It was an innocuous phone call made by self-styled Hizbul Mujahideen commander Naveed Babu’s brother, talking about a trip to Jammu along with a “policeman” that sent the south Kashmir police into a tizzy early last month, ThePrint has learnt.
The phone call eventually led to the arrest of Srinagar airport deputy superintendent of police Davinder Singh and two Hizbul terrorists last month, besides another “key player” Irfan Ahmad Mir, a lawyer.
Highly-placed sources in the security establishment told ThePrint that when Shopian superintendent of police alerted the DIG of south Kashmir about the phone call interception, it was felt that the “policeman” could either be a constable or a head constable.
“Singh was a surprise catch. It came as a shock when he identified himself as the deputy SP,” a source said.
Since Babu is a former Special Police Officer (SPO) of the J&K police, who deserted the force and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2017, it was suspected that his contact could be a lower-rung policeman.
The source said that Singh during his interrogation had tried to flaunt some of his connections to show as if the trip was part of a planned intelligence operation but it soon became clear that he was lying.
Subsequent interrogation of Singh and Babu, separately, revealed that the former had provided a safe haven to Babu last year in Jammu for a one-and-half-month.
Asked if there was any plan to bring Babu to Delhi or to Amritsar, another source said, “It is all a figment of imagination. Basically, Babu wanted to be out of Kashmir and wanted to lie low. Babu had used Jammu as his place to unwind and relax last year for a month-and-half also. So this time, it was nothing new.”
The source also denied that the arrest was due to any kind of inter-agency rivalry as was initially suspected.
“The arrest of the deputy SP was pure chance. The arrest of Babu took place because of surveillance,” the first source quoted above said.
The DSP’s family had earlier told ThePrint they didn’t believe the allegations against him. His sister-in-law had said Singh was innocent and was being trapped.
Irfan Ahmed Mir, the key player
Sources said the key player among the four arrested was actually Mir, who had contacts with multiple security agencies in the Valley, including the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing.
Although R&AW has no official role in counter-terrorism operations in Kashmir, it does play an important part in terms of providing intelligence inputs from Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and even cultivating direct sources in terror network.
Mir’s father Muhammad Shafi Mir was a compatriot of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, who also heads the United Jihad Council, also known as the Muttahida Jihad Council.
Muhammad Shafi Mir was killed in an operation by the security forces in the 1990s, sources said.
“The lawyer (Irfan Ahmed Mir) has very good connections with terror organisations and he has worked for various security agencies also in between,” a third source said.
Mir got in touch with Davinder Singh last year ::
Sources in the security agencies said that it was Mir who got in touch with Singh last year for logistics support. Singh, who has been part of anti-terror operations in the past, has connections with various agencies.
According to sources, Singh was making “extra money” by offering logistics and support to some terrorists.
“Given his background and connections, the officer was never suspected to be involved with anything illegal than what is often in play in the gray world of intelligence gathering and operations,” the second source quoted above said.
Babu wanted safe passage to PoK ::
Sources said that it was only “recently” that Mir spoke to Singh about getting him in touch with one of the security agencies to provide Babu a safe passage to PoK.
“There was some initial contact made on this front,” said the second source.
ThePrint has learnt that Babu was told by a security agency to ‘give up’ Hizbul Mujahideen chief operational commander Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo. ‘Giving up’ meant that Babu had to give the security agencies Naikoo’s location or help in laying a trap for him.
Naikoo, a resident of Tokun, Awantipora, is a category A++ terrorist who had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in December 2012. An A++ category terrorist is first on the hit list of security forces.
Following the launch of ‘Operation-All Out‘ in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, Indian security forces had made up a list of 22 most wanted terrorists in Kashmir, which included Naikoo.
“Nothing had been finalised. The talks were at very initial stages at a much lower level. The fact is that Naikoo is the most-wanted terrorist in Kashmir and all agencies have been after him but he remained elusive. In intelligence-based operations, some things are given to secure something else,” the second source added.
All sources ThePrint spoke to said no security agencies were aware about Singh’s separate business dealings with either Babu or Mir.
By: The Print