Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out multiple raids in Kashmir’s Srinagar and Bandipora, targeting non-profit organisations and individuals, which include prominent human rights defenders and journalists. The agency also raided properties of former Delhi Minority Commission chief Zafarul Islam Khan in Delhi.
The Kashmir Editors Guild said that the media in Kashmir has been “targeted” by the state and non-state actors for some time now.
The NIA raided as many as ten locations in the Valley in relation to a case which, the agency said, is connected to various NGOs and trusts allegedly raising funds in the name of charitable activities and then “using them for carrying out secessionist and separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The raids have continued on Thursday, with news agency PTI reporting that the six NGOs which have been raided are: Charity Alliance headed by former chairman of Delhi Minority Commission Zafar-ul-Islam Khan, Human Welfare Foundation in Anantnag headed by Shabir Ahmed Baba, Falah-e-Aam Trust, a subsidiary of banned Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islamia, J&K Yateem Foundation, Salvation Movement, and J&K Voice of Victims.
While Charity Alliance and Human Welfare Foundation are Delhi-based, the remaining NGOs are from Srinagar.
According to a statement from the agency, a case has been registered by NIA earlier on October 8 under Sections 120 B and 124 A of the Indian Penal Code and under sections 17, 18, 22A, 22 C, 38, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“Several incriminating documents and electronic devices have been seized. Further investigations in the case is continued,” the NIA statement read.
Raids were conducted on prominent human rights activists of the region, Khurram Pervez and Parveena Ahanger. The NIA has also raided Swati Seshadri, who has been identified as a Bengaluru-based associate of Khurram, and Parvez Matta.
Khurram, who was awarded the Reebok Human Rights award in year 2006, is the co-ordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a rights body known for documenting human rights abuses in the region. The 42-year-old activist is also the chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and has survived a bomb blast in 2004, losing one of his legs due to injuries sustained at the time.
Parveena is the founder and head of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a rights body fighting for families of victims of enforced disappearances in the region. Parveena, who is the recipient of the 2017 Rafto prize for human rights, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
The agency also raided the residence of Parvaiz Bukhari, a senior journalist who works for French news agency AFP and has reported on international conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The offices of Srinagar-based NGOs Athrout and GK trust, owned by leading regional newspaper Greater Kashmir, have also been raided.
News agency IANS reported that offices of the Charity Alliance in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar were also searched by NIA officials. The organisation is helmed by Zafarul Islam Khan, the Editor of The Milli Gazette, former president, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat and Managing Director, Pharos Media and Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the agency raid as “vicious crackdown on freedom of expression”. “NIA raids on human rights activist Khurram Parvez & Greater Kashmir office in Srinagar is yet another example of GOIs vicious crackdown on freedom of expression & dissent. Sadly, NIA has become BJPs pet agency to intimidate & browbeat those who refuse to fall in line (sic),” the former J&K CM tweeted.
NIA raids on human rights activist Khurram Parvez & Greater Kashmir office in Srinagar is yet another example of GOIs vicious crackdown on freedom of expression & dissent. Sadly, NIA has become BJPs pet agency to intimidate & browbeat those who refuse to fall in line
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 28, 2020
National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar called the raids, including the one on Greater Kashmir’s offices, as an attack on press freedom. “From NIA raids to lockdown offices, media in Kashmir was never under such duress as it is today. Muzzling of sane voices goes on at all fronts and this govt is shamelessly on that mission. In solidarity with @GreaterKashmir, J&K’s most trusted newspaper,” Dar wrote on Twitter.
The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), a body of owners and editors of regional newspapers, also expressed concern over the NIA raid on Greater Kashmir’s Press Enclave premises in Srinagar. It said that the Kashmiri media continues to be “targeted, demonised, vilified and raided by both the state and non-state actors for a long time now.”
“KEG expresses its concern over the mounting costs of being a journalist in Kashmir. It hopes that Kashmir media is permitted to function without hassles and hurdles. This is in the interest of everybody within and outside Jammu and Kashmir,” the body said.
(With inputs from PTI)