India’s ‘gallant’ men in Khaki


A police officer and his body guard were arrested last week on charges of lobbing a grenade and running a militant module, luring youth to join militancy and then turning them in or killing them to earn rewards, promotions and perks. The man has already received the president’s gallantry award. Is it part of the counter insurgency policy to turn cops into double agents or was it just a case of a man recruited to maintain law and order abusing his position of power to earn an extra buck by operating or being a part of a militant group? Whatever be the case, whether it is by design or by default, the trend portends disaster. It would not be easy for the police to dismiss it as an aberration or to project the cop as innocent by deeming it as a counter insurgency strategy gone wrong. Already news reports, quoting the usual mysterious ‘highly placed’ and ‘reliable’ sources are in circulation in oblique defence of the cop in question by stating that he was deputed to catch the ‘terrorists behind the beheading of Indian soldiers at the Line of Control’. Such planted stories are an indication that the accused cop enjoys the patronage of at least someone in the top police brass, if not the entire machinery.

As for the probability of it being a case in isolation, it is wishful thinking. Already, the involvement of cops, known for their culture of ‘hafta-vasooli’, in cases of corruption is common knowledge. Many face cases but many more are obviously yet not caught. Top ranking police officers stand accused of being part of the drug mafia. Officers across the country, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, also stand accused of gross violation of human rights including custodial torture, custodial deaths and rapes. Many of them have earned out of turn promotions or state honours. It was a gallantry award winner who stands accused of sexually assaulting tribal activist Soni Sori from Chattisgarh, while she was in jail. The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association report ‘Accused, Acquitted and Damned’ on the status of fabricated charges of terrorism against innocent Muslim youth has already pointed out how cops, to earn promotions and benefits, have hand-picked uninvolved people and made them rot in jails for prolonged periods and made them suffer the consequences of being branded as ‘terrorists’ long after their acquittals. Yet such cops remain untouched for having fabricated cases against innocent men and concocting evidence that can be so easily challenged in courts.

No other case illustrates the unreliability of cops better than does the case of Afzal Guru. The case was investigated by two cops, one of whom is cooling his heels in jail on charges of custodial killing. The main investigation officer Rajbir Singh, who nailed Guru, prepared a report that was full of loopholes but remained unquestioned till Guru was hanged, even after Rajbir himself was accused of corruption charges and finally killed in a shoot-out, turning out to be a key figure in a land mafia operating on the outskirts of Delhi. The dubious record of the officer merited a re-opening of the Afzal Guru case, which never happened. The name of yet another cop from Jammu and Kashmir, a part and parcel of the Special Operations Group, cropped up in the Afzal Guru case and his role continues to be mired in mystery because even the courts did not think it was necessary.

Afzal Guru’s statement maintaining that he had been sent on the Delhi mission by DySP Devinder Singh was not even treated admissible. In a television interview, following this statement and a letter on similar lines by his wife, published in two newspapers including this one, Devinder Singh admitted that he knew Afzal Guru, had called him to his torture chamber, given him brutal third degree torture to extract information about ‘Ghazi Baba’ (a name that also figures in the prosecution story about Afzal Guru) but could not extract any ‘confession’ from him. The man who appeared on camera two days after the Parliament attack, without a trace of any torture, to confess his crime of having provided logistical support to the gunmen who attacked the parliament, did not break under Devinder Singh’s third degree torture. The likely probability is that he had nothing to confess. That the man who did not crack under the SOG officer’s notorious torture confessed to a major crime without any duress tells us about the character of the man sent to the gallows, without following due process of law. He was obviously telling the truth. Then why would he have roped in the name of a cop without a rhyme or reason? As for Devinder Singh, who revealed his knowledge about Afzal Guru and also his shocking passion for giving memorable third degree torture to the men he detained, he was not even considered worthy of interrogation. If Afzal Guru’s story was true, Devinder Singh may have a strong liaison with some militants, whether it was part of policy or he was acting on his own. Was ignoring him a case of callousness and carelessness or did he enjoy explicit patronage from the top? 

The case of the inspector nabbed last week on charges of a grenade blast appears to be no different from Devinder Singh. One is behind bars, the other promoted and decorated with honours. Do we need to probe further or are we satisfied that men in khakhi, in whom public no longer has much faith already, can do as they please including treading the dangerous path of hobnobbing with militant networks, even operating them, as long as they enjoy the patronage from the top? Are we prepared for the dangerous consequences of this probability?