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Davinder Singh Arrest: Preliminary Investigation Reveals Group Was Travelling to Jammu

THE WIRE 2020-01-14 23:35:00

Srinagar: The J&K police’s preliminary investigation has revealed that senior police officer Davinder Singh, who was arrested from a civilian car with two militants and an Over Ground Worker (OGW) on the highway in south Kashmir, were on their way to Jammu. The police are, however, investigating whether they had planned to carry out an attack outside J&K, as they were caught barely two weeks ahead of the Republic Day.

A senior police official said the case is being treated as “very sensitive” and has prompted the authorities to rope in multiple agencies to conduct the investigation swiftly.

Late on Monday evening, Singh, the deputy superintendent of police (DySP), was placed under suspension and his office sealed after the police pieced together information secured by interrogating him and the arrested militants.

So far, the investigation has revealed that the two militants, Naveed Babu and Rafi Rather, and the OGW, Irfan Ahmad Mir, stayed at Singh’s residence in Indira Nagar locality of Srinagar, close to the army’s Badamibagh cantonment, on Friday night. All four of them left in the car on Saturday morning.

The official said the involvement of Singh, the gallantry award-winning police officer, in the militancy was “baffling”. “It is being probed whether he did it for the money or if there was any larger conspiracy,” said the official, insisting not to be named. “Many questions have cropped up. How long has he been involved (in militancy), and how long has he been in touch with Naveed Babu.”

Singh was last year awarded the President’s medal for bravery on August 15. He was presently posted in the J&K police’s anti-hijacking unit at Srinagar airport and was part of the team which received the delegation of envoys from 15 different countries last week.

“Right now, the focus of the investigation is to find why the DySP was ferrying the militants out of the Valley. So far, it has come up that the group was travelling to Jammu,” said another police official. But, he said, the police was also probing whether the “group was on their way outside of J&K to carry out attacks in Delhi or somewhere else.”

At the presser on Sunday, Kashmir’s inspector general of police (IGP) Vijay Kumar said the DySP was involved in a number of anti-militancy operations in Kashmir in the past. “But the situation in which he was caught, driving militants in a vehicle to Jammu, it’s a heinous crime. We are treating him as a militant,” the IGP said.

The second police official said Singh had applied for four-day leave beginning Sunday, but he had not reported to duty on Saturday. “Nobody would have expected a police officer to ferry militants in his car,” said another police official.

After his arrest, the official said police raided the Indira Nagar residence of Singh and “recovered one AK-47 and two pistols from there.”

In another raid, in an orchard in Urpora village in Shopian, police claimed busted a militant hideout and recovered arms and ammunition from the site. The police also carried out raids in Kulgam and Pulwama districts.

“The news of the arrest was leaked, which allowed the militants to flee from the hideout,” the IGP said.

Singh joined the police around the same time the militancy erupted in the Valley. He went on to volunteer for the Special Task Force, the police’s counter-insurgency wing which was later rechristened as the Special Operation Group.

He came into prominence during the investigations into the 2001 Parliament attack. Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013 for his role in the attack, had written a letter to his lawyer, Sushil Kumar, saying that Singh had asked him to accompany a parliament attack accused to Delhi and arrange his stay there.

“There is no record to establish his involvement into the case,” said the official. “It will be stretching too far.”

Who is the OGW?

During his press conference, the IGP said one of the four persons arrested was a “listed OGW” (Over Ground Worker).

Another police official from Shopian said the “OGW” was Irfan Ahmad Mir from Diaroo village in Keller Shopian. Mir had left midway a bachelor’s degree course in law from a Pune college some years ago.

His father, Muhammad Shafi Mir, had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in the early 90s for arms training, the official said. “But he was killed while trying to infiltrate Kashmir. He was codenamed Shabnum,” said the official.

Though Mir had been questioned and detained in the past about alleged militancy links, he was let off. “He was also arrested once,” said the official.

For “some time” now, he had gone off the radar of the security agencies. “We are also investigating how he came in touch with the DySp and Naveed Babu,” said the first police official. A report said that Mir has visited Pakistan many a time in the past.

According to the police, it was Mir who was in the driver’s seat when the car was intercepted on the highway near Wanpoh area of Kulgam district. Singh was seated next to him.

The wanted militant

The two miliatants were seated in the back of the car. One of them was a policeman-turned-militant, Naveed Mushtaq, alias Naveed Babu. He had joined the police in 2012 as a constable.

He was guarding a Food Corporation of India facility in Budgam district in 2017 when he decamped with four rifles and joined the Hizbul Mujahedeen militant outfit.

A resident of Nazneepora village of Shopian, Babu quickly rose to become a senior commander of the Hizb, second to Riyaz Naikoo, who is the outfit’s operational chief in Kashmir.

“He was involved in the killings of civilians and policemen and threatening orchardists last year. There are 17 FIRs registered against him. He is the district commander of Shopian,” the IGP said at the presser.

The police also accuse Babu of killing 11 non-local truckers and labourers in south Kashmir’s Pulwama and Shopian district in September and October last year. The killings occurred after the Centre’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Militants urged locals to boycott all business relationships with India, threatening those who did not obey.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also named Babu as an accused in the weapon snatching incident from a legislator’s house in Srinagar in September 2018.

The second militant arrested was Rafi Ahmed Rather, a resident of Batapora village in Imam Sahib. He was also active with the Hizb outfit. Both carried a reward of Rs 20 lakh.