Take Davinder Singh’s case seriously | Opinion

His arrest raises several uncomfortable questions about the efficacy of the intelligence machinery
Singh was deputed at a very sensitive anti-hijacking unit at Srinagar airport(PTI)
Singh was deputed at a very sensitive anti-hijacking unit at Srinagar airport(PTI)
Updated on Jan 20, 2020 08:04 PM IST
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ByShashi Shekhar

The uproar after the arrest of Jammu and Kashmir DSP Davinder Singh feels all too familiar. The same furore erupted when a senior customs official was arrested after the Mumbai blast. This raises the question — What was the intelligence machinery doing? Are there other people too who are corrupting our systems? This question will be forgotten until the next such incident takes place. These crucial issues just get lost, instead of being addressed with the seriousness they require.

Unfortunately, this lackadaisical tendency seems to suit our system, and so we lurch from disaster to disaster.

Singh’s case is all the more embarrassing because he was deputed at a very sensitive anti-hijacking unit at Srinagar airport. Although his own record may have been doubtful, Afzal Guru, who was hanged in the case of the attack on the Parliament, had made serious allegations against him. Guru had filed a written complaint that Singh had arrested him illegally and had tortured him. It was Singh who had pressured him to take one of the terrorists involved in Parliament attack to Delhi and provide him shelter. Before this, Singh was accused of misuse of his position and extortion. Had he been put under watch at that time, many untoward incidents perhaps might have been averted.

We need to pay attention to this. The areas affected by terrorism and separatism have their own particular characteristics. There, it is not democracy but a “guncracy” that rules, and some people with authority tend to become trigger-happy and lose their way. Singh is just a small cog in the wheel. Let me give you an example. In the early 1990s, a journalist colleague and I travelled for nearly two weeks in the troubled areas of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. I wanted to know how our security forces deal with those who threaten the Indian nation-State with the gun. The then director-general of the CRPF knew me, and he was courteous enough to ring up the then inspector general of Manipur-Nagaland, and tell him about me.

When we landed in Imphal, a deputy commandant-level officer welcomed and received us on the runway. As part of the CRPF convoy, we reached his group centre. Despite a reputation for being tough, the inspector general (IG) was very warm and friendly, and instead of arranging a rest house for us, he provided us an entire flat adjacent to his residence. He had also called one of his commandants. It was a coincidence that he belonged to a tribe from Manipur called the Meiteis. While moving around with him, we were surprised quite a few times. The first surprise was when we visited a chowki under him. As soon as we reached there, rum with warm water was served. It was 2.30 pm and I looked askance at him. But he had already lifted his glass and was saying cheers! I started wondering: This man is posted here in the crucial and reputed post of the field commander and all the security forces under him are on high alert. In spite of all this, he seemed to think it was fine to drink on the job in the daytime!

When we returned, we raised this issue with the DG. He said the soldiers and officers, posted in such battlegrounds, have to be given a little freedom. When your opponent is willing to do anything to undermine you, you have to be on your guard. And this is not possible within the limitations of rules and regulations. He said, “You people are young. But when I joined the CRPF in the 60s, the scenario was very different. When we reached a village while patrolling on foot, the village-heads used to welcome us and gift us chickens as a token of respect. They were willing to do everything to please us. Times are not the same, sadly.” He looked crestfallen and sad that kinder times were now gone.

I started admiring the courage with which the officers and soldiers lived that difficult life, but we came across yet another surprise. After a few days, I read in the newspapers that an IG, along with some senior officials of the narcotics department, has been arrested on charges of smuggling cannabis. The same commandants and the rum drinker were among those who had been arrested. The sort of “guncracy” leads to an arrogance and confidence among not just the terrorists and separatists but also the security forces

Let us go back to Singh’s affairs. Our political leaders are arguing over Hindu-Muslim and Hindustan-Pakistan, instead of holding serious discussions on this person who has been charged with such serious crimes. It is these people who have to take measures to prevent such life-threatening events, instead of which we are busy wasting our time with foolish debates. They should not forget that when a brave soldier deviates from his path, it’s not just due to personal reasons alone, but because of lapses in the whole machinery.

Shashi Shekhar is the editor-in-chief, Hindustan

The views expressed are personal

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Friday, January 28, 2022