Security personnel carry out rescue and relief works at the site of suicide bomb attack at Lathepora Awantipora in Pulwama district of south Kashmir on February 14, 2019.
Rakesh Balwal, a superintendent of police with the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and an inspector in his team, Neeraj Sharma, who solved the 2019 Pulwama attack conspiracy case, have been awarded Union Home Minister’s medal for excellence in the investigation for 2021.
Balwal and his team managed to crack the case, in which the agency initially struggled to get any leads for 10 months.
An Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 2012 batch from Manipur cadre, Balwal has been posted with NIA since 2018. He is handling some crucial investigations, including the June 27 drone attack at the Indian Air Force base in Jammu.
The Pulwama case was solved after the agency stumbled upon the mobile phone of Masood Azhar’s nephew Mohammad Umar Farooq, who was killed by security forces months earlier, in December 2019. Balwal’s team retrieved photos, videos, and conversations showing all the moments of his journey from Pakistan to India through the border, bomb-making, and photos of other accomplices. The phone also had conversations with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leadership – primarily his uncles Abdul Rouf Asghar and Ammar Alvi in Pakistan and other operatives from the Valley.
A 13,500-page charge sheet was filed by Balwal’s team in the Pulwama attack last year. Several suspects were arrested for assisting Umar Farooq and other JeM conspirators.
As many as 152 investigators from across the country have got the medals.