Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials on Sunday questioned about two dozen people, mainly teachers working at government-run schools in Kashmir Valley, in connection with the recent spate of target killings in and outside Srinagar.
Meanwhile, the NIA sleuths on Sunday raided and searched seven locations in the Valley and arrested two alleged operatives of The Resistance Front (TRF) in connection with a separate case of terror planning. The authorities have, however, alleged that the TRF which, according to them,is actually an “offshoot” of proscribed Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) organisation, is behind the target killings and many other terror activities in J&K.
Though the cases of recent target killings for which FIRs stand registered at concerned police stations are currently being investigated by the Jammu and Kashmir police, the official sources said that NIA, the country’s premier counter-terrorist task force, may soon be asked to take over the probe.
The National Investigation Act, 2008 gives the agency powers to take suo motu cognisance of terror activities in any part of the country and register a case. In 2019, the act was amended to expand the type of offences the agency could investigate and prosecute such terror cases.
Separately, counter-militancy heads of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) who had along with senior officers of the NIA reached here from New Delhi earlier on Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s instructions have had a series of meetings with the officers of the J&K police and various central security forces and intelligence agencies to review the situation as tensions in the Valley persist over the target killings.
What, however, appears to be a cause for more serious concern for the authorities is the killings of a well-known chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo, street-hawker from Bihar Virendra Paswan and schoolteachers Supinder Kour and Deepak Chand have sent panic through minority population and several families of mainly Kashmiri Pandits have left the Valley for Jammu over past two days.
These families are actually of government employees and teachers who permanently live in Jammu but work in the Kashmir Valley and are, therefore, called ‘migrant employees’. While some of these employees are returning to Jammu, some others are seeking transfer and many are staying away from work over security concerns. The Kashmir Gurudawara Prabandak Committee (GPC) and also the All-Parties Sikh Coordination Committee had earlier this week announced that the Sikh employees of the J&K government and various Central departments and agencies in restive Valley will stay away from work from Monday unless and until the government assures their protection.
A report had said that the ‘migrant employees’ of the J&K government are availing a 10-day special leave to return to Jammu amid rising security-fears. But an official spokesman said in Srinagar on Sunday that the government has not issued any order for special leave. “The news items appearing on web portals, newspapers and social media platforms are factually incorrect and misleading”, the spokesman said.
Various Kashmiri political parties had on Friday pledged not to allow a repeat of the 1990 when vast majority of Kashmiri Pandits and many other Hindu families had migrated out of the Valley to escape violence and urged the government to initiate required steps including enhancing security to prevent fresh exodus.
Earlier, the J&K police had sought to dispel the notion that the minority Hindus and Sikhs are the prime target of militants, saying that only 7 of the 28 civilians killed by them, so far, this year belonged to these communities while the rest were local Muslims.
The NIA had on Saturday summoned forty teachers for questioning at its local office situated along Srinagar’s Church Lane on Sunday and Monday in connection with the target killing of Kour, the principal of the Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Srinagar’s Sangam, Eidgah area, and teacher Deepak Chand. The duo was reportedly segregated from the Muslim staff of the school and then shot dead in point blank range by a group of gunmen on Thursday morning.
The local police have taken several hundred people into custody following the murder of seven civilians in terror attacks in and outside Srinagar past week. Most of the detainees owe allegiance to the Jama’at-e-Islami, the Hurriyat Conference and other likeminded organisations or are former stone-pelters or suspected Over Ground Workers (OGWs) of militant outfits. They have been detained “as part of the investigation to break the chain of attacks in the Valley”, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the NIA on Sunday said that the raids and searches it conducted at seven locations in Srinagar, Baramulla and Kulgam districts of the Valley pertained to a ‘LeT- TRF conspiracy case.’
It said that the case was initially registered as (FIR no. 234/2021) dated June, 27 2021) at the Police Station Bahu Fort (Jammu), relating to the recovery of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) from an LeT militant in Jammu’s Bathindi area on June 27 this year. The device, it said, was to be used for a terror act in J&K. However, the probe was later handed over to the NIA as the IED was recovered hours after the Air Force Station in Jammu had come under a drone attack. After registering a case on July 19, the NIA arrested three alleged LeT cadres.
It said that the two TRF ‘operatives’ arrested by it on Sunday are Tawseef Ahmed Wani, a resident of Bangdara village of Baramulla, and Faiz Ahmed Khan of village Panzat in Anantnag.
It also said that during the searches many digital devices including mobiles, pen drives, data storage devices and other “incriminating” materials were confiscated. It claimed that the investigation into the case has revealed that Pakistan based handlers of the LeT and their associates based in J&K had conspired to carry out extensive terror activities in J&K to cause harm to general public. “They had planned that responsibility for the terror acts so committed would be taken by the pseudo-acronym TRF so as to maintain plausible deniability and evade law enforcement agencies.”