The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Sunday raided a Jammu-based advocate’s residence and questioned him as part of the agency’s crackdown on separatists on the basis of an FIR accusing them of fomenting unrest in Kashmir with funds received from Pakistan-based terror outfits. Devinder Singh Behl is learnt to be close aide of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
According to NIA, four mobile phones, one tablet, other electronic devices, “incriminating documents” and financial papers were seized during the nearly five-hour search at Behl’s residence at Bakshi Nagar. In his mid 40s, the advocate is the chairman of an outfit named Jammu Kashmir Social Peace Forum, sources said, adding that the outfit has links with All Party Hurriyat Conference (G). The sources added that Behl also deals in electric goods.
NIA has accused Behl of being a courier for money sent from Pakistan to the Geelani-led faction of Hurriyat to organise stone-pelting in Kashmir. “Devinder Singh Behl is a member of the legal cell of the Hurriyat. He is a close associate of a top Hurriyat leader and regularly attends funerals of militants. The NIA is investigating into his role as courier as he is suspected to be involved in routing funds to the separatist leaders from Pakistan-based handlers,” an NIA statement said Sunday. Learnt to be close to Geelani, Behl has reportedly also hosted separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah at his Jammu residence in the past.
While being whisked away by NIA officials from his residence, Behl told mediapersons, “We do not want violence, but peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue’’.
Originally hailing from Nowshera in the Rajouri district, Behl settled in Jammu some two decades ago. He is married and is father to two daughters. In 2013, he visited Pakistan, where he was arrested for trying to go to Mirpur without permission.
Besides sharing dais with separatist leaders on several occasions, he often makes posts on the social media, accusing security forces of committing human rights violation in the Valley. After the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter, Behl had put up posts supporting the separatists’ demand for “Azadi’’.
The NIA has, meanwhile, issued summons to Geelani’s son Naseem for appearance on Wednesday in connection with its case of terror funding against Hurriyat leaders.
NIA is questioning seven separatists arrested on July 23 in connection with the terror funding case. Those arrested include Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Funtoosh, Ayaz Akbar Khandey, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Peer Saifullah, Aftab Hilali Shah alias Shahid-ul-Islam, Nayeem Khan and Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate. Shahid-ul-Islam is a close aide and press secretary of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.
All of them have been charged under stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The agency’s FIR has alleged that money received from Pakistan was being used to fund violence in Kashmir, including an operation to increase stone pelting on security forces and arson targeting schools and government buildings. It has named Hurriyat, LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Millat among accused in the FIR.