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Exclusive: Pathankot terror witness' leads ignored, tortured instead

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"I was repeatedly assaulted even as I kept insisting that whatever I had told them was true," said Madan Gopal (inset), one of the three abducted by terrorists.

The uneventful drive back from a religious shrine on Friday evening didn’t take much time to turn into a nightmare for Madan Gopal, one of the three abducted by the terrorists who stormed the Pathankot air base on Saturday morning.

Mr. Gopal, the cook of former Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salvinder Singh, spoke to The Hindu at his residence on Sunday morning as fighting continued a few kilometres away between the security forces and terrorists, almost 35 hours after the terrorists stormed the forward base of the Indian Air Force.

Mr. Gopal, Mr. Singh and the latter's jeweller friend, Rajesh Verma, were abducted on Thursday late night. And on Friday early morning, at around 2 a.m., Mr. Gopal and Mr. Singh were freed.

Mr. Gopal alleged that not only was the vital information he shared with the police immediately after he was freed ignored but also he was brutally tortured by the Punjab Police.

On their way from Pathankot to Gurdaspur, the ordeal of the trio started at Kolian area where Mr. Gopal and others were signalled to stop by five men dressed in Army fatigues and carrying assault rifles. They already had another vehicle which they had obtained after murdering a taxi driver.

It was nearly midnight and they were on a isolated stretch when the uniformed men stopped them.

"Mr. Verma was driving the SUV with Mr. Singh sitting next to him while I was in the middle passenger seat. In a flash, we were overpowered with Mr. Verma being the first one to be forcefully evicted and stuffed inside the boot," said Mr. Gopal.

"They dragged Mr. Singh out of the car and sandwiched him between the front and middle seats, something they did to me as well. Two of them sat on us after tying up our limbs, taping our eyes and gagging our mouths," he added.

Two of the attackers then sat over the duo. Mr. Gopal recalled the attackers talking to each other but is fairly certain that the language used by most of them "wasn't Punjabi".

"Only one of them uttered few words in broken Punjabi, which is why I could not comprehend much. The other familiar words I heard were Asalam Alaikum. From the voices, I could sense they were young men," said Mr. Gopal.

Neither Mr. Gopal nor Mr. Singh (in his purported disclosure to the police) could remember the routes they were driven on in the hijacked car but it was a dense forest close to the base where they were eventually dumped. The assailants drove away with Mr. Verma still inside the boot.

Mr. Gopal then heard his senior's voice: "Madan let's try and get out of this forest." It was Mr. Singh who managed to free himself first and he freed Mr. Gopal.

"The darkness, dense bushes and tall grasses made it extremely difficult for us to navigate out of the forest. When we eventually did, after walking for two hours and even encountering a canal, we were in a village," said Mr. Gopal.

Villagers helped Mr. Singh to contact his seniors. "He called up Gurdaspur SSP Gurpreet Singh and told him that those who had kidnapped us could be militants," recounted Mr. Gopal.

He added that his hope of police rushing him to safety was immediately dashed when they were taken to the Sadar police station in Pathankot.

"I was repeatedly assaulted even as I kept insisting that whatever I had told them was true. My fears were proved right when the base was attacked but the local police as well as some intelligence officers kept torturing me even after the gun battle started. This is all I get after serving this force for 40 years," said Mr. Gopal, a Class IV staff of Punjab Police, who got an extension after retiring last year.

Punjab DGP and SSP Pathankot were unavailable for comment, despite repeated attempts by The Hindu.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 1:02:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Exclusive-Pathankot-terror-witness-leads-ignored-tortured-instead/article13980768.ece

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