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‘We Always Knew’: Kashmiris on Terror Fund Crackdown on Hurriyat

There is no public protest over these ‘leaders’ being targeted now; rather, there is a general sense of ennui.

Updated
India
4 min read
Funding of militancy in Kashmir has gone through various stages since training first began in January 1988. (Photo: The Quint)

How much cash did the raids uncover? That question tends to be top-of-mind about the raids in Kashmir last weekend.

For the National Investigation Agency (NIA), though, a bigger question is: What’s locked in the laptops, pen drives, and other data containers they found? Investigators dug up a lot of papers and cyber data during raids at the houses of a range of Hurriyat leaders, in Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi and other places such as Rohtak in Haryana.

The top NIA officer who led the raids in Srinagar told this writer that it would take time to sift through all this material and deduce what it indicates about terror funding. He said the agency would then prepare watertight cases against those involved.

 Kashmiri separatist leaders Nayeem Khan and Farrokh Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate at  the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office for questioning in the terror funding case. (Photo: PTI)
Kashmiri separatist leaders Nayeem Khan and Farrokh Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office for questioning in the terror funding case. (Photo: PTI)

Evolving Routes

Funding of militancy in Kashmir has gone through various stages since training first began in January 1988.

During the early 1990s, a lot of those who crossed the Line of Control (LoC) after training in Pakistan, or Pakistan-controlled areas of the state, sometimes brought bags of cash back across the Line of Control – much of it counterfeit Indian currency.

This was a Herculean task, given the daunting nature of the Shamsabari range. At times, when some of those militants got killed, people in whose houses their bags were lying suddenly got rich.

After the counter-insurgency grid was vastly increased in 1994, Kathmandu, Dhaka and sometimes Dubai became alternate routes through which the ISI sent men with cash. Many high-value Kashmiri militants were sent through Nepal, since they could cross the border with any Indian identity card. They did not need a passport.

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Various Methods

By the turn of the century, the internet had become the major avenue for fund transfers. By that time, cover explanations for bank transfers had been worked out.

One method was to over-invoice exports. Not all of these exporters were Kashmiri Muslims. No wonder, a major Jammu-based exporter of dry fruits was among those investigated.

Another route was money transfers from expatriates to their families. Many young Kashmiris have joined the large pool of foreign workers in Gulf countries.

Of course, most of these workers, and most exporters and other businessmen, have nothing to do with financing terror; a lot of them would be horrified by the idea. But even a very small proportion can funnel large amounts.

These are the ones the NIA hopes to nab. After all, the point of the entire exercise is to put a stop to the established modus operandi, rather than nab whoever happens to have whatever cash might be in transit at a particular point of time.

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Salaries Cut

The NIA operation signals an end to the transfer of salaries to a host of ‘leaders’ of the various separatist organisations that are generally bracketed under the label, ‘Hurriyat’ (which means ‘freedom’).

For most of the time since the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was established as a conglomerate of 22-plus organisations in 1993, Pakistan has been paying out salaries to many leading lights of the APHC and its splinter groups.

Kashmiri Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was the chairperson of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. (Photo: PTI)
Kashmiri Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was the chairperson of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. (Photo: PTI)

Other world powers too have supplied funding to some of the separatists. The NIA and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) ought to probe those too.

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Past Accommodation

In the past, the Indian establishment has allowed the funds to flow, only keeping track of how much moved, and to whom.

The strategy of intelligence honchos and their political bosses was to keep the threat of investigations hanging loosely overhead, so that the range of secessionist ‘leaders’ remained in check.

There were such deeply entrenched vested interests in this strategy — not to say inertia — that the powers that be did not wake up when this strategy began to swiftly unravel a decade ago.

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Youth Disgust

When a new generation of young Kashmiris took to the streets in 2008, they went to the houses of various lavishly-established ‘Hurriyat’ leaders to ask them to lead their processions. These ‘leaders’ did, even if they were surprised and reluctant at first.

By the end of the 2008 mass uprising, which was sparked by the transfer of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, the new generation was disillusioned, even disgusted, with that array of generally compromised ‘leaders’.

No wonder there is no public protest over these ‘leaders’ being targeted now; rather, there is a general sense of ennui — a ‘so what’s new’ or an ‘about time’ attitude.

(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and journalist. He can be reached at @david_devadas)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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