Extortionists in Kashmir are known for using militancy as a garb but they have now introduced new weapon, smoke grenade, used mostly during street protests by the security forces, to carry out their activities.
The Jammu and Kashmir police on Sunday said it recovered a toy pistol and a tear-smoke grenade from an extortionist in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, 45-km south of Srinagar.
The extortionist, identified as Aijaz Ahmad Shah, a resident of Chakora village, would knock doors of influential people during the night posing as a militant. Militant groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen continue to hold sway in Pulwama district.
Shah worked under three aliases Bilal, Suhail and Molvi. "Shah was apprehended in a joint operation of the Army and the CRPF on Saturday evening. The arrested extortionist was extorting money from panches, sarpanches and other civilians in Pulwama district," said a police spokesman.
During questioning, according to the police, Shah confessed to extorting money from locals and grassroots representatives, who face militant threats repeatedly through posters asking them to resign.
"A mobile phone, used to harass, and `50,000 were also received from him," said the spokesman.
The police are investigating as to how he acquired the tear-smoke grenade, introduced only in late 2010 after five-month long street agitation as a successful non-lethal anti-riot weapon.
Dozens of tear smoke shells and grenades were used by security forces in Kashmir Valley since Gaza crisis erupted, sparking violent protests where youth engaged cops in pitched stone battles.
Tear smoke grenade is also used by the army and counter-insurgency units of the police to flush out militants holed up inside residential places during encounters. Its gas is sharp, blinds a person immediately and leaves him gasping.
The police have started investigation in the case under Section 382 of the Ranbir Penal Code for theft and extortion.