NIA ENTRY:  A political gimmick?



SRINAGAR: After almost 15 years, a major crackdown on separatists by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection to their pro-freedom activities and fund raising only shows that the BJP government is trying to score its political points and nothing else.

Otherwise the decades long Kashmiri freedom movement is evident to the fact that its leadership has vast financial and logistic support from across the border. The freedom movement led by the Hurriyat leaders has supporters, sympathizers, not only in the state but also in other parts of world.

No movement or cause can be served empty pocket in the world as it requires fulfilling many day to day requirements in the journey of struggle. The seminar, rallies and protest marches requires funds to organize, not to fetch gathering but to set-up an organized program to highlight the issue.

By the way, is it something that successive governments of India never know? Is it something, they never know that separatist leader and the Kashmiri freedom movement survives with the help of their supporters in the state and from across the border.  Why the government of India since decades pretends to be deaf and dumb.

Perhaps because, the way armed struggle of Kashmir is money minting machine for politicians and agencies, the unarmed movement is fetching huge sums for them. Actually the regimes and different institutions of India want Kashmir pot to remain on boil for their own interests.

The raids and arrests of lower rung separatist leaders will serve nothing to India or to Kashmiries. This dramatic grilling of arrested separatists’ leaders like Naeem Ahmed Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar Alias Bitta Karate, Ayaz Akbar, Pir Saifullah, Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Shaid-ul-Islam and Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantosh seems more a political scoring for BJP regime than any legal concern.

The serious question that arises out of this dramatic NIA entry is how India could first allow funds from across the border all these years, then showoff it as an expose of ‘terror funding’. The way infiltration of militants on the LoC is continuing despite tight security vigil proves how serious India is to curb across the border intervention in Kashmir.

In its editorial, Kashmir Times, a prominent newspaper of Jammu & Kashmir on 27 July, 2017, ‘Hurriyat leaders in the dock’ while making a point over the NIA raids in Valley, mentions, “If the move is aimed to fulfill a legal obligation, probe must be fair; but if inspired by political motives, they will have dangerous consequences”.

The very in-depth editorial made a realistic point that it is nobody’s case that the huge apparatus of various factions of Hurriyat is surviving without the aid of money channels. “Money is essential for the existence and survival of any political outfit and a common refrain in Kashmir, for years has been that money has been pouring in from Islamabad and New Delhi. Former RAW chief AS Dulat in his book, ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee years’ elaborately reflects on how intelligence agencies on both sides of the borders have been cultivating and nurturing leaders, officers, media persons and other civilians they feel can be useful. He predates the exchange of money since early 1950s”, it reads.

Dulat wrote, “Money in Kashmir goes way back, even to Sheikh Abdullah’s time. After all, why was Sheikh Abdullah dismissed as prime minister of J&K in 1953? One of the allegations in the Kashmir conspiracy case framed against him and Mirza Afzal Beg and twenty-two others in 1958 was that he (Sheikh Abdullah) was getting money from Pakistan. Obviously much of this must have been padded up, I don’t know how much, but it couldn’t have been padded without the germ of truth that the Sher-e-Kashmir had contact with Pakistan, and had money coming in from there. While in jail, Sheikh complained that Kashmir had been corrupted by Delhi bribing people to keep them in power….Thus, since Sheikh Saheb’s time, anybody who’s been on the right side of Delhi has been getting money from Delhi. It’s as simple as that.”

“It is probable that the arrests are aimed at fulfilling a political ambition rather than fulfill the legal need. Crackdown on separatists suits the appetite of a government motivated by Hindutva ideology and hence Kashmir, by qualification, merits a hardline approach as well as serves the purpose of mining for easy vote banks elsewhere in the country. These may be the short term gains of a policy that seeks to win the battle but lose the war”, the edit piece further adds.

Interestingly, the smell of political gimmick was strengthened when National Conference (NC) supremo Farooq Abdullah on 25, July, 2017 while breaking his silence over the NIA raids by saying “I congratulate NIA for its probe on funding of Hurriyat leaders. From where the money has came and how it is been utilised we will get to know that soon. One fact should also be investigated if Indian Government funded Hurriyat or not.” Abdullah while saying “it (NIA) must also investigate whether the Indian government ever funded them (separatists) or not” actually hints at the insides realities of burning Kashmir.

Meanwhile the politics intensified over the arrest of seven Kashmiri separatists by the NIA on the charges of on money laundering to fund terror in the Kashmir Valley. Jammu And Kashmir Congress Chief G.A. Mir as quoted by ANI news wire said the central government was trying to suppress voices in the valley that were being raised against it through the NIA.

