Hyderabad: I disembarked from the plane and walked into the high-security Srinagar airport less than a week after the Centre abrogated Article 370 on August 5. A message was passed to Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh — the cop who on Saturday was arrested with two Kashmiri militants — and within minutes he arrived, smiling broadly while whispering into his wireless.
As he shook hands and led me to his chamber for a cup of kahwa, Singh warned: “Janaab, haalat kharab hai yahaan,’’ giving a sense of the sensitive ground situation.
Behind his spotless uniform, shining shoes and perfect turban was a police officer whose anti-terrorist operations yielded results in the Valley over the years, making him a “blue-eyed boy’’, while his colleagues got left behind.
The kahwa arrived and Davinder “paaji” spoke at length on militancy and security operations. The discussion veered to the risks he faced, particularly since he belonged to Tral in Pulwama district — a stronghold of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (an al-Qaeda cell in Kashmir headed by Zakir Musa, who was shot dead in an encounter last year) — Davinder smiled, simply saying he was taking all precaution.
Posted to the Srinagar airport’s anti-hijacking squad in end-2018 (till his arrest last weekend), Davinder played a crucial role there after August 5 when he, along with SSP Javaid Iqbal, faced two tasks: securing the airport from the high threat of a terror attack, and liaising with J&K and New Delhi to ensure smooth arrivals/departures of high officials like NSA Ajit Doval, former Army Chief Bipin Rawat, and those involved in counter-insurgency operations.
Anyone who knew Davinder well would vouch that the 57-year-old career-long “man of operations’’ would not have been so naive as to travel along with Hizb terrorists and be nabbed by his own. But then, the Kashmir police has said otherwise.
“August 5 has been a game-changer and perhaps the most challenging time for any police officer, including myself,” Davinder said of the Valley’s situation post August 5. “The situation is tense, people are indoors and an uneasy calm prevails.’’
Was the threat to Srinagar airport at an all time high? He said security agencies were working in close coordination and there was no way terrorists would succeed. He was mostly at the airport 24x7, and going home to Tral was out of the question.
Davinder was also busy with the arrival of incre-asing troops at the airport with each passing day. He was the police’s pointsman for the Army, the paramilitaries and other senior police officials, which meant that he knew exactly who was coming in and going out of Kashmir in those tense days when convoys used to roll through deserted roads.While in the J&K police’s Special Operat-ions Group (SOG), comprising dare-devils and ruthless policemen, he led plenty of operations against terrorists.
Davinder is an encyclopedia on terror networks on operations in the Valley.
He led from the front and took risks which other would not. “While leading ops, you don’t think about the consequences,’’ he would say.
Hearing that I would travel to various localities, including downtown Srinagar, Davinder offered one of his AK-47 toting policemen to accompany me throughout. “You will need him,” he said. I refused, for I was there to do journalism; I added jokingly that a policeman for company would get me into trouble.
“I will be perfectly fine without him,’’ I assured Davinder and he relented.
He did not let me go before asking where I would stay. “Rajbagh,” I said casually. “Phones are not working in Srinagar. If you need anything, try to reach the airport,” he said, waving goodbye.
Within the department, Davinder’s image was like Mumbai’s ‘encounter’ specialists: those who gained the confidence of gangsters, extorted money and yet laid a trap — a win-win for them. “But to believe that an operational man like Davinder would resort to something stupid like this is difficult,’’ said an official under whom Davinder had previously worked.
Despite whispers about his weaknesses, it is surprising that he was posted in a sensitive post like the anti-hijacking squad....