Srinagar: A police officer who was arrested Saturday in the company of two Hizb-ul Mujahideen militants in southern Kulgam district of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is being treated as a militant and will be asked questions in particular about his contacts with Muhammad Afzal Guru, the militant who was hanged for his role in the attack on India’s Parliament in 2001.
Police said they arrested top Hizb commander Syed Naveed Mushtaq (alias Naveed Babu alias Babar Azam) and his associate Asif Ahmed Rather after they intercepted a car on the highway between Srinagar and Jammu. Travelling with them in the Hyundai i20 was Davinder Singh, a deputy superintendent in the Anti-Hijacking Squad posted at the Srinagar International Airport.
Police recovered five hand-grenades from the arrested militants, and subsequently found an AK-47 rifle and two pistols at Davinder Singh’s house in the high-security Shivpora area of Srinagar.
Inspector-general of police (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar, confirming Davinder Singh’s arrest at a press conference here on Sunday, said the officer would be treated like any other militant and would in particular be questioned about a claim by Parliament attack case convict Muhammad Afzal Guru that he (the police officer) had asked Guru to take a co-accused to Delhi. Guru, a resident of Doabgah suburb of Sopore town, was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail on February 9, 2013.
Vijay Kumar said that another person, a lawyer by profession but an over-ground worker for militants, has also been caught. Police sources identified the lawyer as Irfan Shaffi Mir of Shopian district.
Davinder Singh is a decorated police officer who served “valiantly and productively” in the Special Operations Group (SOG), the counterinsurgency arm of the J&K police, for many years, earning a President’s Medial for bravery.
Acknowledging this, IGP Vijay Kumar said, “This police officer has worked in many anti-militancy operations but the way he was captured yesterday…It is a heinous crime. That is why we are treating him like other militants.”
He added, “We have arrested him formally and brought him on remand. The interrogation is going on and action will be taken based on its outcome.”
Singh and the two militants were taken to an undisclosed destination immediately after their car was intercepted on the Mir Bazaar to Wanpoh stretch of the Srinagar-Jammu highway on Saturday morning.
Police sources said preliminary investigations have revealed that the three men were on their way to Delhi when they were caught. Singh had been absent from duty Saturday and had applied for four days’ leave beginning Sunday, sources said.
They also said the police had been tracking Naveed Babu's movements and traced his location when he made a phone call to his brother.
After the interrogation of the officer and the militants, police carried out multiple raids in Srinagar and South Kashmir. While an AK-47 rifle and two pistols were recovered from the police’s officer’s Srinagar residence, another AK rifle and a pistol were found at a militant hideout in South Kashmir on the basis of Naveed Babu's confession.
Police said Naveed Babu, a former Special Police Officer who decamped with more than one assault rifle from Budgam district in central Kashmir in 2017, was wanted for his involvement in the killing of 11 civilians in various incidents in South Kashmir where he was “very active” for some time.
Naveed Babu, police said, joined Hizb in 2017. They claimed that his arrest is a “big achievement” for counterinsurgency operations.
The IGP said Naveed Babu was also involved in the killing of policemen, arson of apple orchards and threatening farmers and other people following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. There were as many as 17 FIRs registered against him.
“He was HM’s commander in Shopian district and the most wanted militant for us. He is HM’s second in command after its chief Riyaz Naikoo,” the officer said, adding that he (Naveed Babu) was involved in a series of post-August 5, 2019 attacks on non-local workers, truck drivers and apple merchants with the aim of driving non-locals out of the Kashmir Valley.
Replying to questions, IGP Vijay Kumar said Singh was being interrogated by the J&K police, its CID wing, the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He said, “Since the issue is sensitive, that is why we don’t want any loopholes in this.”
Guru had in a letter to his lawyer claimed that Singh had asked him to take Muhammad, a co-accused in the Parliament attack case, to Delhi and arrange his stay there.
Asked about the Afzar Guru claim, Kumar said, “There’s nothing in my records but what you are saying will also be asked (to) him during the interrogation.” A journalist told the IGP that Singh had in an interview to him some years back admitted that he had tortured Guru and that in order to save himself from more torture he (Guru) was asked to do ‘one last work’ in Delhi. The Valley’s police chief evaded a direct answer to this but reiterated that Singh would be interrogated about Guru’s claim as well....