Don’t Hedge, Arrest Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh Immediately

Instead of pussyfooting, the NIA must subject SP Salwinder Singh to custodial interrogation, writes Chandan Nandy.

Updated
Opinion
5 min read


If the NIA is serious about its investigation on the Pathankot attack, it must widen the scope of its probe and include the strike on the Dinanagar police station, an event which the Punjab Police has not seriously pursued. (Photo: The Quint)

The Gurdaspur (Headquarter) Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, whose questionable activities the night before the Pathankot air base was attacked by Pakistan-trained terrorists has been suspicious to say the least, must be subjected to custodial interrogation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

This would mean his arrest, which is justified considering the role that he played on the night of December 31 in the dark and desolate border villages of Pathankot. A series of stories by The Quint and other media have exposed the inconsistencies in his exaggerated story of being let off by the terrorists, which sounds ludicrous.

There is now no doubt that his cover story – paying obeisance at the non-descript mazaar of a peer in Taloor village late on December 31 evening, the unusually long route that he followed to reach Kolian village where he was accosted by the terrorists who spared his life, his wandering about in the darkness seeking help and finally a phone call to his superior in Gurdaspur around 2:30 am on January 1 – is full of holes.

Security beefed up at Pathankot Air Force base during the visit of PM Narendra Modi   following a recent attack by terrorists on the base, January 9, 2015. (Photo: PTI)
Security beefed up at Pathankot Air Force base during the visit of PM Narendra Modi following a recent attack by terrorists on the base, January 9, 2015. (Photo: PTI)

Was Ikagar Singh Innocent?

Despite inspired stories in a section of the press, it has now emerged that the ‘driver’ of an Innova, Ikagar Singh, a resident of Bhagwal village right on the border, who was brutally killed by the terrorists, may have been in touch with the cross-border drugs mafia.

Ikagar Singh of Kathana village near the India-Pakistan border, who was brutally killed by the terrorists on the night of December 31 before they attacked the IAF air base in Pathankot. (Photo: Chandan Nandy)
Ikagar Singh of Kathana village near the India-Pakistan border, who was brutally killed by the terrorists on the night of December 31 before they attacked the IAF air base in Pathankot. (Photo: Chandan Nandy)

Intelligence sources, who are keeping a close watch on the NIA’s probe so far, say that the improvement in his (Ikagar’s) financial fortunes over the past few years need to be probed deeper. They say that the Punjab Police and the state government, which announced a Rs 5-lakh compensation for Ikagar’s family, has a vested interest in projecting Ikagar as a victim of the terrorists’ cruelty, since revealing his suspected links with the drugs mafia could be embarrassing.

Snapshot

SP Salwinder Under the Scanner

  • Intelligence sources tracking the NIA probe say that improvement in Ikagar’s financial fortunes over the past few years needs to be investigated
  • It is very likely that both Ikagar and the SP, through the cook (who is related to Som Raj) had been “contacted” by the drugs traffickers
  • SP Salwinder Singh was on administrative leave following his transfer to Jalandhar thus the plea that he was out to meet sources doesn’t hold ground
  • Ikagar and his Innova could have been used to move the terrorists till Kolian, where he had to be eliminated to leave no trace

The Mystery of the Shrine

For the NIA, the most crucial element in the chain of events that led to the attack on the air base is the SP’s role and activities, beginning with his strange visit to the small shrine in Taloor village. The Quint has exposed his cover story over the route that he followed that night as a lie.

The SP took a wider and better road to the shrine via Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir but did not take the same route back to Gurdaspur. Instead he took a longer route, driving close to the border, before his car was, in his words, accosted by the terrorists.

The answer to some his questionable moves and contradictory explanations may lie at that mazaar, the half-truths that the shrine care-taker Som Raj has shared and what happened in Kolian village where Ikagar was killed and, curiously, the SP, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal, who is Som Raj’s mausa, were accosted.



The non-descript shrine of a peer at Taloor village where Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal visited. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
The non-descript shrine of a peer at Taloor village where Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal visited. (Photo: The Quint)

Interrogate Shrine Caretaker

Som Raj, who claimed that four of his friends were at the shrine when the SP dropped by in the evening of December 31, knows more than he has chosen to reveal. He too should be subjected to intense interrogation.

The SP’s Vehicle

It is now clear that the terrorists needed the SP’s blue beacon-topped vehicle to go past a police check at one end of the bridge over the Ravi near Kolian. And what better mode of transport than the SP’s vehicle to transport the huge quantities of arms and ammunition weighing close to 80 kgs. It is very likely that both Ikagar and the SP, through the cook (who is related to Som Raj) had been “contacted” by the drugs traffickers, which necessitated the cover of darkness for the operation to be successful.

Also watch Pathankot Attack: Gurdaspur SP Recounts his Abduction

But neither Ikagar nor the SP and his associates suspected that instead of a drugs khep (consignment), they would be laden with heavily armed terrorists. Nothing else explains Salwinder Singh’s presence in the villages close to the border. He was not on duty as he was on administrative leave following his transfer to Jalandhar. So he cannot take the plea that he was out to meet sources. And of course, his visit to the shrine in the night should be trashed as artifice.

Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh, who was allegedly abducted by terrorists involved in the Pathankot attack, arrives to appear before NIA in New Delhi on Tuesday for a questioning in connection with the terror strike. (Photo: PTI)
Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh, who was allegedly abducted by terrorists involved in the Pathankot attack, arrives to appear before NIA in New Delhi on Tuesday for a questioning in connection with the terror strike. (Photo: PTI)

Was Salwinder Singh an ‘Asset’?

Ikagar and his Innova could have been used to move the terrorists till Kolian, where he had to be eliminated to leave no trace, after which the SP’s vehicle proved useful to go past the police checkpost on the bridge over the Ravi. From that point on it was an unhindered 31 km drive to the air base. The SP was not harmed because he was an “asset”.

If the NIA is serious about its investigation on the Pathankot attack, it must widen the scope of its probe and include the strike on the Dinanagar police station, an event which the Punjab Police has not seriously pursued. It will, hopefully, then be able to not just reveal that the terrorists who struck in Dinanagar and Pathankot used the gap in the fencing at Paharipur to enter Indian territory but also be able to find out who helped them cross over in July 2015.

Also read Parkash Singh Badal and the ‘Secret File’ on Punjab’s Drug Barons

Pathankot Attack: The Route SP Salwinder Took Could Blow His Alibi

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