The Armyman’s rampage remains a puzzle
AVTAR SINGH Had action been taken against Avtar Singh in the Andrabi murder, the death of other innocents could have been avoided, says
AS THE reasons for why Major (retd) Avtar Singh killed his family before putting the gun to his head continue to be probed, one thing is clear: No one will now know what the former army officer would have said to a judge had he been extradited. Singh was charged with the kidnapping and murder of human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi in Srinagar in 1996, while he was posted in the Valley. He had fled to the United States via Canada after the Jammu & Kashmir Police came looking for him.
On 8 March 1996, lawyeractivist Jalil was driving home from the high court with wife Rifat when they were accosted by a waiting truck. Jalil was dragged out of his car by gunmen, who bun- dled him into the truck before driving away. On 27 March 1996, Jalil’s trussedup, decomposed body was recovered from the Jhelum. His eyes had been gouged out.
On 9 June 2012, 16 years after that incident, Major Singh shot dead his wife and two children and then killed himself at their residence in Selma, California.
“It is divine justice,” says Arshad Andrabi, brother of Jalil. Arshad, however, says Singh’s family would not have perished had the Indian government heeded Arshad and his family’s pleas for justice. “If the government had moved to deliver justice and extradited Singh from the US, his family would have been saved,” he adds.
Hailing from Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, Singh was posted to Kashmir in the troubled 90s, when the highprofile murder of Jalil happened. In the course of the investigation, Muhammad Ashraf Khan alias Omar Bhai, who worked as an informer for the army, recorded his statement as an eyewitness of what happened to Jalil in the army’s custody. “In his state- ment, Khan had said he heard Jalil being tortured by Singh,” says Arshad. “He also says Jalil was shot in the head, his body taken in a car and thrown into the Jhelum.”
Adding to this incriminating statement, Khan’s wife Dilshada gave even more damning evidence of Singh’s guilt. In her statement, Dilshada talked about more murders by Singh. “Major Avtar Singh killed more people from Mahjoor Nagar, Jawahar Nagar and Batamaloo (in Srinagar). He kidnapped a respectable person, Jalil Andrabi, and tortured him. His dead body was kept in a bag and thrown into the Jhelum,” reads her statement. “Major Singh had close ties with my husband and sent him to Jammu so that his crime would not be exposed before the people.” Dilshada stayed with her husband at the army camp.
Apart from Jalil’s killing, Singh has five cases of murder and kidnapping registered against him in Srinagar, including the death of one Balbir Singh, son of Gulab Singh of Mahjoor Nagar in 1997. Singh is also accused in the 1997 murder of Imtiaz Wani of Ikhrajpora, besides being named in the murder of five people who, incidentally, were part of his team when he picked up Jalil. They have been identified as Sikander Ganai, Muhammad Ramzan, Mushtaq Ahmad Hajam, Muhammad Assad Lone and Muhammad Afzal Malik. A case of kidnapping is also registered against Singh and his cohort of counter-insurgents.
As police started looking for him, Singh was shifted out of the Valley to Karnal in
•• A tragic finale The Valley wanted Singh extradited; Singh lived and died by the gun