The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday, 29 October, conducted raids on six NGOs and trusts across nine locations in Delhi and Srinagar, in connection with a terror funding case, a day after raids on the premises of the Greater Kashmir newspaper, and other entities and individuals.
Jammu & Kashmir political parties and Kashmir journalists have condemned the move.
J&K former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti called the action a “vicious crackdown on freedom of expression and dissent,” in her tweet.
NIA raids on human rights activist Khurram Parvez & Greater Kashmir office in Srinagar is yet another example of GOIs vicious crackdown on freedom of expression & dissent. Sadly, NIA has become BJPs pet agency to intimidate & browbeat those who refuse to fall in line
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 28, 2020
National Conference (NC) Spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said that the move was “muzzling of sane voices on all fronts”.
From NIA raids to lockdown offices, media in Kashmir was never under such duress as it is today. Muzzling of sane voices goes on at all fronts and this govt is shamelessly on that mission.
In solidarity with @GreaterKashmir, J&Ks most trusted newspaper.
— Imran Nabi Dar (@ImranNDar) October 28, 2020
Journalists Slam NIA Move
Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin said that the raids conducted by the NIA were an attempt to impose silence even a whisper in the union territory.
“The crackdown is indeed worrying,” Bhasin tweeted.
I doubt it is an eyewash. It is to ensure that they remain even more silent. Athrout is feeding poor families and JKCCS is taking up the cause of human rights and justice. The crackdown indeed is worrying.
— Anuradha Bhasin (@AnuradhaBhasin_) October 28, 2020
Bhasin told The Print that the NIA action is a clampdown on Kashmir media.
“They picked up the editor (Fayaz Kaloo) of largest daily of J&K couple of years ago. Now they are going after other journalists too. Then they are also raiding human rights organisations which comprise law-abiding citizens. There is an organisation which is searching for its disappeared family members and all they have demanded is justice and peace. To accuse them of terror funding is shocking,” said Bhasin.
Bhasin’s Srinagar office was evicted earlier this month.
Kashmir journalist Syed Zafar Mehdi said: “This is designed to silence voices that are critical of New Delhi's settler colonialism project in Kashmir,” Mehdi tweeted.
Reports of NIA raid (witchhunt) on senior journalist @parvaizbukhari also coming in. This is designed to silence voices that are critical of New Delhi's settler colonialism project in #Kashmir https://t.co/ReF1hW9BEo
— Syed Zafar Mehdi (@mehdizafar) October 28, 2020
Athrout Kashmir, one of the NGOs raided by NIA, in a statement said that they have provided the required details to the agency and are co-operating accordingly.
We would like to Inform all our well wishers that NIA visited our Head office today.They had a few queries, which were asked in a very friendly & professional manner & all the required details were provided accordingly & transparently
Athrout operations will continue as normal pic.twitter.com/7CJhq49NVo
— Athrout Kashmir (@Athrout_Kashmir) October 28, 2020
The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in a statement said that it does not receive any foreign funds.
"“A team of officers from the NIA, CID and JK Police, accompanied by CRPF officers conducted a raid in the office of APDP in Hyderpora, Srinagar. Parveena Ahangar and Saima were taken from home to the APDP office by the team and security personnel. Parveena Ahangar, Sabia and Saima were present in the office during the raid. All information and material sought by the raiding team were provided to them. The team examined all documents relating to APDP’s work. They subsequently seized several documents and some electronic devices. Praveena Ahanagar’s mobile phones were also seized,” APDP said in the statement."
The organisation also stated that there was a “grave apprehension” over misuse of sensitive information, including names and addresses of victims present in documents seized from APDP and apprehension of reprisal against victims of human rights violation, Wire reported.
Kashmir Editors’ Guild Condemns Move
Kashmir Editors’ Guild (KEG) on Wednesday condemned the raids conducted by the NIA in multiple locations in Srinagar.
A statement issued by KEG said: “Kashmir media continues to get targeted, demonised, vilified and raided by both the state and non-state actors for a long time now.”
"“Kashmir media has proven record of being a professional institution that maintained textbook objectivity while maintaining its core journalistic values. This is despite the adversity of an extraordinary situation and the mounting challenges day in and day out.”" - The statement by the Kashmir Editors’ Guild
The guild also expressed concern over the “mounting cost” of being a journalist in Kashmir. The Guild stated that it hopes that Kashmir media is permitted to function without “hassles and hurdles”.
What Had Happened?
On Wednesday, the NIA had raided multiple locations, including the premises of Greater Kashmir .
According to an Indian Express report, these raids were based on “credible information that certain NGOs and Trusts are collecting funds domestically and abroad through so-called donation and business contributions, etc, and are then utilising these funds for secessionist and terrorist activities in J&K”.
The searches also included the residence and office of Khurram Parvez (co-ordinator of J&K Coalition of Civil Society), his associates Parvez Ahmad Bukhari, Parvez Ahmad Matta and Bengaluru-based associate Swati Sheshadri. Parveena Ahanger, Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDPK), and offices of NGO Athrout and GK Trust were also raided.
The agency had claimed that “several incriminating documents and electronic devices have been seized,” reported The Indian Express.
(With inputs from Print, Wire)
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