NIA summons to Mian Qayoom: Kashmir HC Bar, Hurriyat condemn; but people don't care
A very few people in the Valley were surprised when National Investigation Agency (NIA) issued summons to prominent lawyer Mian Abdul Qayoom. And this was not because people suspect his involvement in money laundering or for that matter cared about the allegation. It was because of his standing as a prominent separatist voice.
Qayoom, the president of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association, is very close to the Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Geelani and regularly attends the separatist meetings and conferences. In fact, Qayoom has been a vocal separatist leader in his own right and has aggressively championed for the resolution of Kashmir in accordance with the United Nations Resolutions.
And for his views, he has also been jailed. In July 2010, the state government slapped him with a Public Safety Act (PSA) following the outbreak of the unrest in the state. Being ideologically allied to Geelani, Qayoom was accused of instigating the protests in Valley.
Among the charges brought against him at the time were his role in launching parallel investigations into human rights violations besides supporting government employees in their stir, holding a seminar on census and endorsing the stone-pelting. However, later, the state government withdrew the PSA against him, paving the way for his release.
Similarly, in 1995, Qayoom was also shot at and injured by the gunmen belonging to the pro-government insurgent group Ikhwanul Muslimoon.
Last year, Qayoom was among the speakers at the Hurriyat seminar at Geelani’s house. He had defended the protest calendars issued by the Hurriyat and had advocated its continuation.
The bigger picture
Summons to him sent by the NIA is being seen as part of the wider crackdown on the separatist leaders in the Valley in a bid to choke the sources of funding into the separatist activities.
So far, close to a dozen leaders and the activists have been booked by the NIA for being the alleged recipients of the money from Pakistan meant for militants and protesters in the Valley. They include the prominent businessman Zahoor Ahmad Watali, who during his questioning by the NIA, talked of his instrumental role in bringing the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014.
However, unlike the arrest of the other leaders, Qayoom's questioning has generated some angry reaction in the Valley. The lawyers have boycotted the courts. On Tuesday, the lawyers at the high court organised a protest following general body meeting.
“We condemn summons to Mian Qayoom Sahab,” the lawyer Bashir Siddiquee told Catch adding – “It is nothing but a political witch hunt.”
Similarly, the protests were also held at the district courts of the Valley.
Siddiquee said that the NIA notice to Qayoom was the result of the Bar’s opposition to the apprehended repeal of the Article 35A which forbids settling of non-state subjects in Kashmir.
The Hurriyat too has issued a strong condemnation of the NIA summons to Qayoom.
“Such acts will serve nothing and will further lead to a deterioration in the situation. Harassing the Bar leader is aimed to silence him because he is supporting the cause of people of Jammu and Kashmir and defending the detainees and under-trial prisoners who have been kept behind the bars without any trial,” the statement read.
No state agency?
However, in this unfolding state of affairs, the state government has been reduced to a spectator, so has been the J&K Police.
According to a J&K Police official, they had “no prior knowledge” of the NIA visits to the state. It is only when the agency arrests a leader or an activist, that they inform the nearest police station.
For people in the Valley, it is a complete reversal of the BJP’s commitment to the PDP in the Agenda of Alliance that it will hold dialogue with the separatists. But far from taking steps in this direction, the BJP has chosen to crack down on the Hurriyat in a bid to reign them in and hopefully delegitimise them.
So far, the NIA has made no differentiation in its action between hardliners and moderates. Both have been targeted. Shabir Shah, who has a moderate reputation, has also been booked.
Though privately resented by PDP leaders, none of them is willing to publicly speak against the action. The leaders apprehend that the action against Hurriyat leaders and the attempt to delegitimise them will create an unhelpful vacuum in separatist politics which will be filled in by the hardliners in militant ranks and the protesters on the streets.
“We don’t think the arrests will make a material difference to the situation even though we hope it does,” said a PDP leader on the condition of anonymity.
“The situation in the Valley is now largely driven by the actors who are not necessarily connected to the known separatists,” he added.
No public support
On the other hand, people in the state couldn’t care less about the separatist arrests by the central agency. Hurriyat efforts to drum up public support, including a call for hartal, has come to nought. On the other hand, any little concern about NIA's role has been taken over by a deep anxiety about the judicial challenge to Article 35A.
But it also doesn’t mean that the people trust NIA's allegations against Hurriyat leaders. Nor do they rule them out. But it just doesn’t matter. A recent editorial in a local newspaper describes this situation aptly.
“In a political climate, where the large sections of the media in the country are given to jingoism in its reportage of Kashmir and the central government has rationalised security excesses in the state, the allegations of the corruption against the Kashmiri separatists from the same quarters will hardly stick,” an editorial in Kashmir Observer states.
“The moral high ground that is needed for such allegations to have some resonance is absent.”
Edited by Jhinuk Sen