SRINAGAR — A ban under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is likely to be imposed on both the factions of Hurriyat Conference which has been spearheading the pro-freedom movement in Jammu and Kashmir for over two decades, PTI reported on Sunday quoting unnamed officials.
They said a recent probe into the granting of MBBS seats to Kashmiri students by institutions in Pakistan indicates that the money collected from aspirants by some organisations which were part of the Hurriyat Conference conglomerate was being allegedly used for funding militant organisations in the union territory.
The officials said both the factions of the Hurriyat are likely to be banned under Section 3(1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or the UAPA, under which “if the Central Government is of opinion that any association is, or has become an unlawful association, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare such association to be unlawful.”
They said the proposal was mooted in accordance with the Centre’s policy of zero-tolerance against militancy.
The Hurriyat Conference came into existence in 1993 with 26 groups, including some pro-Pakistan and banned outfits such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, JKLF and the Dukhtaran-e-Millat. It also included the People’s Conference and the Awami Action Committee headed by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.
The separatist conglomerate broke into two factions in 2005 with the ‘moderate’ group being led by Mirwaiz and the hard-line group headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
So far, the Centre has banned the Jamaat-e-Islami and the JKLF under the UAPA. The ban was imposed in 2019.
The officials said a probe into funding of militant groups indicated alleged involvement of secessionist and separatist leaders, including the members and cadres of the Hurriyat Conference who have been acting “in connivance with” active militants of proscribed militant organisations Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The cadres raised funds in the country and from abroad through various illegal channels, including hawala, for funding separatist and militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir, they said.
The funds collected were used for causing disruption in the Kashmir valley by way of pelting stones on government forces, systematically burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India as part of a criminal conspiracy, they claimed.
Supporting the case for banning the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference under the UAPA, the officials cited several cases related to terror funding, including the one being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in which several of the conglomerate’s cadres were arrested and jailed.
Many of the second-rung cadres of both the factions are in jail since 2017, they said.
Among those in jail are Altaf Ahmed Shah, the son-in-law of Syed Ali Geelani; businessman Zahoor Ahmed Watali; Geelani’s close aide Ayaz Akbar, who is also the spokesperson of the hardline separatist organisation Tehreek-e-Hurriyat; Peer Saifullah; Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesperson of the moderate Hurriyat Conference; Mehrajuddin Kalwal; Nayeem Khan; and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate.
Later, JKLF chief Yaseen Malik, DeM head Asiya Andrabi and pro-Pakistan Masarat Alam were also named in a supplementary charge sheet in a case of militant financing.
Another case that is likely to be cited for banning the two Hurriyat Conference factions is the one against PDP youth leader Waheed-ur-Rahman Parra, who is alleged to have paid Rs 5 crore to the son-in-law of Geelani for “keeping Kashmir in turmoil” after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016, the officials said.
The NIA has alleged that after the death of Wani, who was killed in an encounter with the Army in July 2016, Parra got in touch with Altaf Ahmad Shah, alias Altaf Fantoosh, and asked him to ensure that the Valley was kept on the boil with widespread unrest and stone-pelting.
Also, the Counter Intelligence (Kashmir), a branch of CID of Jammu and Kashmir Police, registered a case in July last year following information that several persons, including some Hurriyat leaders, were hand in glove with some educational consultancies and were allegedly selling Pakistan-based MBBS seats and admission in other professional courses in various colleges and universities.
At least four persons, including Mohammad Akbar Bhat alias Zaffar Bhat, chairman of Salvation Movement which is part of moderate Hurriyat Conference, were arrested in this case.
It is alleged that the constituents of the Hurriyat Conference were “selling” MBBS seats in Pakistan to Kashmiri students and using the money collected, at least partly, to support and fund militancy.
During the probe, it had surfaced that individual Hurriyat leaders had their quota of seats which were allegedly sold to people desiring to obtain MBBS and other professional degrees in one way or the other, the officials said.
The officials said evidence showed that the money was “put into channels that ended up in supporting programmes and projects pertaining to terrorism and separatism like payment for organising stone-pelting”.Geelani Mirwaiz