- Questions such as was Davinder Singh a deep state “asset” are being raised.
- The fact that he had immunity for nearly two decades is a serious red flag.
- Instead of burying the Singh case fathoms deep, the government must make the NIA probe transparent.
- The real questions about the episode need to be answered.
I have covered internal security for nearly 20 years. The twists the turns, the shifting reality and the cloak and dagger. No other beat is quite as exciting. Yet, the arrest of Davinder Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, caught by the Jammu and Kashmir police last Thursday in the company of two wanted terrorists, who both carried a bounty on their head, seems to be the very ugly tip of the iceberg.
Singh had been in distinguished company just prior to his arrest. Singh got a meet and greet at Srinagar airport with the United States ambassador, Kevin Juster, and nearly half a dozen envoys who were there as part of a guided tour organised by Ajit Doval, the powerful National Security Adviser of the Modi government, in a bid to showcase normality in Kashmir.
Why Singh, who the local CID had accused of amassing a huge property portfolio just last year, was present at the meet and greet is still an inexplicable mystery. No answers are forthcoming from the Modi government. The Jammu and Kashmir police also said they had found a huge quantity of explosives and three assault rifles in Singh’s home. They said Singh used to allow terrorists to use his home as part of his ferry services.
Within 24 hours, the case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
This is not Singh’s first brush with controversy. Earlier, Afzal Guru, who was accused in the Parliament attack case in 2001 and hanged in 2013, had in a letter to his lawyer accused Singh of torturing him and forcibly sending him to Delhi with one of the terrorists.
Incredibly enough, no red flags were raised in the security establishment. Singh was not even cursorily investigated. This despite Singh going on record in an interview that he had tortured Afzal Guru.
This time around Singh was also headed to Delhi with two terrorists. Coming up are two huge security challenges -- the Republic Day parade on January 26 and the Delhi elections on February 8.
Every country has a deep state when it comes to security challenges. Yet a measure of the resilience of the system is an unbiased oversight and audit. While no country will go public, the rogue element will always be held to account.
India is a hard and unforgiving state when it comes to internal security and this is a bipartisan policy of whichever party is in power. Yet some incidents, which would have led to alarm bells ringing in a deafening chorus, have witnessed a deafening silence from the Modi government.
Lack of transparency
This in a large part has to do with Doval’s approach. Doval has always played fast and loose with institutional accountability. Consider this: he invited Pakistan’s ISI to inspect the Air Force base in Pathankot in January 2016 after it had been attacked by terrorists. It took four days to put down the deadly attack, which killed seven Indian soldiers and wounded another 22.
Doval micromanaged the response, which delayed the operations. Till date we have no audit of the security failures which led to the attack.
Doval’s cavalier approach was on display again when he and Modi from the Prime Minister’s house announced a “historic Nagaland accord” in August 2015. The reality is that the accord is still being negotiated by the Government of India.
Doval has an insatiable hunger for publicity. So you have many of the tame Panna Pramukhs in the media showcasing Doval’s supposed dare devil exploits. Trouble is that most of these are imaginary.
Consider also this: after the Pulwama attack on February 14 last year in which 40 security personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed, no official inquiry has been made public pinpointing what led to the security failure which caused the tragic deaths. We don’t even know how the huge quantity of explosives made their way to Pulwama.
This is institutional accountability, which should publicly see heads roll, but yet the Modi government is mum.
This lack of accountability is the reason that we seem to learn no lessons from security failures. The distrust of claims made by the government is also because of the lack of any transparency.
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India’s enemies get away with claiming false flag operations.
Taking a hard line of zero tolerance of terror is an excellent policy, but it works only if the audit transparency is equally robust. In India’s case, the security establishment is a closed shop.
Questions such as was Singh a deep state “asset” are being raised. The fact that he had immunity for nearly two decades is a serious red flag. Instead of burying the Singh case fathoms deep, the government must make the NIA probe transparent. The real questions about the episode need to be answered.
Let the Pulwama attack not be a battle ground for the imagination. The Modi government needs to make the probe into the security failure public. India is now a mature democracy. We need our security establishment to match the maturity.