The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is likely to summon top Kashmiri separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik for questioning in connection with alleged terror funding.
“The stone-pelting business in Kashmir is multi-layered. Those arrested are the penultimate layer with leaders such as Geelani, Farooq and Malik being at the top. However, there are multiple layers of couriers and stone pelters below those arrested,’’ an NIA officer told The Indian Express. “All of these people have to be identified and questioned. If need be, some of them will also be arrested.’’
The officer said that the NIA’s primary job now is to utilise the 10-day custody of the seven accused, who were arrested on Monday, to corroborate evidence against them. A special NIA court in Delhi on Tuesday granted the custody of second-rung separatists: Altaf Ahmad Shah, Ayaz Akbar Khandey, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Peer Saifullah, Aftab Hilali Shah, Nayeem Khan and Farooq Ahmad Dar. They are accused of fomenting trouble using funds allegedly received from Pakistan-based terror groups.
“We have evidence against each one of them. But the financial chain has to be completed and ultimate beneficiary and foot soldiers have to be identified and nailed,’’ the officer said, adding that they will question them regarding documents recovered from premises connected to them and of associated hawala operators. “Their financial transactions will be cross-verified and they would be confronted with evidence of WhatsApp groups that they maintained to organise stone pelting.’’ The Indian Express had reported on July 3 that the NIA had identified 28 WhatsApp groups allegedly used to mobilise about 6,000-7,000 youths for stone pelting.
The security establishment hopes that the arrests will deal a major blow to networks organising stone-pelting. “The arrested accused are the people who play the main role in organising stone-pelting during protests or during security operations,’’ a home ministry official said.
Meanwhile, the Valley observed a shutdown in response to a call by separatists to protest the arrest of seven separatist leaders by NIA.