DySP Davinder Singh
AMONG the several red flags that have resurfaced against J&K Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh, currently in custody, one goes back to June 2000: it is related to the alleged custodial killing of 20-year-old Aijaz Ahmad Bazaz in a camp under Singh’s supervision.
Bazaz, his father Mohammad Shafi recalled, had gone to his aunt’s house in Bemina near their home in the Mandarbagh locality in Srinagar. Two days later, he was picked up by police.
“We came to know that a police party from Humhama Task Force Camp (of the Special Operations Group) has taken him... A week later, a policeman came to our house and asked us to go to the Police Control Room (PCR). My son’s body was lying there. He was my only son; there were torture wounds all over his body.”
Davinder Singh was then in charge of the SOG camp at Humhama. The SOG is the counter-insurgent arm of Jammu & Kashmir Police.
The J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) took cognizance of Bazaz’s death. The SHRC was wound up after J&K was downgraded to two Union Territories last year. Justice (retired) Bilal Nazki, the last chairman of the SHRC, told The Indian Express that “the case had come up before the Commission much before (my) term and (I) was told that the Commission had recommended action against him (Davinder Singh)".
Bazaz's father Mohammad Shafi is a well-known veterinary doctor in Srinagar, and the killing of his son didn't go unnoticed.
"For years, we knocked on the doors of the police and the government, but we were hitting our heads against a wall. No action was taken against Davinder Singh," Mohammad Shafi said. "Hopefully, now that his (Singh's) protection is gone, we may get some justice."
Singh, who was arrested by the J&K Police along with two "most wanted" militants in a car in South Kashmir last Saturday (January 11), was at the forefront of counter-insurgency operations and was, therefore, "protected" from within the force as well as the larger security grid in the Valley, several officials told The Indian Express.
Singh, who joined the police in 1990 as a Sub Inspector, received an out-of-way promotion to first become an Inspector and then a Deputy Superintendent of Police. Singh joined the SOG when it was launched in 1994.
Bazaz's father alleged that searching for his son, after he had approached Singh, an intermediary had told him to arrange for money.
"He said that we will have to pay him (Singh). He asked me to arrange for Rs 40,000. I sold whatever there was at home, the jewellery of my wife to pay him... but after a week of waiting, a policeman from the Kralkhud police station came to our house and we were told that my son was killed during an encounter at Bemina bypass, and his body was found along the road."
The J&K Police had then issued a statement accusing Bazaz of "masterminding two IED blasts in 1996". The police statement, however, was rejected as a cover-up for a fake encounter as protests broke out in Srinagar soon after the body was handed over to the family.
At the time of Bazaz's death, Davinder Singh and his Humhama Task Force Camp had picked up Afzal Guru as well.
Guru was subsequently arrested soon after the attack on Parliament in December 2001. In 2004, from Tihar, Guru wrote to his lawyer Sushil Kumar and alleged that Singh had asked him to take "Mohammad", a co-accused in the Parliament attack case and a Pakistani national, "to Delhi, rent a flat for his stay and purchase a car for him".
Afzal Guru also referred to a police official, Shanty Singh, who along with Davinder Singh, he alleged, had "tortured him at Humhama STF camp".
Shanty Singh was jailed after a Crime Branch investigation in 2003 found he was involved in "torturing a civilian Mohammad Ayoub Dar of Sholipora, Pakharpore to death" in "police custody", and then "firing at his body", dubbing him as a "militant who was killed in an encounter".
But Guru's allegation fell on deaf ears.
In 2005, Davinder Singh was again in controversy. He had helped set up a business deal between two parties, and then allegedly "snatched" cash and a JCB machine from a businessman and escaped.
An FIR was registered at Sadar police station in Srinagar, and the case was subsequently investigated by the Crime branch. "There was a lot of pressure to avoid doing anything in the case,'' an officer who knew the case told The Indian Express. "The records of the case were destroyed during the flood in 2014, and the case was closed subsequently."
When Afzal Guru was hanged in February 2013, Davinder was shifted to Traffic Police. In 2018, J&K Police headquarters asked the Crime Branch to file a closure report in court. This cleared the decks for Singh to be conferred with a gallantry medal -- this has been withdrawn after his arrest.
"It is highly unlikely that Davinder would do what he was doing without the knowledge of his senior colleagues," said a senior J&K Police officer. "Why was he taking these militants to Delhi in his own car? Why would he hide them at his own home? Why was he communicating on an open line, that too on his own phone? There are a lot of questions that are unanswered."
The wait for the answers has now begun. The NIA took over the investigation last week.