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J&K Police raid 12 locations including residences of 6 journalists in Kashmir

J&K police launch serial raids after a terror group threatened 76 journalists (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@Chinarm10382051)

For the first time since the outbreak of militancy in 1989, the Jammu and Kashmir police on Saturday conducted a series of raids on the residences of at least six media persons, who are suspected of being  instrumental in orchestrating recent threats to 22 journalists in the Kashmir valley.

The raids and searches, apparently cleared at the highest level of the government, came close on the heels of the death threats purportedly issued by The Resistance Front (TRF) which, according to the Police, is a front for the designated global terror organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).

While the searches were still underway, the Jammu and Kashmir Police said in a statement that today’s crackdown was “in the wake of recent threat issued to journalists by a proscribed terror outfit”. It said that 12 locations were searched simultaneously at various locations in Srinagar, Anantnag and Kulgam districts.

“A case vide FIR No. 82/2022 under relevant sections of law was registered in PS Sherghari against terror handlers, active terrorists & terrorist associates of proscribed terror outfit LeT & its offshoot TRF for online publication & dissemination of direct threat letters to journalists & reporters based in Kashmir”, said the Police statement.

It said that each team comprising 4-5 members was led by an Inspector or Sub Inspector and monitored by the concerned Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO). The raids were supervised by SP South (City) Srinagar and launched simultaneously at 12 locations across the valley including the houses of fugitives like Sajjad Gul, Mukhtar Baba, active terrorists of proscribed terror outfit LeT (TRF) and other suspects in Srinagar, Anantnag and Kulgam Districts.

The premises raided and searched on Saturday included the residences of journalists Gowhar Geelani, Sajad Kralyari, Khalid Gul, Waseem Khalid, Qazi Shibli and Rashid Maqbool. According to the Police statement, the residences of active militants, Momin Gulzar, Sajad Gul (currently in Pakistan) and Mukhtar Baba (currently in Turkey) besides those of Mohammad Rafi of Nigeen, Basit Dar of Kulgam and advocate Abu Adil Pandit were searched in the three districts.

Advocate Adil Pandit is the son of the former vice president of Kashmir Bar Association, advocate Mohammad Abdullah Pandit, whose close relative, deputy SP Mohammad Ayub Pandit, was lynched to death by an unruly mob at the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar in June, 2017.

“During search, all the legal formalities were followed professionally and consequent to the searches some suspects have been brought for examination and questioning. The seized materials by the respective search teams include mobiles, laptops, memory cards, pen-drives & other digital devices, documents, bank papers, rubber stamps, passports, other suspect papers, cash, Saudi currency etc”, said the Police statement.

“The investigation in the instant case is in full swing and the general public is requested to bring any information that is relevant to this case in the notice of Srinagar Police”, the Police statement added.

Sources associated with the search operation said that a preliminary questioning of some suspects was conducted on the spot. However, none of them was detained for custodial interrogation. Sources said that the government had been lenient towards some journalists, who had been booked under UAPA but not arrested. However, the decision of leniency has been withdrawn as the same lot of journalists were suspected to be behind the recent threats and hit lists.

Those booked under provisions of UAPA in 2020 but not arrested by the Police include photojournalist Masrat Zehra who was allowed to proceed to Germany and the USA to pursue her fellowships and author-journalist Gowhar Geelani, who was summoned in a different case early this year but not arrested despite a lookout notice.

There was immediately no reaction to the crackdown on media from any press association in Jammu and Kashmir or outside.

Officials are maintaining that some Kashmir-based media persons, known for assiduously promoting the Pakistani narrative and endangering the life of independent journalists “by labelling them as stenographers, paid agents and collaborators of the Indian agencies”, have exchanged communications with Turkey-based militant and ex-journalist Mukhtar Baba.

According to the Police, Baba has framed the hit lists which have been released by TRF through the blog KashmirFight, allegedly operated by Pakistan-based Kashmiri Sajjad Gul. The agency dossier also claims that before acting as a journalist in 1991, Baba had worked in terror outfit Hizbullah which threw him out as he sold off 40 AK rifles to a different organisation.

However, Police have not given a concrete proof of the involvement of Baba and other suspects in issuing threats to the independent and pro-India mediapersons. Police have not also explained how a non-involvement certificate and an Indian Passport were issued to Baba if he had acted as a terrorist in Hizbullah and sold off 40 AK rifles.

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