Kashmir unrest: Former Hizbul Mujahideen militants, key separatist leaders face NIA probe

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing the role of some top separatist leaders in fuelling the unrest in Kashmir, including those who had given up arms and even started a dialogue with the Central government, led by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Others under the scanner comprise former militant commanders and even those who have been provided security by the state government.

So far, names of at least 10 top pro-freedom leaders, including close associates of Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, have surfaced in the probe initiated by NIA, to investigate their role in getting money from Pakistan to fuel the unrest in Kashmir. Here are the key separatist leaders facing a probe:

File image of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. AFP

File image of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. AFP

Zafar Akbar Bhat: Chairman of the Salvation Movement, Bhat’s Bag-i-Mehtab residence was raided by the NIA on Saturday. Bhat is a former divisional commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit and along with slain chief commander, Abdul Majeed Dar, had given the call for a unilateral ceasefire in 2000.

New Delhi had responded to the ceasefire by initiating a dialogue with the Hizbul commanders, with the then home secretary Kamal Pande starting the first-ever direct talks with the militants. The ceasefire was also reciprocated by Hizbul's  top leadership but was withdrawn later. Bhat remained under security cover till 2010, but his security was withdrawn by the government subsequently as he became part of anti-government protests.

Nearly two years after unidentified gunmen killed Abdul Majeed Dar at his residence in Sopore, Bhat’s brother Haji Abdul Gani Bhat was killed by gunmen at his residence. Some 15 associates of Bhat were also killed by gunmen. Bhat described the raids as unfortunate. "These raids are only meant to harass us... we were the first to start the dialogue with New Delhi and have never shied away from talks," he said.

Shahid-ul-Islam: A former militant commander, Shahid had renounced the armed struggle earlier and joined the Awami Action Committee (AAC) party led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. NIA sleuths raided the Sanat Nagar residence of the Hurriyat leader in the wee hours on 3 June and recovered many documents, including his housing loan papers, insurance papers, and cell-phones as well as the photographs of his visit to Pakistan.

Sources in Hurriyat said that Shahid has been maintaining the security cover provided by the state government and the raids left his entire family surprised. Hurriyat said in a statement earlier that the raids were carried out to create a fear psychosis among his family members. Shahid is also the media advisor of Hurriyat. AAC secretary, Syed Rehman Shams, said that the raids were carried out at the house of Shahid, who has been associated with both Hurriyat as well as AAC for a long time.

Mehraj Kalwal: A former militant commander of the Hizbul outfit, Kalwal’s Budgam residence was also raided by the NIA. Kalwal is associated with Geelani and had earlier been a close aide of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) chairman and Hurriyat, Shabir Ahmad Shah.

Kalwal heads Hurriyat (G) in Srinagar and remained associated with Shabir Shah’s People’s League. He was earlier also associated with a separatist outfit of a former militant commander, Tehri Ke Kashmir. Kalwal is considered to be very close to Geelani and has been a vocal supporter of Kashmir’s secession from India.

Nayeem Khan: A former militant commander, Khan was recently suspended by Geelani from Hurriyat after he was caught on camera admitting to having received funds from Pakistan. Khan’s Parray Pora residence was raided by NIA officials and he was also questioned by the investigating agency in Delhi.

He was also a close associate of Shabir Shah and after he developed differences with him, he floated his own separatist outfit, National Front. Khan was a commander of Muslim Janbaz Force and had joined militancy after giving up his engineering job. His wife teaches at Kashmir University and runs a civil society group, which has been advocating the upholding of "human rights of people of Kashmir."

Peer Saifullah: One of the most trusted associates of Geelani, Saifuallah was a militant of the Hizbul outfit before he joined Tehri Ki Hurriyat. He is Geelani's personal assistant and is believed to be advising him on many issues.

His Rawalpora residence was raided and though not much cash was recovered from his residence, he remains under NIA watch because of his close links with Geelani. Saifuallah was the battalion commander of Hizbul and was widely influenced by the pro-Muslim ideology of Jamat to take a plunge into militancy.

Ayaz Akbar: Akbar was associated with Jamat-i-Islami, but after differences developed between Jamat and Geelani over the mode of running the Kashmir’s resistance movement, he joined Geelani. He is the spokesman of Hurriyat (G) and has been often seen with Geelani in public protests and press conferences. All the statements which are issued to the media are cleared by him. His residence near Batmaloo, Maloora was also raided. According to his associates, the NIA sleuths seized a laptop from him.

Others who are under the NIA scanner include Geelani’s son-in-law, Altaf Fantoosh, who is secretary public relations of Hurriyat (G). He was associated with the student wing of the Jamat. NIA has also questioned Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, who is heading one of the factions of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and has earlier served many years in prison for his anti-India activities.

Updated Date: Jun 06, 2017 17:13 PM

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