The controversial sting operation of a resistance leader, Nayeem Khan, threw up surprises and also sent shock waves across the valley, especially because he was shown as admitting the burning of schools and paying money for stone throwing. Allegedly, he has also admitted that Pakistan was funding disruptive activities through what in common parlance is called ‘hawala’ source. Although Nayeem Khan has refuted the allegations and, in a press conference, called it a story made out of ‘ bits and pieces’ taken from different events, he had to face the wrath of the Hurriyat (G) chairman who threw him and his party out of the conglomerate. This made Khan’s position further awkward and everybody felt that the sting operation had some truth in it. Naturally, the Indian electronic media which is these days largely controlled by the communal forces made a huge hullaballoo about it and within days the National Investigating Agency (NIA) was to call Khan to Delhi and question him about his and other Hurriyat leaders’ involvement in what they have termed the money laundering.
Reportedly, Khan has admitted to have received money from Pakistan that was distributed among the Kashmir youth for stone throwing and burning of schools. Although New Delhi has been talking about money being paid to stone pelters, nobody ever trusts them for it is impossible to pay money to all those people who come out in support of slain militants. The voices against stone pelting got more pronounced in the aftermath of Burhan Wani killing when the entire valley went out of gear and thousands of youth came out for days together to protest against the killing. Burhan had become the heartthrob of many Kashmiris as he had given a new face to militancy by using social media to reach out to people. Naturally, he had won many admirers and many youth also got influenced by his daring stance. The media reported that each stone pelter was paid five hundred rupees which nobody trusted. However, Khan’s alleged involvement in the burning of schools was something that shocked all and they wanted to know the truth.
As is usual in Kashmir, NIA’s questioning Nayeem Khan and their claim that other leaders were also involved in money laundering wasn’t digested well in Kashmir and by the Hurriyat leaders who accused New Delhi of using the NIA as a tool to malign the leadership and the resistance movement. Having experienced how the Central Government had been levelling allegations against Hurriyat leaders earlier also, common Kashmiris hardly paid much attention to either the Nayeem Khan sting-operation or the NIA raids. However, the GST row that involved the business community in the J&K not only divided the community but also polarized the State—Jammuites and the BJP favouring the adoption and implementation of the GST regime whereas Kashmir business community up in arms against the regime as, according to them, it would further jeopardise the special status enjoyed by the State under Article 370—they were initially supported by the Hurriyat also.
Since the PDP-led government was under tremendous pressure from the BJP to get the GST regime implemented in the State, it convened a special one-day session of the State Assembly on 17 June. The session miserably failed to pass the resolution as the Government came under severe criticism from the opposition for blinding boys and girls by pellets.
Also, the business community took to streets and claimed that implementing GST in J&K would further erode the special status of the State. During all this theatrics, the NIA was busy in raiding houses of different people in Kashmir, Jammu and other states in India so that, according to them, they could unearth the ‘secret’ behind stone-pelting. Besides Nayeem Khan, many other names came on the scene that included Geelani’s son-in-law, Altaf Shah, Bitta Karete, Shabir Shah, Peer Saifullah, Shahidul Islam and a businessman in Jammu. Having faced a tough time in the State Assembly and facing a tremendous pressure from BJP, the PDP-led was got desperate to get the GST implemented in the State, though it was also facing a lot of resistance from Kashmir, social as well as political organisations, chief among them was the Hurriyat (G). However, all of a sudden, the chairman Hurriyat (G), SA Geelani on July 1, 2017 issued a press statement suggesting the valley traders and civil society to “concentrate on the core issue of Kashmir and avoid any such measures or step that may alter the discourse or hinder its resolution”.
While talking about the GST, he said that “Kashmir issue and other interrelated problems are quite different issues with differing background”. This came as a shock to people, in general, and the business community, in particular, as it was construed that Geelani had made this statement in order to save his son-in-law from the NIA’s imminent arrest. No sooner did Geelani make this statement, the J&K Government re-convened the special session of the State Assembly where amid ruckus the GST resolution was passed. The social media was abuzz with accusations and allegation against Geelani that he had bailed out the PDP and helped them erode Article 370 beyond repairs only to save himself and his family from corruption charges that the NIA had levelled against them.. Within a day, the Presidential Order was issued and GST got implemented in the State in spite of resistance from many people. Since then the PDP has been using it as their success in maintaining the special status of the State whereas people know that the BJP has succeeded in snatching powers from the State—the latest example is the adoption of the Statistics Bill without taking the State Assembly into confidence.
After a short lull, the NIA, once again, became proactive and started repeating its investigation in the money laundering and corruption charges against the separatists. This time, they went even further and arrested Geelani’s son-in-law, Shabir Shah, Shahidul Islam, Peer Saifullah, and Bitta Karete and took them to Delhi where they have been remanded to NIA custody. People rightly started asking if Geelani had gone on any ‘sell out’, why did the NIA arrest his son-in-law? Had the PDP-led government cheated on him by first taking his help and, then, ditching him so that he loses credibility among people? Lately, the NIA raided the house of an advocate in Jammu which has further complicated the issue. The Central Government claims that it has solid proof of the involvement of not only the arrested people in money laundering and Pakistan funding but also more people are likely to be arrested soon. It is alleged that Geelani has amassed huge wealth and property over the years; so has his son-in-law. They say Geelani has benami properties in Baramullah and other places.
The NIA is believed to be planning to investigate the involvement of Umar Farooq (Hurriyat M), Yasin Malik and other resistance leaders. While these leaders claim that New Delhi was using the NIA to frighten them and keep them away from resisting the Indian occupation of Kashmir, New Delhi says that it will nail those who are using money to foment trouble in the valley. How much wealth these leaders have amassed, so far the NIA hasn’t come out with any details? The Hurriyat leadership continues to accuse New Delhi of harassing and maligning them. Weather New Delhi is true, or the Hurriyat leadership are telling lies, Kashmiris appear to be more interested in knowing the truth. They are also interested in seeing their leaders come out clean. As of now, the NIA hasn’t come out with any details, though the arrested persons have been in their custody for long.
Even if we accuse the Government of maligning the Kashmir Separatist leadership, it’s the latter that need to prove them wrong so that people are relieved of the confusion that has been created over the issue. If they have nothing to hide, they must volunteer for a thorough probe so that the New Delhi, its media and henchmen in Kashmir and elsewhere are silenced. That would really give a boost to the general impression that the Government of India has been never sincere with regard to Kashmir. Also, for the dignity and respect of the Separatist leadership that has been dented, it is very important that NIA investigation reaches its logical end.
Prof Aslam is renowned columnist of valley and would teach at Kashmir University.