Kashmir: Senior police officer’s arrest brings spotlight back on Afzal Guru
The dramatic arrest of a J&K DSP, Davinder Singh, while allegedly ferrying two terrorists on Saturday has reignited debate over Afzal Guru’s role in the 2001 Parliament attack.
On Thursday, Deputy Superintendent (DSP) of Jammu Kashmir Police Davinder Singh appeared in the defining picture of the fact-finding foreign envoys’ delegation at Srinagar airport. A day later, he was apprehended by the police on the National Highway in Kulgam area of South Kashmir along with two terrorists and a lawyer, who is also a suspected over the ground worker.
One of the two arrested militants, Naveed Mushtaq alias Babar Azam, who is a resident of South Kashmir’s Shopian district, has previously worked as a Special Police Officer with J&K Police. Before joining the ranks of Pakistan-based terror group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, he had decamped with four assault rifles from Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The wanted terrorist was involved in a spree of recent killings that included 11 non-Kashmiri workers, truck drivers and labourers in South Kashmir following revocation of state’s special status on August 5, 2019.
Police have reportedly recovered AK-47 rifles, pistols and grenades from the vehicle DSP Singh was travelling in along with three others and his residence in Srinagar. Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar on Sunday, January 12, told media that the DSP—who was awarded President’s medial of bravery in 2017 for playing an active role in anti-militancy operations in Kashmir Valley—will be dealt as a “terrorist”.
However, Singh’s arrest has reignited a debate over the role of Afzal Guru, a convict in the 2001 Parliament attack case who was “secretly” hanged in Tihar jail on February 9, 2013.
DSP Singh’s name had earlier hit headlines when Guru’s lawyer, Sushil Kumar, had released a letter that Guru had written in his own hand, describing how Davinder Singh – referred to as ‘Dravinder Singh’ – had forcibly sent him to Delhi along with an unknown man who later turned out to be one of the fidayeen attackers.
This is huge! So the decorated police officer Davinder Singh whom Afzal Guru had accused of forcing him to help set up the terrorists who attacked Parliament in 2001, is found to be involved with several terrorists.Obviously he was protected then. Why?Were bigger people involved? https://t.co/8CcR7dfFE2— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) January 12, 2020
Asserting that the Special Task Force (STF), a counter-insurgency outfit in J&K, had made him a scapegoat, Guru in his letter had recalled circumstances under which he had met Singh in 2000. “One day Altaf took me to Dravinder Singh. He 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 wants 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.”
In the same letter, Guru had also accused STF and DSP Singh of subjecting him to brutal torture besides extortion before he was sent to Delhi. He had repeatedly asked for an investigation into his phone records to establish Davinder Singh had been in touch with him and Mohammad.
The arrested DSP had self-admittedly held Azal Guru in illegal detention and tortured him in a STF camp at Humhama, Srinagar for several days.
“We tortured him enough for Gazi Baba but he did not break. He looked like a ‘Bhondu’, what you call a ‘Chootya’ type,” Singh had stated in an interview with Kashmir based journalist, Parvaiz Bukhari. Here’re some excerpts of the interview that also featured in ‘The Hanging of Afzal Guru and The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament’ published by Penguin Books.
Parvaiz Bukhari (PB): Once in your custody, what did he (Afzal Guru) reveal?
Davinder Singh (DS): I did interrogate him and torture him at my camp (at Humhuma, Budgam District) for several days. And we never recorded his arrest in the books anywhere. Afzal’s description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him. He did not reveal anything to me despite our hardest possible interrogation. We tortured him enough for Gazi Baba but he did not break. He looked like a ‘Bhondu’, what you call a ‘Chootya’ type. And I have a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects.
PB: In the light of the allegations by Afzal, do you think that you may have been used?
DS: It is a difficult time for me. I would expect my superiors to clear my name. But it is sad that nobody from my department has come forward so far. Even if I had an iota of suspicion that I had been used by anybody, I am not that type to keep silent. And I want to reiterate that I have not talked to, seen or met Afzal or any of his family members after sending him back to Pattan SOG camp.
PB: Then why is your name figuring in Afzal’s letter and his wife’s accounts?
DS: I am being victimised for having worked in SOG, for being very nationalistic. What am I getting in return? Bad name and a conspirator...it’s really unfortunate...also, to be candid with you, nobody would ever forget being interrogated by me.
Executive Editor of The Caravan, Vinod K Jose had visited Guru in Tihar Jail in the winter of 2006. While talking to Jose as well, he made the same allegations against Singh, explaining punitive and remunerative methods used by the STF in Kashmir. In the excerpts from the interview, reproduced in The Caravan, Guru said that "DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Davinder Singh supervised the torture.
When asked to describe the incidents that led to the Parliament attack case, he said this:
"After all the lessons I learned in STF camps, which is either you and your family members get harassed constantly for resisting, or cooperate with the STF blindly, I had hardly any options left, when DSP Davinder Singh asked me to do a small job for him. That is what he told, “a small job”. He told me that I had to take one man to Delhi. I was supposed to find a rented house for him in Delhi. I was seeing the man first time, but since he did not speak Kashmiri, I suspected he was an outsider. He told his name was Mohammad (Mohammad is identified by the police as the man who led the five gunmen who attacked Parliament. All of them were killed by the security men in the attack).
When we were in Delhi, Mohammad and me used to get phone calls from Davinder Singh. I had also noticed that Mohammad used to visit many people in Delhi. After he purchased a car, he told me now I could go back and gave me Rs 35,000 saying it was a gift. And I left to Kashmir for Eid."