Neither their families nor the police in South Kashmir on Friday, 22 February, confirmed the Uttar Pradesh Police’s claim that two youths – Shahnawaz Ahmad Teli of Nunmai (Kulgam) and Aaquib Ahmad Malik of Babgam (Pulwama) – were members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror module operating in Deoband area of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh.
Early on Friday, Director General of the UP Police, OP Singh, disclosed at a news conference that the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had arrested Teli and Malik over specific information regarding their association with Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Pakistan-based jihadist group which claimed to have killed 40 CRPF personnel in a suicide
strike near Awantipora in Pulwama on 14 February. He said the ATS conducted a midnight raid in Deoband and arrested the two “suspected terrorists.”
DGP Singh claimed that two weapons, including a .32-bore pistol, besides 30 live cartridges, jihadist chats, literature, video films and mobile phones had been seized from the spot where the duo had been staying.
Who Are These Terror Suspects?
According to the DGP, Teli and Malik had been living as students in Deoband, but had not taken admission in any institution of the famous historic seminary there. He described Teli as an expert in fabricating and detonating hand grenades, and claimed that he had been entrusted with the responsibility of recruiting youths to carry out terror attacks in UP and other parts of the country.
“We will grill the two terror suspects to extract information about their roots in Kashmir, their dates of arrival in Deoband, sources of funding and their targets. We are constantly in touch with the Jammu and Kashmir Police,” DGP Singh asserted.
Police and CID officers in both Kulgam and Pulwama, maintained that they had begun profiling of the two youths but had not immediately found anything adverse against them. “There’s no FIR or daily diary report against them with CID or concerned police stations in the two South Kashmir districts. We are still collecting and verifying their antecedents,” said a police officer not authorised to speak to the media.
Families and neighbours of both the youths insisted that they had been studying the Maulvi course in Arabic in Deoband since 2016-17. They claimed that neither of them had any links to Jaish or any other militant organisation.
“My son completed graduation in 2010 and thereafter he took admission at a Darul Uloom in Sopore. He is very religious and keen to complete a Maulvi and Mufti course at Deoband,” Shahnawaz Teli’s mother, Mubeena, told a local news agency.
“You can visit every police station in Kashmir. You will find that my son’s name doesn’t figure anywhere. He is religious and that is his crime,” Teli’s father Ghulam Hassan, a carpenter, said. He added that his son was with the family for some time in December and went back later to continue his studies.
Both of Teli’s brothers are graduates and his two sisters are also pursuing higher education. They claimed that their brother was innocent and demanded his immediate release.
Malik’s family, too, maintained that he was innocent with no adverse background or links to militancy. “We were shocked when we saw the DGP of UP labelling our son a terrorist affiliated with Jaish-e-Mohammad. We request UP police to investigate the matter before giving the terrorist tag to an innocent youth,” one of the family members said.
Even Malik’s neighbours said neither he “nor any other youth in this village” had ever maintained links to militants or stone pelters. “This village has not created any militant or stone pelter till date,” said Nazir Ahmad Malik.
While DG J&K Police Dilbag Singh did not respond to phone calls, Additional DG Security and Law and Order Munir Khan told The Quint that he was still collecting information about both the youths and their families.
(Ahmed Ali Fayyaz is a journalist in Srinagar, Kashmir.)
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