Why NIA raids won't dent Hurriyat's following in Kashmir
After returning to Kashmir following a three-day interrogation by the National Investigation Agency in Delhi, suspended Hurriyat leader Naeem Khan told the media, “I went with a clean slate and I returned with a clean slate”.
Khan along with Farooq Ahmad Dar, alias Bitta Karate and Gazi Javed Baba were at the centre of a sting operation carried out by a news channel about the alleged hawala funding of Kashmiri separatists.
NIA conducted raids at 14 places in the Valley and eight in Delhi, including the residences of Khan, Dar and Baba. Others raided included Altaf Fantoosh, the son-in-law of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Shahid-ul-Islam, leader of Awami Action Committee led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, businessman Zahoor Watali and some second rung separatist leaders belonging to major secessionist formations.
In a statement, the agency said it seized nearly Rs 1.5 crore from various locations in Kashmir, besides documents which were being scrutinised.
This is not the first time that such raids have been carried out in the Valley. In December 2002, Jammu and Kashmir police had arrested 16 persons on charges of channelling hawala funds to militant organisations through the cover of their legitimate businesses.
Among those raided were prominent businessman Iqbal Bukhari, father of current J&K education minister Altaf Bukhari and Baramulla businessmen Samir Ahmad Lone. But subsequently the case was closed for lack of evidence.
Also in 2002, the police arrested JKLF supremo Yasin Malik for being the alleged beneficiary of one lakh dollars recovered from a woman on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.
In 2006, Delhi police slapped charges of funding and supplying weapons to militants on Nasir Shafi Mir, a Dubai-based Kashmiri businessman close to Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Similarly, in 2011, J&K police arrested Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, a close associate of Geelani and claimed that it had seized Rs 21 lakh from him.
All these cases have dragged on endlessly. This is why the current raids on the residences of the separatists and some prominent businessmen have come as no surprise. They have only been noticed for being far bigger in scale than in the past.
“The raids are being conducted so that we surrender and stop voicing the sentiments of our nation, thereby covering and shielding India’s atrocities and barbarism against common and unarmed people,” Hurriyat said in a statement issued to the pres. “All these state-sponsored tactics won’t deter us from pursuing our mission, These oppressive measures will never make us surrender”.
The Hurriyat has called the raids a “well-thought plan to malign and defame our sacred movement”.
“The current raids being conducted by NIA and the hype and sensationalism around them just goes on to show the desperate attempt by government of India to vilify and discredit the resistance leadership and in turn discredit the people's freedom movement”.
However, to Hurriyat’s advantage, this is an opinion that is widely shared in the Valley,that the raids are more political than investigative in nature. More so, after the raids followed a sting operation carried out by a New Delhi based television channel. Few channels enjoy any credibility in Valley, mainly because of their largely one-sided, jingoistic coverage of the situation in the state.
“Even if Geelani would have been actually shown to be receiving money by some of these channels, few Kashmiris would take it seriously. Such is the loss of faith in the coverage of Kashmir by large sections of the national media,” says the commentator Gowhar Geelani.
“So, far from discrediting Hurriyat, such raids will even clear some residual suspicions against the conglomerate generated by the sting”.
Besides, says Gowhar Geelani, the people see through the design of the NIA investigation, followed as it has in the immediate wake of the fresh unrest in Valley with the college students including girls time joining the protests.
“At the same time, it is taken for granted that money is coming to the Valley through hawala channels to sustain the Azadi movement which enjoys overwhelming public support,” says Gowhar Geelani.
“It is also rationalised as something essential to keep the struggle going. So, no question of hitting the reputation of Hurriyat,”.he added.
However, while the sting and the raids may not have affected the political standing of the Hurriyat, it certainly has helped sow some differences in Hurriyat ranks. Two days after Khan was shown accepting on camera that Hurriyat received money from Pakistan and Hafiz Saeed, Hurriyat G, of which he was a senior member, suspended him.
Later in an interview to Kashmir Ink, Khan slammed senior separatists for selectively targeting him.
“I am a victim of concocted Indian media trial. I am also the victim of a selective, biased, authoritarian approach at home,” Khan said. “My simple question to my people is this: Should we let biased Indian media decide the fate of a leader here?”