Probing Suspect Gurdaspur SP May Open Can of Worms

Intelligence agencies must find out how the suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad operatives entered Indian territory.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh. (Photo: ANI screengrab/ Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)
Snapshot
  • Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh must be subjected to an IB-led interrogation
  • There has been a delay in questioning Singh, and his two acquaintances.
  • Singh recently received a punishment posting against accusations of sexual harassment by five Punjab Police women constables.
  • A strong drug mafia-politician-police nexus exists in Punjab, and is spread across the border.
  • Singh might have been involved in the drug net.
  • The counter-operation should not have been called off 3 January, without properly sanitising the area.

As the counter-terror operations came to a close in Pathankot, with security forces confirming that all six terrorists have been eliminated, intelligence agencies must now find out how the suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad operatives gained entry into Indian territory.

The needle of suspicion continues to remain pointed at the Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police (Headquarter) Salwinder Singh. His presence in neighbouring Pathankot district, close to the India-Pakistan border, his so-called providential escape from the clutches of the terrorists, and unconvincing explanations are sufficient grounds to subject him to an Intelligence Bureau-led interrogation.

Prior to the Pathankot attack, SP Salwinder Singh was abducted by suspected terrorists. His unconvincing answers are sufficient grounds for interrogation. (Photo: ANI screengrab)
Prior to the Pathankot attack, SP Salwinder Singh was abducted by suspected terrorists. His unconvincing answers are sufficient grounds for interrogation. (Photo: ANI screengrab)

Why the Delay in Questioning Salwinder Singh and his Acquaintances?

The Director-General of Punjab Police Suresh Arora today said that Salwinder’s activities in the company of a jeweller friend, and his cook were suspicious enough to warrant a probe. The circumstances leading to the terror attack on the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot will be jointly investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Punjab Police.

Also watch Pathankot Attack: Gurdaspur SP Recounts his Abduction

But questions are being raised on the delay in interrogating Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma, and cook Madan Gopal. The SP’s claim that he was in Pathankot to pay obeisance in a shrine, at midnight on 1 January strains credulity. Did he walk into a trap set by the drug mafia that operates in Punjab, as well as across the border? Was he then forced to give up his official car –perhaps explaining why he, his friend and cook were spared their lives – which the terrorists drove before launching their attack at the air base?

In the attack at the airbase that cost many soldiers their lives, why were Salwinder Singh, his friend and cook spared? (Photo: PTI)
In the attack at the airbase that cost many soldiers their lives, why were Salwinder Singh, his friend and cook spared? (Photo: PTI)

A Nefarious Police-Politician-Mafia Drug Nexus

The SP’s story has at once baffled and amused intelligence and security officials in Punjab. Whenever the official probe against Salwinder begins, the Punjab Police would be nervous about the details of the drug mafia-politician-police nexus that might emerge in the course of the investigation.

A former senior Punjab Police officer Shashi Kant had earlier said that “drug money is used in financing militancy. To check militancy we will also have to control the drug problem. But the trade is flourishing because of the alleged involvement of politicians, bureaucrats and police officers.”

Security officials continue to express doubts over the presence and conduct of the SP in Koliyan village under Narot Jarnail Police Station. They insist that the probe must try to find out whether he made, or received phone calls, to, or from Pakistan.

The SP was transferred a few days ago, in what is called a punishment posting as Deputy Commandant in Punjab Armed Police (PAP), following complaints of sexual harassment by at least five female constables of Punjab Police.

Army being mobilised in  Pathankot to neutralize the militants who attacked an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in the city on Jan 2, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
Army being mobilised in Pathankot to neutralize the militants who attacked an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in the city on Jan 2, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Blunders and Lessons for the Future

Yet the information provided by him to his seniors about the presence of `four to six’ terrorists forwarded to the central security and intelligence agencies indeed led to the dispatch of commandoes to Pathankot. However, looking back, it seems that enough steps were not taken to seal the sensitive air force station to prevent their entry.

Security analysts have now begun to describe the latest attack as an undeclared war, since the terrorists appeared to have been trained and briefed about holding out retaliation by Indian security forces and to target the defence establishment. The blunder in calling off the operation on 3 January, without sanitising the area is something that would need explanation and would serve as a lesson for future counter-operations.

(The writer is a Chandigarh-based senior journalist)

Also read Why Did CCS Not Meet Through Pathankot Terror Attack?

Pathankot Attack: The Curious Case of Salwinder Singh

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Published: 
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!