Current Affairs

Government Toughens Stand, J&K, Leader’s Kin, others arrested

D.N. Verma

The beginning of a much needed and long-awaited tough stand by the government of India in Jammu & Kashmir was evident recently when security agency came down heavily on separatist leaders in the state with several arrests, including kin of a prominent leader of Hurriyat, the anti-India groups’ umbrella organization. 

The authorities arrested a son-in-law of the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and six others for creating trouble in the Valley by funding and getting illegal money from across the border. They are also suspected of providing funds for stone-pelting and creating other disturbance in the Kashmir Valley quite often. They are among those who disrupt funerals and prayers at certain places and call for ‘bandhs’ (markets close) and try to paralyze life in cities. 

It is well known that Hurriyat and other separatist leaders were regularly getting money from Pakistan and making more money by indulging in illegal activities such as Hawala deals and getting a share in border trade etc. 

The recent crackdown is the result of deeper investigation and capture of solid evidence of wrong-doing by these separatist elements. Geelani is also targeted by the authorities for his objectionable role in fomenting trouble in the state on several occasions and calling for demonstrations and creating unrest. 

Even the ‘moderately separatist’ leaders like Mir Waiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah are also being watched carefully and action might be taken against them. 

Evidence is being collected and scrutinized about some of the Hurriyat activists’ close links with terrorist organizations such as LeT and Hizbul Mujahidin also. 

In years of Congress and National Conference rule in Jammu and Kashmir and weak policy of the Congress government in New Delhi, the separatist elements gained strength. They constantly indulged in anti-India activities and played their separatist call at will. They have been given all facilities to go to New Delhi and Pakistan for ‘talks’ and were also regularly meeting with Pakistani diplomats in the Indian capital and elsewhere. These leaders have often been invited for talks about the unrest and possible political solution to the ‘Kashmir problem.’ 

Hurriyat’s office in New Delhi was reported to be functioning like a foreign embassy during the Congress government. Only now the government of India led by Prime Minister Modi and the coalition government of Mehbooba Mufti and the BJP in Jammu & Kashmir state decided to take a tougher stand. 

A report by Neeraj Chauhan in the Times of India stated that a big crackdown on separatists in J&K, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested seven Hurriyat activists, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani's son- in law, for allegedly bankrolling stone-pelting and other subversive activities in the trouble-torn Valley.

Altaf Ahmad Shah " Fantoosh", son-in-law of Geelani, along with other associates of the separatist patriarch, have been accused of bringing money from Pakistan by misusing LoC barter trade and through the hawala route, to fund the unrest which has claimed scores of lives, including those of security personnel.

The arrests, which instantly triggered a shutdown call by Hurriyat, were being seen as evidence of the Centre's tough stance, as well as its refusal to hold talks with Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah though it’s being urged by many in the opposition and by civil society activists.

Associates of Mirwaiz and Shah are among those arrested. "How can we talk to those who have been exploiting the people of Kashmir Valley for their politics of violence and separatism?" asked a senior government official. This is the first time a probe agency has linked "terror-funding" directly to the top Hurriyat leadership.

NIA Inspector General Alok Mittal claimed that the evidence shows the involvement of the Hurriyat leadership in funding, and that action could be taken against Geelani and other separatist leaders. Geelani's close associates Ayaz Akbar Khandey, spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal and Peer Saifullah were also picked up from Srinagar and brought to Delhi.

Khandey is known for issuing bandh calls as well as threats to people in the Valley while Kalwal, a former Hizbul Mujahideen militant, has been accused of organizing stone-peltings and processions at Geelani's instance.

Saifullah has been a regular at Geelani's place. Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesman of the Mirwaiz-led ‘moderate’ Hurriyat Conference, and Nayeem Khan, who's closely affiliated with Shabir Shah, have also been arrested by NIA. Farooq Ahmed Dar, alias "Bitta Karate", a former JKLF militant closely associated with Hurriyat operations, was arrested in Delhi.

"These seven played the most important role in everything that ails J&K. Some of them kept accounts of funds received from Pakistan-based terror groups or other means and stayed in touch with people across the border, while a couple of them worked out the stone-pelting/processions dates/venues as well as the funds required for it," an agency official said. 

"One of them arranged crowds for funeral prayers, or rushed youngsters, already identified and paid for by the masterminds, to thwart security forces while they verged on nabbing or eliminating terrorists. One member was in charge of cash received from traders engaged in LOC trade or hawala dealers. Basically, these seven decided how much money would be spent on subversive activities as well as, in many instances, terrorists plotting attacks," said an officer associated with probe. 

Mittal said arrests were made on the basis of technical evidence, emails recovered during raids in J&K and Delhi, account books of hawala dealers, documents recovered from traders engaged in LOC barter trade at Salamabad and Chakan Da Bagh trade facilitation center. He said separatists got crores through different channels, including LOC trade, hawala and in cash to spearhead the violence.

NIA Director General Sharad Kumar said, "Hurriyat leaders/cadres were acting in connivance with active militants of Hizbul Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, LeT and other terror organizations and gangs for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terrorist activities in J&K and for causing disruption in Kashmir Valley.