NIA clamps down on cross-LoC trade; raids prominent doctors, businessmen for links with separatists

NIA sleuths carried out a raid at the residence of a homeopathic doctor in Srinagar's Nowgam area on Saturday. And though police records don't mention the doctor as being in close proximity with Kashmir's separatist leaders, he is now one of the key suspects and is being investigated for working as a conduit to provide money to Hurriyat leaders in the Valley.

The NIA, which carried out raids at 26 locations in Kashmir, is probing links between Hurriyat leaders and businessmen carrying out trade across the Line of Control (LoC) between two parts of Kashmir, some traders and even hoteliers.

NIA's investigations into the funding of the pro-freedom leaders in Kashmir started in December last year, after its teams seized records of those involved in cross-LoC trade, between areas administered by India and by Pakistan, through the Srinagar-Muzafabard and Poonch-Rawalkaote roads. The NIA seized records of the trade transactions which have been made since its beginning in 2008 and the investigations are currently ongoing.

The raids pertain to cross-LoC trade. Reuters representational image

The raids pertain to cross-LoC trade. Reuters representational image

NIA's investigation is focusing on transportation of goods of other countries — including the US — which are ferried unauthorised across the LoC, since only goods produced in India and Pakistan can be traded here. Alok Mittal, inspector general of NIA, said they have carried out raids at 26 locations in the Valley and investigation is on. "We have not disclosed names of the businessmen who are funding the separatists, but we are investigating these cases," he said.

The Hurriyat leaders on NIA's radar include Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, National Front chairman Naeem Khan, JKLF leader Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, Tehr-i-Ki Hurriyat leader Gazi Javed Baba, Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, and other Pakistan-based militant organisations that carry out subversive activities in Kashmir and damage public property, carry out stone pelting on security forces, burn schools and other government establishments.

The agency is also probing claims that large-scale transfer of funds from Pakistan to India has been taking place through the import of goods, including almonds from California, through the trade facilitation centres (TFC) located at Salamabad, Uri, and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch, which is in "gross violation" of State policy of prohibition on trade in third-party origin goods through LoC channels and is used to foment militancy and pro-freedom movement in Jammu and Kashmir.

An NIA report on cross-Loc trade noted, "The central government, with regards to the gravity of the offence as well as its bearing on national security, is of the opinion that the offence involved is of raising funds for militant acts, which is punishable under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, a scheduled offence under the NIA Act, 2008. In view of this, the NIA police station in New Delhi has registered a case vide no. RC-17/2016/NIA/DLI dated 16 December, 2016, against commission of offences under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. The investigation teams have conducted searches and seized several incriminating documents, at several places connected with the crime, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, since the registration of the case."

Custodian, LoC trade, Tanveer Ahmad, said that the NIA team has seized records of all traders who have taken part in trade here since the beginning. "However, it is difficult to ascertain whether some products are of a third country, like the almonds," he said.

NIA's investigations focus on transactions by businessmen as well as NGOs to find out "case of under and over invoicing" to fund pro-freedom leaders in Kashmir. According to official sources though, it's difficult to establish the hawala transactions, although any discrepancy in the official record of goods traded across the LoC as well outside India and to different parts of country are all being scrutinised as part of a wider probe by the investigating agencies.

"The NIA team would find the actual price of goods that are being traded as well as money that was received against the consignments as part of its overall investigation in the case," said an official.

Similarly, the role of some people including a doctor in being used as a conduit for providing funds to the Hurriyat leaders is being investigated, while some NGOs and their activities are also under the scanner. Houses of some lower rung Hurriyat leaders from both factions — headed by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani — have also been raided as part of the investigation.

However, the pro-freedom leadership has reacted sharply over the raids. JKLF chairman Yaseen Malik, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq issued a joint statement in which they said that the Indian government is "frustrated to the extent" that it is "framing and arresting pro-freedom leaders and activists to silence them, so that they stop voicing sentiments of their nation".

"By doing so, the government was shielding its atrocities and barbarism against the unarmed, common people. This State-sponsored tactics won't deter us from pursuing our mission, nor will these suppressive and aggressive measures make us surrender. Indian agencies under a well-thought out plan are desperate to malign and defame our sacred movement. We warn India that these inhuman, immoral and undemocratic tactics will not deter the pro-freedom people from advocating their just cause," the statement said.

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2017 17:04 PM

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