The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday, raided the office and residence of an advocate having close association with hard line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and recovered several documents, a tablet computer, four mobile phones and other items that have been seized by the agency in its five-hour long investigation.
The NIA suspected Devinder Singh Behl of routing funds from Pakistan-based organizations to the separatists based in India and hence raided his residence and office, widening its investigation in the case of terror funding. According to the investigation agency, the funds for organizing the stone pelting in Kashmir were also transported by Behl.
The Indian Express quotes NIA in a statement saying,
Devinder Singh Behl is a member of the legal cell of the Hurriyat. He is a close associate of a top Hurriyat leader and regularly attends funerals of militants. The NIA is investigating into his role as courier as he is suspected to be involved in routing funds to the separatist leaders from Pakistan-based handlers.
Advocate Behl is the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Social Peace Forum (JKSPF), a division of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, the separatist political party commanded by Geelani. Apart from this, Behl is also a close aide of the Hurriyat hawk and a member of a legal cell group headed by Geelani. According to the anti-terror probe agency, Behl also regularly attends funeral processions of militants. He is also known to have hosted separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah at his residence in Jammu.
In his mid 40s, Behl is also believed to be a dealer of electrical items. A native of Nowshera in Rajouri district of Kashmir, Behl, living with his wife and two daughters, settled in Jammu around 20 years ago. He visited Pakistan in 2013 where he was allegedly arrested for attempting to go to Mirpur without permission. Apart from participating in events organized by separatist leaders, he also uses social media to accuse security forces of violating human rights in the valley. After Burhan Wani died in an encounter, Behl had supported separatists’ demand for “azadi” on social media.
While being taken away by the officials of the NIA, Behl reportedly said,
We do not want violence, but peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue.
Meanwhile, summons to Geelani’s younger son, Naseem, were also issued by the NIA. The agency had asked him to appear before it on Wednesday. In a related case, NIA had also asked Geelani’s elder son, Nayeem, to present himself at its headquarters in New Delhi on Monday. However, after complaining of chest pain, Nayeem has been admitted to a hospital in Srinagar.
Nayeem, who returned to India in 2010 after spending 11 years in Pakistan, is seen as Geelani’s heir-apparent. NIA was to question him regarding the terror funding case in which Hafiz Saeed, chief of Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba are accused.
In the FIR of the NIA, separatist organization Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Dukhtaran-e-Millat, an all-women outfit, have also been named.
NIA has already arrested Geelani’s son-in-law, Altaf Ahmed Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh, and has recovered a protest calendar issued and signed by Geelani. The calendar has a detailed list of dates and other related information of the protests and activities of civil unrest that were to be carried out in the valley after Burhan Wani died. This protest calendar clearly proves that the violence leading to the death of hundreds in clashes between security forces and stone-pelters was systematically outlined and executed.
Besides Altaf Ahmed Shah, Geelani’s close aides Ayaz Akbar and Peer Saifullah were also arrested in Jammu and Kashmir last week in connection with the case registered by the NIA on May 30 last year, accusing separatist leaders of being in association with terrorist groups. The case alleged that these leaders illegally route funds for terrorist and separatist activities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.