On 25 August, Gurmeet Singh, 59, left his home in Kanth Bagh area of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district at around 6 pm for an “official meeting.” He told his wife, Ravinder Kour that he would be back after some time.
Singh was working as Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of the Roads and Buildings Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, and had returned from office just 30 minutes before he left home again.
“It was an unusual call. Since he had just finished his full day's work at the office. I found it fishy,” Ravinder Kour, told The Quint.
Little did Kour know what was coming.
At around 7 pm, she called her husband on his phone but there was no response. She and her family kept calling Singh on his number but after some time, the phone turned out to be switched off.
The Kour family became anxious and informed their relatives who rushed to his office in Baramulla town. “On reaching there, he wasn’t there, so we started searching for him in other places,” Kour said.
After intense searching, the family along with Jammu and Kashmir police found the dead body of Singh from a barrage in the Lower Jhelum Hydel Project (LJHP) in Gantamulla of Baramulla district on 29 August, four days after he went missing.
Singh is survived by two children, a daughter pursuing an MBBS and a son pursuing engineering, and his wife, a government school teacher.
Family Demands CBI Probe
A pall of gloom descended on the whole of Kashmir with family and relatives of the Singh demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the mysterious death of Singh.
Massive protests erupted in his native place Baramulla and the Sikh community from Kashmir hit the streets against the alleged murder of Singh. The protesters blocked the Srinagar-Baramulla National Highway for hours.
“There was negligence from the local police. The important forensic evidence was tried to be altered,” Kour told The Quint.
She said they found his abandoned car (Wagon-R) was found locked on the Baramulla-Uri Road near the eco-park.
The family alleged that the local police didn’t deal with the case professionally and that is why they are demanding a CBI probe.
“The police asked us to provide the alternate keys of the car. They opened the car. My husband's phone was already put on flight mode by the killers. We requested police not to touch the car and other belongings as it would hamper the investigation in forensic evidence,” Kour said. “The car, however, was taken to the local police station despite our repeated pleas,” she added.
The Quint reached out to Superintendent of Police (SSP) Baramulla, Amod Nagpure, for their version. However, he didn’t respond to the phone calls. We will update the story as the response comes.
'Treated Differently by His Seniors'
Kour alleged that there was a lot of pressure on her husband in the department and was also handed over additional charges apart from his own work.
“He was even denied leave in the month of January and was treated differently in the department,” she alleged.
The friends and relatives recall Singh as a sober, down-to-earth and upright officer who would never indulge in corruption and other illegal practices.
“And he paid the price for it,” Kour added.
According to sources, Singh was recently made a nodal officer to supervise the process of axing poplar trees on both sides of the highway in Baramulla, and some “higher officers” wanted him to provide less compensation to the affected.
“This would have benefited the contractor and the officer alike, but he refused to do it,” sources said. Adding that “we have informed the police about this, and they have arrested few persons, but nothing has come to the fore as of now.”
The Second Death : Karan Singh
The case of Singh had barely simmered down when from the Sikh community was found dead in a paddy field.
The deceased was identified as Karan Singh, 75, a resident of South Kashmir’s Tral. The second death occurred within eight days and sent shock waves across the Sikh community in the valley.
According to Jammu and Kashmir Police, the deceased was found in the paddy fields of Kangloora Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Friday night. “Legal proceedings have been initiated and an inquiry has been started,” the police said.
They further said that the initial examination revealed no external injuries on the dead body. “Detailed FSL inspection, scrutiny, and crime scene photography have been done. Postmortem was conducted through the Board of Doctors,” they said.
Mubashir Rasool, Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Tral told The Quint that the police investigation is ongoing and no sign of physical injury was seen on the body of the deceased. “We have questioned some suspects and are gathering other evidence. We are waiting for the postmortem report,” he said.
Karan Singh, a retired government employee, is also survived by two sons, two daughters, and a wife. Jagjeet Singh, son of the deceased, told The Quint that his father was in good health and had never taken any tablet throughout his life.
“He was neither a blood pressure (BP) patient nor having any disease. So, we wonder how this happened,” Jagjeet, who works with a private company in Srinagar said.
He further said that his father was dumped under the heaps of grass as seen in the video. The Quint is in possession of the video that clearly shows the dead body of Karan Singh dumped under the grass. “We are very scared. But hopefully, everything will come clear with the police investigation,” Jagjeet said.
Sikh Community Living in Fear
With a population of over 1.75 lakh – which constitutes 1.50 percent of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir – the Sikhs have always minded their own business and lived peacefully with the majority Muslim committee. However, since the armed revolt erupted in the valley, the Sikhs also became the victims of the violence.
Many Sikhs were abducted by gunmen and then killed.
On 20 March 2000, suspected militants killed 26 people from the community in South Kashmir’s Chattisingpora hamlet of Anantnag district. The massacre was carried out when former US President Bill Clinton was on a visit to India.
The recent deaths “refreshed” the wounds of old killings and the entire community is in a state of anxiety.
“These incidents sent the wrong message to the minority community. The administration needs to restore the confidence among the minority committee,” said Jagmohan Singh Raina, Chairman All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC).
Raina said both incidents have sent shock waves across members of the community who are living under immense fear. Following massive outrage, the Jammu and Kashmir police handed over the investigation of Gurmeet Singh's death to the Crime branch.
Director General of J&K Police, Dilbag Singh that the security agencies took cognisance of both incidents. FIR has been lodged and a probe is on. “The police took cognizance very very quickly without wasting time. We also took the community into confidence,” he said.
(Auqib Javeed is a Srinagar-based journalist. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed.)