The curious case of Davender Singh's bail
Davender Singh's arrest meant that he was working for militants. But it is yet unclear as to why. Was he doing this to earn some extra money or was there any affinity at an ideological level? These questions and the answers to them have profound security implications. But as it has turned out, Singh's bail has only deepened the mystery around him. More so, when the bail has come on a technical issue: failure to file the chargesheet.
On January 13, J&K Police stopped a private vehicle on Jammu-Srinagar highway carrying four men. Two of them were militants, one of them the then Number 2 in the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks, Naveed Babu. The third man was an alleged overground worker and the fourth was Davender Singh, a Dy SP in J&K Police, a decorated police officer well-known for a string of successes in counter-insurgency operations. This was a stunning catch. Singh, along with his companions, was arrested. The Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir, held a press conference on the development and said that Singh would be treated as a "militant".
But four and a half months later Singh was allowed to bail out as the Delhi police failed to file the charge sheet within three months of his arrest, as prescribed under law. This has shocked everyone, considering Singh was caught accompanying Kashmiri militants to New Delhi just ahead of Republic Day. It later turned out that he had also been harbouring them at his house at Indira Nagar in Srinagar.
But this hasn't prevented Singh from getting bail in a terror-related case. And interestingly, it has been, in a sense, facilitated by the police who didn't file his charge sheet in the "statutory time limit". It remains to be seen whether Singh will be punished or not.
So far, in his career, Singh has survived many a controversy. He hails from South Kashmir’s Tral, a hometown he shares with the slain popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Though there is no evidence that Singh and Wani knew each other, the arrest of Singh along with Hizbul Mujahideen militants, particularly Naveed Babu, makes it appear that his ties with the outfit went back a long way. Incidentally, Babu is himself a police deserter, who fled with four rifles in 2017 to join the militancy.
Tral is an important place for another reason too: it is from this town that Kashmir's “new age militancy” began from 2015 onwards, and radiated across South Kashmir. It falls in the Pulwama district, where Singh was posted twice in the last three years. And on both occasions militants were able to strike in a big way: In August 2017, militants stormed police lines in Pulwama. The 19-hour gun battle resulted in the killing of CRPF men and four policemen, besides the three militants who carried out the attack.
Singh was again posted in Pulwama when more than forty CRPF personnel were killed during a suicide attack on a security convoy carried out by a militant owing allegiance to Jaish-e-Mohammad.
For that matter, even Afzal Guru, hanged for his role in the 2001 parliament attack, had in a letter accused Singh of forcing him to accompany one of the attackers “Mohammad” to New Delhi and arranging accommodation for him there. The attacker was subsequently killed during the attack on the parliament. The accusation was never investigated, although, in an interview to the media in 2006, Singh admitted to torturing Guru in custody but denied sending him to New Delhi with a militant.
Singh was recruited as a sub-inspector in J&K Police in 1994 after he graduated from a Srinagar college. He later joined the Special Operations Group (SoG) of the police which was exclusively tasked to combat militancy. But following complaints of extortion, Singh was removed from the SOG. In 2003, he was part of a UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo for a year.
But his arrest along with militants raises many troubling questions, more so because just days earlier, he had received European Union envoys at Srinagar airport where, ironically, he was posted with the anti-hijacking squad of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. A beaming Singh was photographed standing in the back row of the group picture of the envoys at the airport.
So, his arrest along with militants was a shock to J&K Police which prides itself as being at the forefront of the fight against militancy in the country. It raises some deeply troubling questions. What were Singh's motivations? Who was he working for? Was he helping militants carry out a sensational attack in New Delhi ahead of Republic Day? What was his role in two major attacks in Pulwama, including the Pulwama bombing? Or for that matter in the parliament attack? What were his motivations? Was he working for militants or were militants working for him?
His arrest meant that he was working for militants. But it is yet unclear as to why. Was he doing this to earn some extra money or was there any affinity at an ideological level? These questions, and the answers to them, have profound security implications. The case is one of the most sensitive to be handled by the NIA in a long time. And people are expecting that the agency will get to the bottom of it and uncover the mystery: what drove a decorated police officer to aid the militants? Who was using whom?
But as it has turned out, Singh's bail has only deepened the mystery around him. More so, when the bail has been granted on a technical issue: failure to file the charge sheet. It is especially troubling that it comes at a time when many students and activists - one of them the pregnant Safoora Zargar - have been repeatedly denied bail.