SrinagarIndias National Investigation Agency (NIA) Wednesday conducted fresh raids over a dozen locations in Central and North Kashmir.
The raids were conducted with regard to alleged funding case as separatists are being accused of getting funds from different quarters to fuel trouble in Valley, a charge vehemently refuted by Joint Resistance Leadership, comprising of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik.
Sources said that the raids were conducted at Srinagar, Baramulla and Handwara on Wednesday.
An NIA spokesperson said in New Delhi that officials searched the premises belonging to the family, relatives and aides of Zahoor Watali – an influential Kashmiri businessman known to be friends with Pakistani leaders and separatists as well as mainstream politicians in Kashmir.
Sources said Watali, who has been under the NIA scanner for nearly two months and was called for repeated questioning at the agency’s Delhi headquarters, was quizzed afresh while the raids went on for hours at his premises on Wednesday.
The Srinagar house of lawyer Mohammad Shafi Reshi, a close aide of Geelani, was also searched – sparking protests by the Kashmir High Court Bar Association in Srinagar.
Sources said that NIA team raided the house of Reshi at Barzulla, Srinagar. Reshi was not available for comments. A party activist confirmed the raid said it was launched at 7 AM and the operation culminated after 6 long hours.
“The house belonging to Shafi Reshi and premises related to Watali were searched and a lot of incriminating material, suspect financial records and property-related documents and electronic devices including mobile phones, pen drives and hard drives have been seized during the searches,” the NIA spokesman said in a statement.
“Some of the documents seized relate to receipt of money from suspect foreign sources and distribution of money so received to certain persons in (the) Kashmir Valley.”
The premises searched included that of Watali’s three close associates and his two brothers-in-law in Handwara town of north Kashmir Kupwara district.
Raids were carried out at the residence of Ghulam Ahmad Rather of Handwara, whose son Firdous Ahmad Rather is pursuing MBBS in Pakistan since 2014. Sources also said that raids were carried out at the residence of Abdul Aziz Mir of Handwara, who worked as a machine man on Wattali’s saw mill.
The NIA also searched Watali’s driver Mohammed Akbar’s house and the residence of Ghulam Mohammad Bhat in Tangmarg area of Baramulla district.
Bhat is an employee of a plywood factory run by Peerzada Ghulam Nabi – a trader.
The investigating agency first conducted raids in Kashmir, Delhi, and Haryana in June in its search for evidences of separatist leaders and businessmen receiving funds from Pakistan.
The NIA has also questioned hardline Geelani’s two sons-Nayeem and Naseem, who are expected to be called again to Delhi for further quizzing.
The agency also questioned Faheem Ali, a Deputy Superintendent of Police who was personal security officer of moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Devender Singh Behl, a lawyer associated with Geelani.
Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah is among those arrested. Other arrested are Nayeem Khan, Ayaz Akbar Khanday, Merajuddin Kalwal, Peer Saifullah (all from Geelani’s faction of Hurriyat), Shahid-ul-Islam (of the Hurriyat faction led by the Mirwaiz) and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karatay of a faction of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.
Prominent separatist leader Shabir Shah, already arrested by Enforcement Directorate in a separate but similar case, is also likely to be questioned by NIA, sources said.
The investigating agency has asked the functionaries of Jamia Masjid Srinagar to furnish details of its audited accounts as it is investigating if the “money raised through public donations” could have been used to fan the unrest in Kashmir.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.