Why were Davinder Singh’s links to Afzal Guru not probed? Or, did Mr Advani know what he was doing?

Afzal Guru, who was hanged in February, 2013, has returned to haunt the Government. Is it possible that the Home Ministry, Intelligence Bureau and Army Intelligence had failed to probe the links?

Why were Davinder Singh’s links to Afzal Guru not probed? Or, did Mr Advani know what he was doing?

Faraz Ahmad

Deputy Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police Davinder Singh, caught “escorting terrorists” by J&K Police is not new to controversies. He has been rounding up J&K militants for years and keeping a close watch over their numerous activities, presumably for which he was decorated by this Government.

Davinder Singh’s name cropped up when Afzal Guru, hanged for his alleged involvement in the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, claimed that it was the police officer who had instructed him to accompany the terrorists to Delhi and help them buy a second-hand car. And although he did not take part in the actual attack and was in fact not even in Delhi when the attack took place with terrorists using the same car that he helped them buy, it was Afzal who was hanged.

The white ambassador car in which those terrorists, armed to the hilt, came into Parliament House precincts bore the Home ministry Green parking sticker; the car was purchased second hand from a car dealer in Karol Bagh, according to investigations conducted by Delhi Police.

The probe was personally supervised by the then Delhi Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma, a big favourite of the then Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, who Advani had specially brought to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh and who served the longest tenure as Delhi Police Commissioner under Advani from July 1999-June 2002.

The white ambassador car, bearing a green North Block parking sticker drove behind Advani’s long motorcade and that is how it could get past the security barricade at Parliament House South Gate, the boom gate lifted to allow Advani’s convoy to drive in.

I was then assigned to cover Home ministry as a journalist and the next day Advani did an informal briefing in his office in North Block on the attack on Parliament. But he merely repeated what had already appeared in the morning papers and was being repeated on TV news channels.

But when I mentioned to him about the reports of the militants’ white ambassador car entering Parliament House behind his motorcade and bearing a Home ministry parking sticker, Advani remarked, “Good question, but as the media has reported, the parking sticker might have been downloaded through the Internet from the Home ministry site”.

This was unlikely because the stickers were top security documents and were well protected to prevent such misuse.

The fact remains that Advani neither denied the report about the militants’ car following his motorcade nor of the existence of the parking sticker on the car. But no one was questioned or probed on this very glaring lapse on the part of the security establishment directly under Advani, giving rise to speculation of some complicity of the security establishment at some level.

A woman constable had noted something amiss, ran after the car and was the first victim of the terrorists. Be that as it may, Afzal Guru and others implicated in the attack with him were all initially sentenced to death by judge S N Dhingra. All but Afzal Guru were acquitted by the Supreme Court. They all pleaded their innocence.

Afzal Guru, the militant who had surrendered after he got disillusioned and returned from Pakistan, who had then married and started a small business, had pleaded his innocence. He had claimed that he did not know the terrorists or their plan; that they were introduced to him by Davinder Singh, who had instructed him to help them. As a surrendered militant who passed on information to the security establishment, he couldn’t refuse the instruction.

He had even provided the mobile number of Davinder Singh correctly but no one paid any heed nor did any agency or court make any attempt to summon Davinder Singh and confront him with the claim made by Afzal.

Perhaps they were fully convinced of the futility of this exercise because they trusted and were confident of Davinder Singh’s integrity.

But even then, it is not possible that the investigative agencies did not make some discreet internal probe into Afzal’s claim. And Advani and Ajai Raj Sharma being serious on security issues must have surely tried to find out about Davinder Singh’s activities. But for close to two decades, Davinder Singh has been handling the most sensitive anti-terrorist, counter-insurgency and anti-hijacking operations in the Kashmir valley.

His official residence from where the Police now says they recovered one AK 47 assault rifle and two pistols is adjacent to the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters at Badami Bagh. He was awarded Police Medal for Gallantry in August 2018. Mehbooba Mufti ceased to head the J&K government in June 2018 and therefore the credit or blame for awarding supposed terrorist gallantry medal goes entirely to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Home Ministry.

Even at the time of his arrest on January 11, Davinder Singh was posted at Srinagar airport, heading the anti-hijacking wing of the J&K Police and in that capacity, he received the high-level foreign ambassadors’ delegation on January 9 and escorted them safely out of the airport. So Davinder Singh’s activities and involvement could not have escaped entirely the prying eyes of several agencies competing with each other in that highly sensitive border state, teeming with security forces of all variety.

Therefore, it is beyond comprehension how such an officer could have continued unnoticed? The other explanation is that maybe, he was on some mission, cleared by the highest authorities, unknown to some others in the force.

But whatever be the case, we can only speculate for the whole truth will never come out, rest assured.

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Published: 13 Jan 2020, 3:26 PM