Davinder-Salwinder Saga and the Enemy Within

The way Davinder - Salwinder saga unfolded and quietly faded away due to laxity in investigation, clearly reminds that the deep state resides inside the government as well, and there is no will to address the enemy within…

Opinion

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retd)

Davinder-Salwinder

In January 2020, Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh of J&K Police was arrested travelling in a car with two hardcore terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. His arrest made huge headlines because the nation was preparing for Republic Day celebrations and it was revealed that Davinder had also been on the security detail when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s had visited J&K earlier.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) investigated the case and filed a charge sheet against Davinder and the others. According to the charge-sheet, Davinder, posted in the anti-hijacking unit of J&K Police, was in constant touch with his handlers in the Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi. NIA also accused Davinder for supporting Hizbul Mujahideen and mentioned that he was tasked by his Pakistani handlers to establish contacts in the Ministry of External Affairs for espionage activates.

In June 2020, Davinder was granted bail in another terror case since Delhi police failed to file the charge sheet within three months of his arrest, as mandated by law. Davinder, however, did not walk free as he was not granted bail in the case filed by the NIA.

In March 2021, the NIA filed a supplementary charge sheet against People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed Para and two others in a terror case in which Davinder Singh had been arrested during January 2020.

The supplementary charge sheet accused Para, Shaheen Ahmad Lone and Tafazul Hussain Parimoo of criminal conspiracy under various sections of the IPC, UAPA, Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act; alleging they were part of gun runners from across the Line of Control for terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In May 2021, J&K’s Lieutenant Governor ordered Davinder’s dismissal from service with “immediate effect” under Article 311 of the Constitution. However, on August 1, 2021, the government decision came that “in the interest of the security of the State, it is not expedient to hold an enquiry in the case of Mr Devinder Singh.”

The bit about “in the interest of the security of the State” perhaps amounts to “in the interest of security of the deep state”, least it’s ‘emperor’s clothes’ come off should there be an inquiry

It is quite apparent that if the inquiry is held, the fear is that Davinder would sing; disclosing the involvement of politicians, bureaucrats and the administration in activities of narcotics smuggling, gun running, money laundering through hawala and most importantly links with terrorists organizations based in Pakistan and the ISI. Perhaps he could even bring out additional facts hitherto kept hidden in various terrorist attacks including the Pulwama car bombing – complicity of the Indian side making some people very uncomfortable?

There is no other apparent reason that after such serious charges levied by the NIA against Davinder, no inquiry is considered necessary. The bit about “in the interest of the security of the State” perhaps amounts to “in the interest of security of the deep state”, least it’s ‘emperor’s clothes’ come off should there be an inquiry. The irony is that the public are always considered foolish which they are not. Even if this ‘no enquiry’ is to somehow draw benefits for the forthcoming elections in J&K, it still amounts to indirect complicity in terrorism against nation.

Recall the terrorist attack on the IAF Base at Pathankot in January 2016, wherein it emerged that the Pakistani terrorists having infiltrated across the border in Gurdaspur area a night before travelled in the car of Salwinder Singh, Superintendent of Police, Gurdaspur. Salwinder said he went to visit ‘Panj Peer Dargah’ but was “kidnapped” and later set free by the terrorists who hijacked his car.

Salwinder was questioned by the NIA, which as per news reports of July 14, 2016 was to seek court permission  for  lie detector test on him though Salwinder’s consent too was required to make him undergo the test. It is not known if the lie detector test was done but Salwinder was also confronted with his cook Madan Gopal and caretaker of Panj Peer Dargah, Somraj. All three were brought face-to-face after conflicting statements had emerged.

Salwinder was close to Sucha Singh Langah, former Akali minister from Gurdaspur. Langah was convicted and sentenced to three-year jail by a Mohali court but the conviction was later suspended by the Punjab and Haryana high court. Langah has a 100-acre farmhouse in the border belt, not very far from where Salvinder was travelling the night he claims to have been abducted. Salwinder’s other claim to fame was sexual harassment cases against him.

It is no secret that Pakistani activities of smuggling narcotics, weapons and other items into Punjab are not possible without the involvement of politicians whether in opposition or in power (some possibly heading or controlling the cartels), police forces and contacts in the administration

Adrian Levi and Scot Clark in their book ‘Spy Stories: Inside the secret world of the RAW and the ISI’ have claimed that corrupt Indian police officers helped terrorists identify less monitored locations near the Pathankot Airbase and helped them hide grenade, mortars, arms and ammunition before the January 2, 2016, attack on the airbase. Salwinder, however, was given a clean chit by the NIA in the Pathankot airbase attack case.

Finally, news reports of May 2017 revealed that the Punjab DGP office had forwarded the case of Salwinder’s compulsory retirement to the state home department, citing his “controversial conduct throughout his service in Punjab Police, starting as an assistant sub-inspector (ASI)”.

It is no secret that Pakistani activities of smuggling narcotics, weapons and other items into Punjab are not possible without the involvement of politicians whether in opposition or in power (some possibly heading or controlling the cartels), police forces and contacts in the administration. In fact, this is the case elsewhere in the country too including in J&K and the northeast. Since the deep state resides inside the government as well, there is no will to address the enemy within.

It is for the same reasons that the Congress shut down Army’s Technical Support Division (TSD), which was getting excellent trans-border intelligence inputs, and the BJP did not restore it because intelligence obtained would expose those involved whether in power or not.

Finally, the deep state will continue to triumph and so will foreign intelligence agencies. Terrorism will continue to survive and optimized to garner votes as best as possible.

-The author is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.