Kashmir: Shutdown against arrest of Hurriyet leaders

Srinagar: Normal life remained paralyzed across Valley on Tuesday, in view of a day-long shutdown called by the joint separatist leadership against the arrests of seven separatist leaders by National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged illegal money laundering in Jammu and Kashmir.

Authorities imposed restrictions in several areas of the old city here in view of the shutdown. Contingents of police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) erected barricades at various entry points in the old city. While thin movement of traffic was witnessed in the areas of old city and the shops and business establishments mostly remained closed, a considerable movement of public and private transport was seen in other parts of the Valley.

NIA here on July 24 arrested seven separatist leaders including Altaf Ahmad Shah Funtoosh (son-in-law of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani), Ayaz Akbar, spokesperson of the amalgam and Shahid-ul-Islam, close aide of Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Peer Saifullah, Nayeem Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate and Mehrajuddin Kalwal in connection with the NIA case filed vide No. RC-10/2017/NIA/DLI (J&K Terror Funding Case) under sections 120B, 121, 121 A of IPC and sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 38, 39, 40 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. While six of them were arrested from Srinagar and later flown to New Delhi, Karate was held in New Delhi.

This is for the first time since the eruption of militancy in Kashmir in early nineties that a central probe agency has carried out raids and formal arrests in connection with alleged funding of separatist leaders.

The NIA in its statement, July 25, said that it has registered the instant case on 30 May, 2017 against the “separatist and secessionist leaders including members/cadres of Hurriyat who have been acting in connivance with active militants of proscribed militant organizations Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and other militant organizations/associations and gangs for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including ‘hawala’, for funding separatist and militancy activities in Jammu and Kashmir and for causing disruption in Kashmir Valley by way of pelting stones on the security forces, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India.”

The statement further read that the Agency has conducted widespread searches on suspected persons in the state, Delhi and Haryana and incriminating documents, electronic devices, cash and other valuables worth crores were unearthed during those searches.

The NIA investigation started after Nayeem Khan during a TV sting operation allegedly confessed to receiving money from Pakistan and LeT to “create chaos” in Kashmir. While Khan claimed that the sting was fake and doctored, he was suspended from Geelani-led Hurriyat. After the video surfaced, the NIA registered a preliminary probe against Khan, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader Gazi Javed Baba and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (R) chairman Farooq Ahmed Dar.

Media reports here said that the separatist leaders were on July 25 produced before a Court in New Delhi and the court remanded them in NIA custody for 10 days.

Member Parliament and National Conference patron Dr. Farooq Abdullah here on July 25 asked NIA to investigate whether or not the separatist leaders received Indian funding as well, as told to news agency, ANI. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on July 25 said that Geelani and Mirwaiz should be investigated for alleged money laundering activities to create “unrest in the Kashmir Valley.”

Independent legislator Er Rasheed here on July 25 asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to either get back the seven Huriyat leaders from NIA custody or resign. While talking to the local news agency, CNS, hereminded the Chief Minister of her agenda of alliance with the BJP wherein she had said that she would talk to Hurriyat. He added, “It is not the question of arresting Huriyat leaders but attacking the credibility and self-respect of the entire Kashmiri nation.” He further asked NIA and other agencies that before attacking Hurriyat should somebody ask mainstream parties wherefrom they manage huge election funding and after assuming power create countless assets.

Expressing concern about the safety of the arrested people, the joint separatist leadership in a statement here on July 24, said that no one has been able to establish contact with them and their whereabouts are not known.“A drama was enacted by the government through NIA of first raiding, then questioning and now arresting these people, giving an impression that law and procedures had been followed. The sensationalizing anti-Kashmir electronic media of India was also brought into play to aid and abet this drama and deceit.”

Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association at Srinagar, in a statement here on July 24, described the arrest of the seven separatist leaders and the proposed issuance of notice to Geelani, Mirwaiz and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, as vindictive, revengeful and oppressive. Bashir Sidiq, General Secretary of the Association, in a statement, maintained that firstly NIA was used to raid their houses and thereafter got them summoned to Delhi, where they were questioned for a few days and were thereafter made to attend NIA office in Delhi for weeks together. “They were thereafter let-off, but after a few days were summoned again and the past method of harassing and humiliating them was repeated. Some of the activists were also summoned by NIA authorities to their camp office at Humhama in Srinagar, where they were interrogated but finding nothing against them, were thereafter allowed to go. It is, however, surprising that today the NIA authorities arrested the seven separatist leaders and took them to Delhi, where they will be produced before NIA Court tomorrow, which in all probability, may remand them, either to police or judicial custody. There is an NIA Court in Jammu also, but these leaders have not been taken to Jammu and produced in the said court, but have straightway been taken to Delhi, only to subject them to further torture and humiliation. The decision of the NIA authorities now to issue notice to Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik for causing their appearance before NIA authorities in Delhi is also proof-positive of the fact that NIA authorities are so afraid of Hurriyat leadership that they somehow want an excuse to arrest and detain them.”

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