A high-profile police officer, a veteran in Kashmir, found moving in a car with not one but two wanted terrorists? With assault rifles and grenades? And with two more ‘overground’ workers for the militants? That was not all. A search of his house next to the fortress-like army cantonment in Srinagar, yielded more arms and more grenades.
Yet, reports on Sunday claimed that police were not certain if he was part of a ‘covert’ operation and was engaged in apprehending the terrorists. A report on Sunday in Daily Excelsior had this to say, “Police has neither confirmed the detention of the police officer and militants nor have denied it. A senior police officer said that they don’t know anything about it. Sources, however, said that it is not clear whether he was trying to make them surrender before the Army or any senior police officer or he was helping the militants in carrying out their activities.” It was much later in the evening that the police finally held a press conference and said that DSP Davinder Singh would be treated as a ‘terrorist’.
But while it is almost certain that the Government is putting a lid on the arrest and is unlikely to reveal too many details about the case, there are disturbing questions that beg for an answer.
The most obvious question is the extent of the complicity of security forces and the Intelligence agencies in Kashmir with militants and terrorism there. If in a place like Kashmir, swarming with security personnel and intelligence agencies, a police officer could act with such impunity, is it credible to believe that he was the solitary bad apple and a lone wolf? That he was operating on his own, for money and was not taking orders from anyone?
We still do not have a satisfactory explanation to the terrorist attack in Pulwama in February last year. And notwithstanding the war rhetoric and the air strike on Balakot in Pakistan, the mystery of how a lone terrorist, missing for the past two years or under detention, found the large quantity of explosives, is still not clear.
Clearly the Government believes that people do not have a right to access such ‘sensitive’ information. But surely the Indian Parliament can be taken into confidence? Questions asked and Parliamentary Committees demand to be briefed?
The answers have acquired even more urgency because of the connection between the arrested police officer and Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013 to satisfy the ‘collective conscience’ of the country for his alleged role in the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.
Afzal Guru never denied that he had accompanied some of the accused to Delhi, and helped them find accommodation and buy a second-hand car. But he maintained that he did so at the behest of a police officer, the same Davinder Singh who has now been arrested and is apparently being treated like a terrorist. Singh had asked him to help the men, who he did not know and was not aware of what they planned to do.
Ironically, in the book ‘Black Warrant’, a former legal officer at Tihar Jail, Sunil Gupta is quoted as saying that he had a cup of tea with Afzal Guru on the morning he was hanged. Guru had apparently reiterated his innocence. “I am not a terrorist,” he had said and sang an old Hindi film song that moved the official. The lyrics began with the line “Apne liye, jeeye toh kya jiye/ Ae Dil, tu jee zamane ke liye” (What’s this life if lived for yourself/ better live for others).
Even more ironically, the incident found mention in a report on Sunday, the day the news of the arrest of Davinder Singh appeared.
So, was Afzal Guru really innocent? Was he just a pawn in a bigger game and used ruthlessly by Davinder Singh? If so, was the police officer acting on his own or was he acting on orders? Did we hang an innocent man?
Enough number of people made the connection to wonder, “Who is Davinder Singh’s Boss?”
An open, transparent trial in a courtroom appears unlikely at this point, which alone would help find an answer to the questions. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that we will never hear of Davinder Singh again.