Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India has arrested a Kashmiri journalist in Srinagar.
Reliable sources said that journalist Irfan Mehraj, who is currently associated with TwoCircles.net as senior editor was arrested in Srinagar by a special team of NIA from New Delhi. Irfan is a resident of Mehjoor Nagar.
Official sources confirmed the arrest of Irfan to KDC and said he has been arrested for investigation by NIA in case FIR no RC-37/2020 registered at NIA Delhi.
They said “Credible information was received by the Central Government that certain NGOs, Trusts and Societies, registered as well as unregistered, are collecting funds domestically and abroad through donations, business contributions etc. in the name of charity and various welfare activities such as public health, education etc. Some of these NGOs have links with proscribed terrorist organisations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) etc.”
“Further, funds collected by such NGOs, trusts and societies are sent to Jammu and Kashmir through various channels such as cash couriers, Hawala traders based in Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India to sustain the secessionist and terrorist activities in Kashmir Valley, as a part of a larger criminal conspiracy hatched by these NGOs, Trusts and Societies, etc., prejudicial to the unity, integrity, sovereignty and security of India,” they said.
They further said these NGOs, trusts and societies and their members, by words and written means, publish anti-national and incriminating material to bring into hatred, contempt and disaffection towards the Government of India.
Earlier, Irfan was questioned in this case, sources said, adding that on Monday evening the journalist was formally arrested and was moved to New Delhi.
Suchitra Vijayan, the author of ‘Midnight’s Borders’ in a tweet informed, “Kashmiri journalist Irfan Meraj was arrested by the National Investigation Agency under draconian UAPA in Srinagar today. He has been moved to Delhi.” she said adding that Irfan is a reporter and the founding editor of Wande Magazine.
Quoting Irfan’s father Mehraj-ud-Din Bhat, The Wire report said, NIA had called the journalist to appear in its office at Church Lane Srinagar on March 20. He was out on a professional assignment when he received a call. He was told to come over to their office for five minutes. Later, he said, they came to know that Irfan had been arrested and was going to be shifted to Delhi today.
“My son is innocent. His work speaks for him loudly. I have full faith that truth will prevail and he will get justice,” the report quoted Bhat as saying.
Besides Irfan, three journalists from Kashmir Fahad Shah, Asif Sultan and Sajad Gul are among five journalists in India who are currently facing detention under various sections of the law.
Journalists, Siddique Kappan of Kerala and Manan Dar of Kashmir, who were also mentioned in the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) December 8, 2022 report, were released on bail recently. Dar was released on January 2, 2023, and Kappan on February 2, 2023.
Dar was arrested on 22 October 2021 for over a year, and Kappan was released 28 months after he was arrested, along with three others, near Mathura while going towards Hathras, where a Dalit girl had been raped and killed by Hindu men.
Earlier in 2021, the New York-based international press freedom watchdog called upon the Indian government to drop investigations into the work of Kashmiri journalists and allow them to report without “harassment, intimidation, and criminal investigations.”
Meanwhile, reacting to the Irfan’s arrest, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti said that draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA are being “abused constantly” to ensure that the process itself becomes the punishment.
Mehbooba tweeted: “While conmen are given a free run in Kashmir, journalists like Irfan Mehraj are arrested for doing their duty by speaking the truth. Draconian laws like UAPA are abused constantly to ensure that the process itself becomes the punishment, (SIC).”