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NIA court begins trial in sedition case against Kashmiri editor with Pakistan terror link

NIA raids are part of an ongoing investigation into the raising of funds for sponsoring terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar: A designated court for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) cases in Jammu has started the trial in the case of sedition and other offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws against the editor of an online news portal and a contributor to his magazine.

The charge-sheet in the case was filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Government’s State Investigation Agency (SIA)

Calling them “contaminated and compromised media persons”, the SIA has claimed that the end objective of the ‘Kashmir Walla’ editor Peerzada Fahad Shah and his opinion contributor Abdul Aala Fazili, a PhD scholar with the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Kashmir, was to “create, sustain, and spread disaffection, hatred and enmity against the Indian State”.

This is for the first time that the serious charges of sedition and working on behalf of an enemy country’s propaganda campaign have been accepted for trial against a journalist and a research scholar in a court of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Booked for an article titled ‘The shackles of slavery will break’, published in ‘Kashmir Wallah’ on 6 November 2011, Shah and Fazili were charged with “glorifying terrorism and secessionism and selectively promoting Pakistan’s and the separatists’ agenda and narrative through the media”. They were arrested in February-April 2022 and booked under different provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code.

While Shah was arrested on 5 February, 2022, for “glorifying militancy, spreading fake news, and inciting the public against law and order”, Fazili was arrested on 17 April, 2022, for his “highly provocative and seditious” article in the online magazine. They have been lodged in a jail in Jammu.

The charges filed against the accused by the SIA on 13 October, 2022, have been framed by the Presiding Officer of the NIA/SIA designated court in Jammu, Ashwani Kuma, on 16 March, 2023, in connection with FIR No. 01/2022 Dated 4 April, 2022, of the SIA’s Police Station in Jammu. Shah and Fazili, according to the SIA charge-sheet had “resurrected a platform reviving the narrative in support of terrorist and separatist eco-system” under a conspiracy and support from Pakistan.

A statement from SIA said that Shah and Fazili had been “spreading an anti-India narrative by exploiting the digital platforms under a concealed and camouflaged set-up, with the help of illicit funding received from hostile foreign agencies and proscribed terrorist organisations”.

“The investigation has established that the duo accused was in touch with secessionists across the border and also with some identified terrorists locally.

Through their publications the duo have brazenly advocated terrorism and glorified the terrorists with the sole intention to radicalize the youth of the J&K and to entice and incite them in joining secessionist and terrorist organisations”, the statement added.

Fazili pursued his PhD in pharmacology with the University of Kashmir under a government scholarship. The SIA alleged that his article was found to be “against national integration and supported the claim of secession of a part of the country’s territory, challenged sovereignty and territorial integrity, glorified violence, and advocated and abetted commission of militant acts”. The agency alleged that Shah intentionally conspired with Fazili and published the article, and this led to an increase in militancy and unlawful activities across Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the SIA, Shah’s and Fazili’s interim objective was “to preserve Pakistani influence by manipulating and playing with facts, subtly or brazenly, by putting information without context or out of context or selective reporting or selective exaggeration or underplaying or muting others and by craftily and cunningly invoking the legal rights to press freedom and political dissent guaranteed by the very Indian State which they wanted to undermine”.

While taking a scholarship from the government for completing his doctorate in Pharmacology, Fazili allegedly indulged in brazen anti-national activities. Most of his articles demonising India and its sovereignty and democracy and glorifying ‘freedom’, appeared after the infamous street turmoil of 2010 in which around a hundred persons died and hundreds were injured in clashes with the Police and security forces.

In his article Fazili wrote: “Success, my dear friends is not an event, it is a process – it is a path, which we need to tread on so that we reach our destination – freedom. Alhamdulillah, the unflinching resistance of our young protesters and nation as a whole has set the movement into an irreversible motion on the path of success”.

“The resistance in last three years has been the most important phase so far in our freedom struggle. We may not have succeeded in chasing India out yet, but certainly we have succeeded in shaking their hold over Kashmir and creating ripples within their establishments – we have succeeded in tearing their mask of non-violence and democracy – we have exposed their demonic criminal conduct before their conscientious people – they stand demoralized – their confidence is shaken – their rhetoric of arrogance is changing – their claim of integral part has no takers anymore”, Fazili added.

“The awareness has heightened and mobilization/participation has touched majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir irrespective of age, gender and region. Voices of resistance remain now loud and clear in the remotest parts of Jammu & Kashmir. An informed commitment has transferred to the younger generation and they feel confident in continuing the struggle more creatively, courageously and effectively towards liberation. This generation has also been victim of and witness to the struggle and sufferings that this nation has been enduring for the cause of liberation and justice”. He added, “The resonance of our resistance has reached the global power corridors so emphatically that it has become impossible for anyone to ignore our struggle and sufferings”.

In the same article, Fazili implored the valley’s younger generation to remain united in the rebellion against India. “The shackles of slavery will break – Insha’Allah, but for that my dear friends, let us pledge that we will not forget the sacrifices our dear ones who have been taken away from us by the violence of the Indian state during the last sixty-three-years”, he wrote.

“India has been tyrant to us, but by forgetting their crimes we will become an accomplice. We remember the killings of two and a half lakh Muslims of Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi in 1947. We remember the killings of fifteen hundred people in 1953. We remember the killings and incarcerations of thousands of people, especially those of Poonch and Rajouri from 1965 to 1989. We remember killings of more than 1 lakh people since 1989 till 2010. We remember the molestations and rapes committed on thousands of our daughters. We remember those ten thousand people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance”, Fazili wrote in the same article.

Fahad Shah’s ‘Kashmir Walla’ is an online newsmagazine in the name of one of his family members which was allotted a title by the Registrar of Newspapers in India over a decade back. However, it is not registered with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir as it has not been printed as per rules within 6 months of the allotment of the title, or ever thereafter.

Even as the SIA has booked its ‘editor-in-chief’ and ‘director’ Fahad Shah, his magazine continues to be uploaded with current content as the Government has not banned the portal. International media and academia have launched a concerted campaign, dismissing allegations against Shah and seeking his release.