“If someone is involved in wrongdoing, then action should be taken against them. But, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is using these agencies for their petty politics. Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing the same situation that Gujarat witnessed when Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state. It is a tactic to suppress voices which are being raised against them,” Mir said.

National Panthers Party (NPP) Chief Patron, Bhim Singh remained unperturbed with the arrest and said the arrested ones are ‘butterflies’ while the ‘big fishes’ are still roaming free.

“Today, they are arresting some butterflies. What about those in Jammu and Kashmir who are encouraging a mutiny against the Government of India,” Bhim Singh told ANI as per a news report.

On the other hand in a joint statement, separatists described the arrests as “a drama being enacted by the government”. “As international pressure is building up on New Delhi to resolve the Kashmir dispute and address human rights situation here, New Delhi is working hard to ward off this pressure by projecting the people’s political struggle in Kashmir as so-called Islamic terrorism aided by Pakistan,” reads the statement.

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq besides describing such arrests as ‘drama’ said the arrests are aimed at “maligning and implicating leadership and mislead the people of India”.

In a statement, Syed Salahuddin, the United Jehad Council (UJC) Chief said that “the arrests and raids by National Investigation Agency on the offices and the houses of separatist leaders depicts frustration of New Delhi.”

“Such tactics will serve no purpose and can’t break the resolve of the people and leadership. A conspiracy is being hatched by Government and its media to malign the image of leadership and freedom struggle. This conspiracy will not be successful as freedom loving people know that success lies in unity and following leadership,” he said.

Interestingly, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti terms the arrest of Hurriyat leaders at the hands of NIA was merely administrative. Speaking at a conclave organised by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals, titled Understanding Kashmir, she said, “The NIA arrests do not solve any problems, it was just an administrative. We have seen so many allegations being made against separatist leaders over the years but nothing has happened. Its good they’re being held accountable but this doesn’t help solve the real issues.”

She said, “Talks with all stakeholders is necessary, just giving precedence to law and order won’t help resolve long standing issues.”

Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh while providing BJP’s stand in the state government said, “The Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Centre will not tolerate such anti-national elements. For decades, they have been creating and spreading chaos and disorder with the help of Pakistan,” Singh said.

Earlier on 24, July, 2017, NIA Inspector General Alok Mittal told media, “We had registered a terror-funding case related to Jammu and Kashmir on May 30 this year under various sections of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Thereafter, we conducted wide ranging searches in several cities and collected incriminating documentary and electronic evidence. We have also seized a large amount of cash. Based on the evidence we have collected and subsequent examinations of the persons today, we have arrested seven persons –six from Srinagar and one from Delhi.”

He further said that the evidences which have been collected so far clearly prove the financial trail and the direct link between terror activities and its (money laundered) funding.

The NIA visited Srinagar in May to probe the alleged funding by Pakistan for illegal activities in Kashmir, and questioned several separatist leaders on the issue of raising, collecting and transferring funds via the Hawala route and other channels to fund terror activities in Kashmir.

The government in centre or state may be legally correct in getting NIA to nail Hurriyat leaders, but it is being observed by the political analysts in Valley that tightening the noose around separatist leadership will ultimately have consequences that are likely to worsen Kashmir and consequently also pose dangers for rest of India.

The fact of the matter is that despite all their flaws Separatists are the largest enterprise that represents the political aspirations of the alienated Kashmiris. Any political tricking with them will not result in purging of those sentiments but in creating a vacuum that will lead to lift of gun among youth.

While on the other hand many believe that, Indian establishment knows, the day they curb militant infiltration, pro-freedom movement, they have to resolve Kashmir. Because when there is nothing left to blame or relate to terrorism, the peaceful streets of Kashmir will force India to resolve Kashmir issue unconditionally.

The turbulent valley not only generates TRP for Indian News industry, but has always helped Indian establishment to define Kashmir problem as ‘new’ every time. For them sometime it is a law & order issue, some time it is a radicalism, sometime it is a non-issue. The tricks has always silenced the Kashmir’s political issue’

In between, the terror funding cases, raids on pro freedom camps or terming stone pelters as Pak agents are only gears for Indian political establishment to pass on the issue to gain political scores in the country.

Irfan Quraishi is a Srinagar based Broadcast & Multimedia journalist in Kashmir. He has previously worked as Bureau Chief for Day & Night News and as Correspondent for Kashmir Times. He had been a fellow of Thomson Reuters Foundation London and RNTC Europe.