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Jan 14, 2020

Davinder Singh Arrest Raises Many Questions. How the NIA Handles It Could Raise More.

If the NIA does not investigate Singh as a terrorist, which the J&K police said it would, it will severely dent the credibility of India's national security establishment.

The unholy haste displayed by Amit Shah’s Ministry of Home Affairs to hand over the sensational case of deputy superintendent of police Davinder Singh – caught by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on Saturday with two wanted terrorists –  to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raises serious questions about the state of internal security.

The J&K police arrested Singh as he was ferrying wanted terrorist Syed Naveed Mushtaq, who is a military commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, and another militant. On Sunday, inspector general of the J&K police Vijay Kumar said that they had also recovered three AK -47 rifles and five grenades from Singh’s residence.

Kumar made a particular point of saying that “Singh would treated and investigated as a terrorist”. He was pointing to the high security mapping of the Republic Day parade on January 26 and the Delhi elections on February 8. Yet within 24 hours, the MHA appears to have told the J&K police to hand over the probe to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Consider the facts. Singh is a controversial officer who met foreign dignitaries, including the United States ambassador, last Thursday when the Ministry of External Affairs sent a group of envoys for a guided tour of Kashmir.

The police say Singh hosted the two terrorists in his house in Shivpora, Srinagar opposite the Badami Bagh Cantonment, before getting on the road with them the next day.

Singh owned three properties in Jammu and Kashmir and sources said the J&K police had reported his property portfolio as unusual for a DSP to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in January last year.

Also read: Why Do Memories of Afzal Guru Still Haunt India’s Conscience?

The IB took no action. Singh’s name had cropped up earlier during the 2001 parliament attack investigation, when Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013, had accused Singh of forcibly sending him to Delhi along with one of the terrorists.

As The Wire has reported, Guru’s lawyer, Sushil Kumar, released a letter Guru wrote in his own hand which provided details of the role Davinder – referred to as ‘Dravinder Singh’ in the letter – played in introducing Guru to one of the men who later attacked parliament. After first recounting the circumstances under which he met Davinder Singh sometime in 2000, when Davinder and his assistant, Shanty Singh, tortured him at the Humhamma STF camp and then extorted money from him as well, he then wrote about a meeting in 2001, sometime before parliament was attacked:

“One day Altaf took me to Dravinder Singh (D.S.P). D.S. told me that I had to do a small job for him that has to took one man to delhi as I was well aware about Delhi and has to manage a rented house for him. Since I was not knowing the man but I suspected that this man is not Kashmiri as he did not speak in Kashmiri but I was helpless to do what Dravinder told me. I took him to Delhi. One day he told me that he want to purchase a car. Thus I went with him to Karol Bagh. He purchased the car. Then in Delhi he used to meet different persons and both of us he Mohammad and me used to get the different phone calls from Dravinder Singh.”

The authorities, though, did not investigate Singh’s role.

Also read: There Must Be a Price to Pay for Wrongful Convictions

So consider this: no red flags were raised in the internal security establishment after Afzal’s claims. Not even a cursory investigation was done by the IB. When I tried to probe this aspect, a very senior official of security system told me the answer lay in two things – the deep state and its asset. Singh was an asset till he turned “rogue”. It should be a matter of inquiry as to when he may have turned rogue, but there is always a risk of unwanted skeletons tumbling out of the closet.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh had once wanted the secret service funds which run into thousands of crores of rupees audited and to have parliamentary oversight. His plan was shot down by his boss, the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The NIA taking over Singh’s case may reveal how far the deep state can go to protect “assets gone rogue”. The J&K police chief , also appointed by Centre, wants Davinder Singh to be treated as a terrorist. One doesn’t know what position the NIA will take, because the prima facie evidence against Singh is quite overwhelming. If the NIA takes a view contrary to that of the J&K police top brass, it will severely dent the credibility of the national security establishment.

Swati Chaturvedi is a Delhi-based journalist.

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