NIA team in Srinagar to probe Geelani, other Kashmiri separatists
A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team arrived in Srinagar on Thursday to question top separatist leaders over funds allegedly received from Pakistani sources, including the banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to fuel unrest in Kashmir.
The agency -- which handles high-profile cases such as that of terrorism – also named in a preliminary enquiry (PE) four prominent separatist figures including hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. A PE is a precursor to an first investigation report (FIR) and subsequent probe, if necessary.
The PE names LeT patron Hafiz Saeed as one of the sources for the funds, in addition to other unknown persons in Pakistan. Saeed is wanted in India in connection with the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed more than 160 people.
The NIA probe signaled the BJP-led central government hardening its stand on the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an alliance of over two dozen organisations which seek either “independence” from India or merger with Pakistan.
“Those resorting to violence cannot be treated like average citizens. Terrorism and militancy, and those who have taken to violence, will be treated differently,” the minister said in Srinagar on Thursday.
Speaking about a TV sting operation that purportedly showed Hurriyat leaders talking about receiving money from Saeed and other Pakistani individuals, the minister said it has merely put on public domain “what was already known to informed sources”.
Kashmir has seen widespread violence since July last year when the killing of a militant commander, Burhan Wani, sparked months-long street protests that left nearly hundred people dead.
The PE also names Hurriyat provincial president Naeem Khan, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader Gazi Javed Baba and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), NIA officials said.
Separately, India’s financial crime probe agency, the Enforcement Directorate, has called a meeting within a couple of days to discuss if a criminal case could be made out against the separatists for their alleged involvement in money laundering and hawala transactions, an illegal system of transferring money across borders.
“We suspect the money was distributed in the valley for various violent activities like stone pelting and torching of schools and government buildings,” said a senior NIA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The NIA on Thursday collected the memory devices and cameras used in the sting operation to verify the contents. They will be subjected to forensic tests, the official added.
The PE said money is transferred from Pakistan to agents in Old Delhi’s Ballimaran and Chandni Chowk areas before it is taken to the valley.
(With agency inputs)