J&K Cop Davinder Singh’s ‘Afzal Link’ & Other Unanswered Questions

Afzal Guru claimed Davinder had asked him to arrange a flat in Delhi and buy a vehicle for a Pakistani militant.

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India
5 min read
Devinder Singh has served the Jammu and Kashmir Police as inspector and deputy superintendent for over 25 years.
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Davinder Singh, the deputy superintendent of Police in Jammu and Kashmir, who was arrested while accompanying two Hizbul Mujahideen militants from Srinagar to New Delhi on Saturday, 11 January, is no ordinary officer.

His name reverberated in courtrooms during the trial proceedings in a suicidal terror attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001.

The key accused, Afzal Guru, claimed that it was none other than Davinder and a senior J&K Police officer’s brother-in-law who asked him to arrange a flat in Delhi and buy a vehicle for a person, who ultimately turned out to be a Pakistani militant, Mohammad, of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) outfit.

Even as some reports suggested that Mohammad had already died in a different encounter in Kashmir, the prosecution claimed that he was among the five terrorists who attacked the Parliament and got killed during the operation.

But neither Davinder nor the senior police officer’s relative were ever interrogated, or even summoned for questioning by the Special Cell of Delhi Police or any court.

The prosecution contended that there was “no merit” in Afzal’s communications and statements – made under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

A recent recipient of the Police Medal for Meritorious Service – on Independence Day in August 2019 – Davinder has served the Jammu and Kashmir Police as inspector and deputy superintendent for over 25 years.

He has won laurels for scores of the counter-terrorism operations he planned and executed with the Special Operations Group of the J&K Police, and still has scars of a gunshot wound in his leg.

Not His First Brush With Controversy

However, parallel to his successes and achievements, Davinder has courted controversy throughout his career.

Twenty years ago, a group of five gunmen hijacked a truck from the Athwajan periphery of Srinagar and looted its load of merchandise belonging to a close relative of the then in-charge, Acting Chief Minister Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah.

As the police failed to trace the truck, the operation of recovery was discreetly assigned to the then ruling National Conference MLC and former counter-insurgent Javed Hussain Shah.

Shah got the truck recovered and it’s driver released from Kulgam within two days. He reported to the Director General of Police that the hijackers were counter-insurgents who had received AK-47 rifles from none other than Davinder.

There was neither an inquiry nor action against the hijackers or the police officer who allegedly had handed them unaccounted arms and ammunition.

At least once, an FIR for ‘extortion’ was lodged against Davinder over the complaint of a businessman. The investigation, however, was never taken to its logical conclusion.

Turn of Events That Led to His Arrest

Holding the most sought-after positions since long, Davinder has remained posted as an officer in the super sensitive anti-hijacking wing at the Srinagar airport for the last one year or so. He had gone on a brief leave and had not been on duty since last Thursday.

Some reports claimed that there was an altercation between Deputy Inspector General, South Kashmir, Atul Kumar Goel, in whose supervision the militants’ i-10 car was intercepted on the Srinagar-Jammu highway short of Qazigund, and the deputy superintendent.

Davinder, according to these reports, claimed that he had convinced the two Hizbul terrorists to surrender, which in no way was the job of the deputy SP of Srinagar airport.

“We can’t share much details at this point of time. We are under direction to not share anything with the media,” a senior police officer told The Quint. Later, on Sunday, IGP Kashmir at a news conference confirmed Davinder’s arrest along with two militants and their driver.

"He (Davinder) has worked on several anti-militancy operations. But the circumstances under which he was arrested... is a heinous crime. That is why he is being treated at par with militants," IGP Vijay Kumar said, adding that further interrogation and investigation in the matter was underway.

He also said that a case had been registered, a vehicle had been seized and arms and ammunition, including one AK-47 rifle, had been recovered from a house in the cantonment area in Srinagar.

Sources insist that the house, situated close to the headquarters of the Army’s 15 Corps, belongs to the deputy SP.

They said that New Delhi had surfaced as the detained militants’ destination. Some of the officials believe that the group had been driving to the national capital to execute a terror strike ahead of Republic Day, on 26 January.

According to the police records accessed by The Quint, one of the detained militants was in rank next only to the Hizbul Mujahideen head in south Kashmir, Riyaz Naikoo.

Then a constable in the District Budgam Police, Syed Naveed Mushtaq had decamped with four INSAS rifles from a godown of Food Corporation of India at Chandpora Budgam on 20 May 2017.

Wanted in 12 murder cases, mostly those of the truck drivers, labourers and fruit traders killed after the abrogation of Article 370 in August-October 2019, he was listed in the ‘A+’ category.

The police charge sheet was filed in a special fast-track trial court, designated for cases under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

The Afzal Guru Link

Some three years after the Delhi Police filed its charge sheet in the Parliament attack case, the trial court sentenced Afzal, his cousin Showkat and the Delhi University professor Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani to death. Showkat’s wife Afshan was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment.

Significantly, Afzal and Showkat did not have a defence lawyer.

On appeal, the high court subsequently acquitted Geelani and Afshan, but upheld Shaukat’s and Afzal’s capital punishment. Finally, Supreme Court upheld the acquittals and reduced Shaukat’s punishment to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.

However, it confirmed Afzal’s conviction and enhanced it to three life sentences and a double death sentence.

It was during the course of his appeal in the Delhi High Court that Afzal divulged how Davinder and a senior police officer’s relative had approached him and asked him to help an unidentified person in Delhi.

In a letter from Cell Number 6 of Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Afzal wrote to his Supreme Court lawyer Sushil Kumar that he had no idea of the stranger’s identity, whereabouts or motive.

“Since I was not knowing the man, I suspected this man is not Kashmiri, as he did not speak Kashmiri,” Afzal wrote to his lawyer, who submitted this letter to the court. It, however, was not put on record.

In its judgment on 5 August 2005, the Supreme Court admitted that the evidence against Afzal was only circumstantial and that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation.

“The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation,” recorded the judgment, “and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

Afzal was hanged to death in Tihar Jail on 9 February 2013. Shaukat served a term in jail. Geelani recently died of a heart attack in Delhi. Will the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s investigation into Davinder’s role in covert operations open a fresh chapter in the concluded trial of the 2001 Parliament attack?

The pertinent questions sprouting out after the police officers’ arrest in Kashmir are:

Will the investigation be assigned to a more resourceful Central agency like CBI and NIA?

Will credibility of institutions have a precedence over so-called “collective consciousness”?

(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)

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