J&K SIA Raids 8 Locations Across Kashmir, Including Popular Cleric Sarjan Barkati
Sarjan Barkati. Image Courtesy: Facebook
Srinagar: The Special Investigation Agency (SIA) on Saturday carried out raids in as many as eight locations in Jammu and Kashmir, including in a case related to crowd funding of a Muslim cleric Sarjan Barkati, whose political and religious sermons have been popular in the region.
Barkati, called a 'Pied Piper', has been accused of mobilising thousands onto streets during the 2016 mass agitation in South Kashmir against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The SIA of Jammu and Kashmir police, according to a statement, launched early morning searches to investigate the tributaries and distributaries of slush funds flowing through the "known secessionist" Maulavi Sarjan Barkati.
"Sarjan Barkati used to openly invite and incite youth to take to violence and pull down the Indian state in J&K," the SIA said in the statement.
The law enforcement agency, which is currently investigating multiple cases related to militancy and its funding, including against the now-banned Jamaat-e -Islami, said that funds worth Rs 1.5 Crore were allegedly generated through crowd funding and from suspected sources related to militancy and were "utilised for personal benefits, profiteering and furtherance of secessionist-terrorist campaign"
The SIA has registered a case FIR No 02/23 related to crowdfunding against Barkati and others after his family made emotional appeals to the general public to support them for day to day needs. The appeals were made at a time when Barkati was in prison under the Public Safety Act (PSA) that many claimed left his young children and wife without financial support.
The SIA, however, said that it was under this "garb" that he generated huge funds and allegedly laundered money coming from unknown sources suspected to have originated from suspected "terror outfits" for further use in sustaining the secessionist activities.
In the initial investigation, the agency said, it has identified as many as 10 suspects.
"Each search is backed by search warrants issued by competent courts, Magistrates, local police assistance, lady police team, spotters, and transport support by the Security wing of J&K police," the SIA said.
During the morning raids, the agency also seized electronic gadgets that they believe would aid in gathering vital evidence as to who all have contributed to Barkati's funding. The SIA said it will be investigating the source of funding and how much of it was from legitimate income and how much from unaccountable sources and whether such sources had anything to do with militancy and finances related to separatist group Hurriyat Conference.
"The preliminary investigations have shown Barkati has diverted a substantial part of the funds for his personal benefit and purchased a piece of land worth Rs 45 Lakhs in Anantnag town in the name of his wife which he sold for Rs 72 Lakhs, making a profit of Rs 27 Lakhs and has also built a palatial house using public money," the statement added.
Barkati is also accused of purchasing 5 Kanals of land to establish a madrassa which, the SIA said, is meant for "making money" and to provide a platform to "anti-national elements".
Barkati is affiliated with Ummat e Islami Jammu and Kashmir, which is led by Mirwaiz South Kashmir Qazi Yasir. The authorities had earlier arrested the preacher in September 2022 along with other religious clerics but was reportedly released after two months. The arrest came after he had served a four-year term in the aftermath of his alleged involvement in 2016 protests. In 2021, he was arrested after he expressed his support for the people of Palestine for their cause against Israel.
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