On January 11, a private vehicle with four men in it was flagged down at a police checkpoint on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in South Kashmir.
Two of the men in it were Hizbul Mujahideen militants, one of whom is wanted for killing migrant workers in South Kashmir in recent months. The third man is described by the police as an “overground worker” – the term for non-combatant members of militant groups tasked with logistics.
The fourth man was a deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir police, Davinder Singh. Last year, he was one of the 76 Jammu and Kashmir policemen to be awarded the president’s police medal. On Thursday, Singh had been photographed with foreign diplomats visiting Kashmir: he was part of the official team responsible for welcoming them.
According to the police, the vehicle was bound for Jammu. “SP [superintendent of police] Shopian had got a specific input that two militants in an i10 vehicle were travelling towards Jammu,” said Vijay Kumar, the inspector general of police of Kashmir at a press conference in Srinagar on Sunday. “Since the vehicle was moving at a fast speed, SP Shopian informed me and I directed DIG South Kashmir to place a checkpoint in his area.”
In 2004, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru named him in a letter written to his lawyer from Tihar jail. Guru alleged that it was Singh who ordered him to take a man to Delhi and arrange accommodation for him. That man went on to become one of the militants shot dead as they attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001.
Afzal Guru was hung to death in February 2013 for his role in the operation.
According to a police official in South Kashmir, speaking off the record, the vehicle was intercepted on the basis of a specific input about a top militant travelling in a car. The input did not mention a police officer.
“The security personnel didn’t expect the presence of a police officer along with the militants,” explained the police official.
He also said Atul Goel, deputy inspector general of police, South Kashmir, had supervised the checkpoint himself and slapped Singh several times after he was found with the militants.
Preliminary investigations suggest Davinder Singh was acting as a “carrier” for the militants, the first official explained.
“The plan was that nobody would stop or check a vehicle in which a DSP was travelling,” he said. “The primary impression is that Davinder did it for money. However, investigations are still going on.”
At the press conference on Sunday, Kumar said Singh had been involved in a number of anti-militancy operations. “But the situation in which he was caught yesterday, driving a militant in a vehicle to Jammu, it’s a heinous crime and we are treating him the same way we treat a militant,” he said.
Questioned about the photographs of Singh with the foreign envoys, Kumar said the police had no idea about his involvement with militants at the time. “He was on legal, bona fide duty,” he said. “When we had no such information, how could we stop him?”
In the back of the car was Naveed Mushtaq, alias Naveed Babu, a policeman-turned-militant. According to Kumar, he was a senior commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, second only to its operations chief, Riyaz Naikoo. “He was a police constable in 2017 and fled from Budgam along with four rifles,” said Kumar. “He is involved in the killings of civilians, policemen and truck drivers. Last year, a lot of orchards were damaged and people were threatened by him. Until today, 17 FIRs are registered against him. He was the most wanted for us and was the district commander of Shopian.”
Singh’s name crops up in news reports dating back to 2001, when he was deputy superintendent of the special operations group in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. He was transferred out after massive public protests against custodial deaths.