On January 11, Davinder Singh, a deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, was arrested along with two Hizbul Mujahideen militants he was allegedly trying to ferry out of Kashmir.
The police officer, who joined the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s counter-insurgency wing in the 1990s, has been in the public eye before. In 2004, he was named by Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in a letter written to his lawyer from Tihar jail. Guru alleged that Singh, who had tortured him at a police camp in Kashmir, later ordered him to take a man to Delhi and make living arrangements for him there. That man was one of the militants shot dead in the attack on Parliament in 2001.
In an interview with journalist Parvaiz Bukhari in 2006, Singh admitted to the torture allegations but not the rest of the claims. The interview was never published in the magazine that had commissioned it. Here is the text of the recorded interview, which was later published in the book, The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, with an introduction by Arundhati Roy:
Parvaiz Bukhari: How do you know Mohammad Afzal Guru?
Davinder Singh: A source came to me and informed that one Afzal Guru is the top courier for Gazi Baba. I looked for him but could not capture him. When I got to know that Afzal works in Pattan area [Baramulla District], I contacted DSP in-charge of Pattan SOG [special operations group, the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s counter-insurgency wing] camp, Vinay Gupta, and he captured him [Afzal]. After interrogating Afzal, Vinay called me and said that he could not get anything out from him. But I requested Vinay not to release him and send him to my camp at Humhama [Budgam District]. That is how I know Afzal.
PB: Once in your custody, what did he reveal?
DS: I did interrogate and torture him at my camp for several days. And we never recorded his arrest in the books anywhere. His [Afzal’s] description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him. He did not reveal anything to me despite our hardest possible interrogation. We tortured him enough for Gazi Baba but he did not break. He looked like a ‘bhondu’ those days, what you call a ‘chootya’ type. And I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out of my interrogation clean, nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good by the whole department.
PB: So Afzal was freed?
DS: My SP, Mr Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, sent his own brother-in- law, Altaf and Afzal’s brother Aijaz Guru, to the camp after calling me to meet Afzal. My SP said, ‘If you have not found him involved in any way why don’t you release him?’ I told him let his [Afzal’s] torture wounds heal so that he could be released. But since he was captured by the Pattan SOG camp, I sent him back there after he recovered. Afzal was released from there later.
PB: Have you had any contact with Afzal or any of his family members after that, as he has alleged?
DS: I have had no contact whatsoever with Afzal after I sent him back to Pattan camp. Not on phone, no meeting, nothing at all. I have seen his brother Aijaz only once when he was sent to my camp by my SP. And I have never had any contact with any of his family members either.
PB: Afzal in his letter has alleged that you asked him in presence of one Tariq to take one man to Delhi and help him?
DS: That is a lie. I don’t know Tariq or Mohammad, but I know of them. Since I was working in counter-militancy, I know Tariq and Mohammad were ‘A’ category wanted militants with five lakh rupees reward on their head. If I knew them or had captured them do you think I would have released them? This is a concocted story. They come here from Pakistan for terrorism. Had I met them, do you think I would have spared them? Afzal wants clemency and he wants to gain sympathy of Kashmiri public and government of India by giving this story.
PB: Afzal alleges in his letter that you stayed in touch with him and that other man and Mohammad when they were in Delhi?
DS: It is not true. I never had his number and never called him. Why am I being suspected, it could be anybody else if at all calls were made to Afzal or any other person. Afzal was sent to Pattan from my camp in September 2000 and I was transferred out from Humhama SOG camp to CIK [Counter Intelligence Kashmir] Hari Niwas in February 2001. When I was in Humhama SOG camp, there was no STD dialling facility there. I have not even visited that camp after my transfer. If I called Afzal from there who will authenticate it?
PB: Did anybody pay you money for Afzal’s release as he has alleged?
DS: No. Even if I wanted to take money, I could not have as my SP’s brother-in-law was seeking his [Afzal’s] release. At the same time I cannot guarantee that nobody else took money from his family.
PB: In the light of allegations by Afzal, do you think that you may have been used?
DS: It is a difficult time for me. I would expect my superiors to clear my name. But it is sad that nobody from my department has come forward so far. Even if I had an iota of suspicion that I had been used by anybody, I am not the type to keep silent. And I want to reiterate that I have not talked to, seen or met Afzal or any of his family members after handing him back to Pattan SOG camp.
PB: Then why is your name figuring in Afzal’s letter and his wife’s accounts?
DS: I am being victimised for having worked in SOG, for being very nationalistic. What am I getting in return? Bad name and a conspirator . . . It’s really unfortunate . . . Also, to be candid with you, nobody would ever forget having been interrogated by me.
PB: You must also have seen Afzal’s letter. Do you think the handwriting and the signature is his?
DS: The signature is but not the handwriting . . . Signature I haven’t seen but the handwriting is not that of Afzal’s. Signature could be his but handwriting I know is not his. I know because he was teaching somebody’s children where I had seen his handwriting. That is all fabricated.
PB: Have you seen that carefully?
DS: Yes of course.
PB: You have handled Afzal. Do you think he is the kind of man who could be involved in the Parliament attack?
DS: He is doing this exercise saying that he took the man there and helped them. And helped them buy a car, etc. Why he did this he knows it better. If all this would have been established when he was captured by us . . . he would not have been knowing it. It ended for us when he could not be broken [by interrogation].
Excerpted with permission from The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, with an introduction by Arundhati Roy, Penguin India.