Srinagar: Political parties and journalists in Kashmir Wednesday attacked the central government after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids at multiple locations in the Valley, including offices of English daily Greater Kashmir and residences of senior journalists.
The NIA conducted raids at 10 locations in Kashmir’s Srinagar and Bandipora districts, and searched premises of journalists, human rights activists and a separatist leader.
Besides the Srinagar office of Greater Kashmir, the residences of global news agency AFP’s senior journalist Parvaiz Bukhari; Khuram Parvez, coordinator Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society; Parveena Ahangar, founder and head of Associations of Parents of Disappeared Persons; and the offices of Athrout, a Kashmir-based NGO were also raided.
The regional political parties of Jammu and Kashmir — the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — attacked the Centre, the BJP and the NIA for “stifling” freedom of expression.
Former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti said the raids were “yet another example of Government of India’s crackdown on freedom of expression & dissent”.
Another senior PDP leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the raids as an attempt to stifle media freedom and groups defending human rights in J&K.
NC spokesperson Imran Dar tweeted, “From NIA raids to lockdown offices, media in Kashmir was never under such duress as it is today. Muzzling of sane voices goes on at all fronts and this govt is shamelessly on that mission. In solidarity with @GreaterKashmir , J&Ks most trusted newspaper.
Speaking on the NIA raids, the Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) said it is concerned over the mounting costs of being a journalist in Kashmir, adding that the Kashmiri media continues to get targeted, demonised, vilified and raided by both the state and non-state actors for a long time now.
The KEG said it hopes that Kashmir media is permitted to function without hassles and hurdles. This is in the interest of everybody within and outside Jammu and Kashmir, it said.
‘Alleged association with NGOs supporting secessionist activities’
NIA officials, however, claim the raids at residences of journalists were not connected to their work, but alleged association with “trusts and NGOs”.
The raids, the agency said, were being conducted in connection with an FIR registered by it on 8 October about NGOs and trusts collecting funds in India and abroad to allegedly support secessionist activities in J&K.
Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin described the NIA’s actions as part of the clampdown launched against the media in Kashmir.
“They picked up the editor (Fayaz Kaloo) of largest daily of J&K couple of years ago. Now they are going after other journalists too. Then they are also raiding human rights organisations which comprise law abiding citizens. There is an organisation which is searching for its disappeared family members and all they have demanded is justice and peace. To accuse them of terror funding is shocking,” said Bhasin, whose Srinagar office was evicted earlier this month.