New Delhi/Srinagar: Davinder Singh, the deputy superintendent of police who was arrested Saturday for ferrying two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, is known for being “unscrupulous” and “not upright” in police circles, sources have told ThePrint. Yet, he was given an out-of-turn promotion and the Police Medal for Meritorious Service on 15 August 2019.
Singh served in the J&K Police as an inspector and then DSP for over 25 years, and was posted with the anti-hijacking squad at the Srinagar airport at the time of his arrest. He was earlier the DSP of Pulwama district, and was transferred to the new, important posting last year.
According to a source in the J&K Police, Singh’s track record as a hardened counter-insurgency man came to his rescue every time his name was caught in controversy, despite his reputation of “being corrupt” and not someone to be trusted.
“It cannot be denied that he was a good hand when it came to operations, but everyone knew that he had been making money through extortion. He was not an upright officer,” the source said.
About Singh’s justification that he was taking the terrorists in a car to make them surrender, the source added: “He had no authorisation to ferry the two terrorists, and so, it cannot be justified as a covert operation. If it was a direction that came from above, senior officers would have known.
“Police officers do infiltrate in terrorist groups for information, but it is a part of an operation and seniors are in the loop. He willfully entered into this conspiracy with the terrorists for financial gains,” the J&K Police source alleged.
Top counter-insurgency man
Singh had joined the counter-insurgency wing in the 1990s, when the erstwhile state was in the grips of an armed insurgency.
According to the police, the intelligence network of the central and state governments had virtually collapsed, as thousands of youth joined the insurgency against India’s writ in the state.
Singh was one of the few men who were willing to join the police force at the time, a senior police officer said.
Four years after his induction, Singh was transferred to the Special Operation Group (then called the Special Task Force), a group that had earned a reputation for its anti-insurgency operations.
“This was a time when the insurgency was at its peak and there were instances that militants had taken over some police stations. An internal rebellion in the early 1990s hit the force badly. Senior IPS officer Farooq Khan (who is now adviser to the Lieutenant Governor of J&K), along with some other officers, was instrumental in bringing the police force back to life,” the senior officer recalled.
“One of the steps at that time was to strengthen the anti-insurgency units, which needed volunteers, and Singh volunteered,” the officer added.
As a part of the SOG, an exclusive unit created for terror-related operation, Singh has been part of several anti-militancy and counter-terrorism operations, especially in south Kashmir, and encounters in the Valley.
Beginning in 1994, he remained in the unit for nearly a decade — a period marked by the arrival of fidayeen groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Singh’s reputation preceded him to such an extent that his family told ThePrint Monday that he had not visited his village in Tral in almost 30 years because of the security risk — which police sources say could be due to his infamous tactics as a counter-insurgency man.
In a press conference announcing his arrest, Kashmir IG Vijay Kumar had mentioned Singh’s anti-militancy operations, but added that since he’s allegedly involved in a heinous crime, he is being treated just like the militants arrested with him.
Complaints about excessive force, extortion
Police officers said the department had, on and off, received complaints against Singh for allegedly using excessive force against civilians. However, before his arrival at the anti-hijacking unit, his record as a trusted police officer had faded, allegedly due to indiscipline.
“In Budgam, where he was posted, there were complaints against him of using excessive force against civilians. His anti-insurgency record was decent. It has come as a surprise that he was working at the behest of militants,” said a second police officer.
Sources said Singh had at least two internal inquiries lodged against him. In one instance, he got into a physical fight with a colleague and ended up snatching his rifle. In another, he was accused by residents of the HMT area in Srinagar of harassing them at the behest of a ‘godman’ in exchange for money.
Neither inquiry yielded much of a result, nor did terrorist Afzal Guru’s allegations against him.
There was also a 2005 extortion case, reopened in 2015, in which Singh was named. According to the police, the case was filed on the complaint of Nazir Ahmad Sofi, owner of a brick kiln, who wanted to buy some machinery after getting a construction contract from Indian Railways. Sofi alleged that Singh and another DSP extorted lakhs of rupees from him and also framed him in a case. Sofi’s wife had urged the police to reopen the case.
A report on the Sofi case in Greater Kashmir also said a sessions judge had directed the government to take action against Singh and a different DSP in July 2003 after finding them guilty of extorting money from civilians at gunpoint. However, the government allegedly ignored the court orders and promoted the DSPs, instead.
But now, with a central inquiry looming, Singh faces up to 10 years in prison if the charges against him are proven.
‘Charged Rs 10 lakh for transit’
According to another source in the J&K Police, Singh had been providing hideouts to terrorists outside Kashmir, especially in Jammu, for the past year. No action, however, was taken against him, as the police did not have any concrete input or information.
The source said the police also had information about Singh being in touch with some Hizbul operatives, but nothing sufficient to implicate him.
The source added that the terrorists had struck a deal of Rs 10 lakh with Singh just for their safe transit to Jammu — a raid on Singh’s residence turned up Rs 20 lakh and AK-47s — and that the terrorists even stayed at his residence in Shivpora, opposite the Badami Bagh Cantonment area, for a night.