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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ex-NIA IG, who probed Hindutva terror cases, 26/11 and Pathankot attacks, dies

Sources close to Singh’s family said the former NIA IG was suffering dengue and had a fall during a visit to the hospital. The fall caused a haemorrhage that Singh could not recover from.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Updated: October 18, 2020 11:41:24 am
Sanjaeev Kumar Singh, IPS, died late on Friday. (Photo: Twitter @Sanjeev99736747)

National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) consultant and former IPS officer Sanjeev Kumar Singh died late on Friday following a haemorrhage suffered during a fall. He was 60.

Sources close to Singh’s family said he had contracted dengue and had a fall during a visit to the hospital, resulting in a haemorrhage that he could not recover from.

A 1987-batch Madhya Pradesh cadre officer, Singh was one of the first officers to join the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2009. The former NIA IG investigated many high-profile and sensitive cases, including the Hindutva terror conspiracy, the 26/11 attacks and the Pathankot air base attack.

Singh’s death has come as a shock to the police fraternity, which held him in high regard for his integrity and professionalism.

“He was supremely fit, never missing his workouts even after retirement. Most of us called him ‘Chattaan Singh’ (The Rock). In Madhya Pradesh, he was known as the ultimate field officer, extremely sharp at both maintaining law and order and detecting cases. If a criminal was on the loose, there was no better officer than Singh to catch him,” an MP cadre officer told The Indian Express.

His former colleague and ex-NIA IG, G P Singh tweeted: “RIP Sanjeev Sir… Maybe God needed you in heaven for some investigation.”

Those who have watched the NIA over the years remember how he would start his day at office with a glass of sattu (a staple diet among Biharis — Singh hailed from the state) and go jogging at noon, even if it was June. He also never missed his swimming sessions in the evening. “He was someone who liked his team in the field rather than in meetings,” an officer who worked under him said.

Singh joined the NIA when it was established after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and operated out a small office in the CGO complex. Initially, his team was only given fake currency cases. However, as more officers joined the central agency, it was given the probe of the most high-profile case of the time — the blasts carried out across India by Hindutva terror groups. It was Singh’s team that was handed the task of tracking the culprits and bringing them to justice.

Singh, in his seven-year stint at NIA, investigated the 2006 Malegaon blasts, the Samjhauta Express blasts, the Mecca Masjid blasts and the Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast. His team even ensured convictions of two RSS members in the Ajmer Dargah blast case.

He was also entrusted with investigating David Coleman Headley in the 26/11 conspiracy and had interrogated the Pakistani-American while he was in the custody of US agencies. Singh also supervised the NIA investigations into the terror attacks launched by the Indian Mujahideen and secured convictions in the Patna Gandhi Maidan blasts during Narendra Modi’s rally and the Bodh Gaya blasts.

He was also part of the investigations into the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror attack on the Pathankot Air Base in 2016. However, by this time, he was also taken off the Hindutva terror cases and the 2008 Malegaon blasts probe was handed over to a different team. The NIA would later file a chargesheet exonerating key accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the case.

His exit from the NIA in 2018 was under strange circumstances. Singh had applied for an extension of tenure at the Centre due to some family issues and the matter had been recommended by then home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi. He was granted an extension in June that year. However, two months later, the government revoked its own order, repatriating Singh to MP.

In his state, Singh had long been associated with anti-Naxal operations and held the post of ADG (Anti-Naxal Operations) towards the close of his career. Before retirement, he had a second stint at the Centre as ADG Border Security Force, handling the Eastern Command.

Following his retirement this year, he was appointed as a consultant at the NSCS.

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