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

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