to the phone of an unknown person who spoke in Kashmiri but with a ‘Sikh accent’. Its location was traced to Srinagar Airport. Enquiries revealed that one Sikh officer was posted in Protocol and another in Anti-Hijacking. The police learned that the Sikh officer in Protocol was on leave for three months. It ruled out his presence around Srinagar Airport. Thereby Davinder’s known official number – 9419075390 – was tapped.
Three days before his arrest on Saturday, 11 January 2020, Davinder, on the electronic surveillance, was noticed visiting Shopian. A police party in civvies followed his vehicle from a distance. Davinder was spotted picking up Irfan from one spot and Naveed, probably from an English-medium school at Tukroo. However, due to a traffic jam, the police party lost Davinder’s trail. The police, however, heard him plan his Jammu visit for Saturday. On Saturday, the police checked his attendance from SP Anti-Hijacking and learned that Davinder was ‘on leave’. His phones were switched off but were continuously being surveilled.
Somewhere in Pampore, he made the mistake of calling a traffic police officer so as to ensure that nobody stopped the Toyota i20 his associates were driving to Jammu.
The highway on that day was closed for Srinagar-Jammu traffic. Davinder feigned that his mother was ill and he was driving to Jammu with some friends. The traffic police officer gave him the green signal.
How Davinder Was Caught
Under the meticulous planning of the Deputy Inspector General of Police in South Kashmir, Atul Kumar Goel, the police quickly put up one naka at Sangham, near Bijbehara, to identify Davinder and his vehicle, and a second near Mir Bazar, Qazigund, to take him and his accomplices into custody. The vehicle, identified by the first police naka, was stopped, and Davinder was grabbed amid heated arguments with the DIG, feigning an “important undercover operation” on behalf of an agency.
The detainees were put to sustained interrogation as the police learned that Naveed was a constable-turned-militant and tipped to take over as Hizbul Mujahideen’s ‘chief of operations’.
Arms and ammunition were seized in a subsequent raid from Davinder’s house in the cantonment area of Indira Nagar, close to the headquarters of 15 Corps of Army in Srinagar.
Davinder was booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in FIR No: 05/2020 of Police Station Qazigund, placed under suspension, and finally dismissed from service after his honours were withdrawn. Subsequently, the investigation was transferred to the NIA which booked the detainees in FIR No: 01/2020 at its Jammu branch.
Davinder’s batch was about to be elevated to the rank of SP, but the process got delayed due to certain formalities in the UT Home Department. Impatiently waiting for his rank promotion and posting as SP, Davinder had his uniform and the Ashoka emblem ready. For the first time in custody, he broke down on 1 March when he learned that all his batch mates had been promoted as SP on 28 February.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)
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