Ahead of the Pakistan JIT’s visit to probe the attack at the Pathankot air base, two of the three men who saw the terrorists from close quarters could not be located.
Jeweller Rajesh Verma, SP Salwinder Singh’s friend, was not at home and his family members were tightlipped about his whereabouts. His shop was closed, too. Meanwhile, Madan Gopal, SP Singh’s cook, had left home last week. The family had no clue about his whereabouts.
SP Singh, Gopal and Verma were reportedly kidnapped by the terrorists when they were returning from a shrine. The terrorists took the trio hostage before dumping the SP and his cook and driving away with Verma. The terrorists, according to Verma, slit his throat and left him for dead but he managed to survive. Ahead of the JIT’s visit, the NIA had reportedly summoned the trio for “clarification” on some issues.
“Five-six days ago my father received a call from the police control room that the NIA had summoned him. The line officer handed over a letter from the NIA summoning my father, who took a train to Delhi. He said he would be allowed entry into the NIA office on the basis of the letter, so he took it with him,” Gopal’s son said when The Indian Express visited their home in Rori Mohalla, a not-so-well-off area of Gurdaspur, on Monday.
Gopal’s wife said her husband, the SP and Verma were all innocent. They had gone to Taloor shrine to seek blessings, she said.
Neither she nor the son wanted to be named. The wife said they had two unmarried daughters, but society was looking on them with “suspicion, for no fault of my husband”.
The last time the NIA questioned Gopal, he stayed in Delhi with a motor mechanic friend, the son said. “This time we do not know of his whereabouts. He is not carrying a mobile phone. Before leaving, he told us he would stay at a gurdwara. But gurdwaras do not allow a stay of more than two days. The NIA took my father’s bank passbooks and ATM cards.”
He said his father had been given a two-year extension in the Punjab Police after he retired. “We want him to resign before completion of the extension. We fear that this controversy may affect his retirement benefits,” he said.
At the home of the jeweller on Cinema Road, an affluent neighbourhood, his son, a Class 7 student, said Verma was in Pathankot since morning. Verma’s wife said, “You can talk to him (Verma) after he returns.” She would not say anything else.
Verma’s shop in Gurdaspur was shut. A nearby shopkeeper said the shop was closed for days because of the strike by jewellers.