Hours after J&K Police announced the arrest of a girl from Pune based on an alert from an investigative agency, a senior officer told The Indian Express that the input on the 18-year-old being a “suicide bomber” on a mission to target a Republic Day parade in the state was “wrong”.
There was nothing to link the girl, who had undergone counselling against radicalisation, with militancy in J&K, said IG (Kashmir Range) Muneer Ahmad Khan.
On Friday morning, J&K Police said the girl and an alleged accomplice were arrested from Bijbhera town in south Kashmir. But later, speaking to The Indian Express, IG Khan said: “We are questioning her. I can’t say with authenticity that she is in any way involved with militancy. We had received an input from a sister agency and acted on that. We couldn’t take chances with such inputs. She was picked up from south Kashmir last night… I think she is not mentally stable.”
Khan said the girl had come to Kashmir “10 to 12 days ago accompanied by her mother”.
“The mother returned home. We are trying to confirm information that she had got admission in a college in Kashmir. She had made several friends in Kashmir through social media and that’s how she came here. She has friends in Pattan, Sopore, Baramulla, Srinagar and south Kashmir. She had been travelling, and had gone to Baramulla in an autorickshaw. She was staying with a family in south Kashmir when she was picked up,” said Khan.
A senior police officer in south Kashmir told The Indian Express that they detained the girl on “suspicion” and that “no incriminating material was recovered from her”. “I think we (J&K Police) will hand her over to her family. There is no case against her,’’ the officer said.
Sources from investigative agencies said that following the police action in J&K, sleuths from the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) and police contacted the girl’s family in Pune and employees at the call centre where she works. Sources said the girl did not tell executives at her work place where she was going or when she would return.
Sleuths probing terror cases have been keeping a watch on the girl since 2015 and believe that she has been “radicalised” by online propaganda operatives through email and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram.
At the time, the Pune unit of the Maharashtra ATS had provided counselling to the girl who was prepared to go to Syria and join the Islamic State.
In July 2017, investigators detained her in Delhi while she was on her way to J&K. After questioning, investigators handed the girl back to her family, with advice that she needed “strong counselling” by Islamic scholars.
Known to be a “bright student”, the girl has been staying with her mother and other family members in Pune, said sources.
(With Mir Ehsan in Srinagar & Chandan Haygunde in Pune)