New Delhi: A senior IPS officer who cracked the Pulwama terror attack case has been prematurely repatriated to Manipur amid fresh violence in the state over the alleged killing of two teenagers.
In a notification issued Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Rakesh Balwal, who had been serving as the Srinagar Senior Superintendent of Police since December 2021, is being transferred to the Manipur cadre.
Balwal is a 2012-batch officer of the Manipur cadre who was transferred to AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories) for three years in 2021, after the policy for the inter-cadre transfer of officers was relaxed.
ThePrint tried to reach Balwal for a comment by call and text, but received no response.
The premature repatriation of Balwal to his home cadre comes as the MHA seeks to boost the presence of top investigating officers in Manipur. Balwal joins a list of nearly 40 IPS officers who have been sent to the strife-torn state since the violence erupted in May.
A high-level team of the CBI, comprising 10 officials — including a joint director and headed by special director Ajay Bhatnagar — was rushed to the state earlier this week.
In June, the MHA changed the cadre of Rajiv Singh, who was posted as Inspector General at the headquarters of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), from Tripura to Manipur and sent him to the state as director general of police.
‘Hands-on officer, proven track record’
Explaining Balwal’s style of functioning, a police officer posted in Srinagar said he worked in tandem with all the teams assigned to him.
“He is a hands-on officer who likes to keep a tab on every development taking shape on his watch,” said the officer.
“He was brought to Srinagar when the law and order situation had deteriorated in the district and there were targeted killings of non-local residents,” he added. “He started operating with teams to identify vulnerable populations and his work yielded positive results with no targeted killings [in Srinagar] since he took over in December 2021.”
Speaking about his transfer, another officer in the district said the government is likely counting on his experience in “restoring law and order in conflict-ridden areas, proven track record of solving a big case of terrorism, and also his experience of having worked in Churachandpur”.
As a Superintendent of Police posted in the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Balwal headed the team that cracked the 2019 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
According to security sources, there were few clues in the case, and the first leads emerged when Balwal recommended to his senior officers that the mobile phone seized from the suicide bomber be sent for testing. The analysis subsequently produced photographs that helped solve the case.
In August 2020, the NIA filed a 13,500-page chargesheet and charged Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and 18 others in the case.
For his role in that investigation, Balwal was awarded the ‘Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Investigation’ in 2021.
“The investigation was heading to a dead end for one year and we kept working to find that one piece of evidence that would crack open the case for us,” Balwal had told ThePrint after his nomination for the award in 2021.
“There were too many theories doing the rounds, also Jaish-e-Mohammed and Pakistan did not want the truth to come out. It was one of the most difficult and important investigations of my career,” he added.
Before going on deputation with the NIA, Balwal was the SP in Churachandpur district, where the ongoing violence first erupted in May.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)