The Jammu and Kashmir Police counter-intelligence wing has summoned Yashraj Sharma, the interim editor of The Kashmir Walla, for questioning him about an article published in the online magazine in 2011, The Wire reported.

The State Investigation Agency has asked the 23-year-old to come to the Joint Interrogation Centre in Jammu by Thursday.

The Kashmir Walla Editor-in-Chief Fahad Shah is already in the custody of the State Investigation Agency in connection with the article that authorities claim is “highly provocative and seditious”. According to the police, the article was written by research scholar Abdul Aala Fazili, who was arrested on April 17.

Sharma, who has taken over the editorial affairs after Shah’s arrest, was 12 years old when the article was published, The Wire reported. He joined the magazine in 2018.

“Abdul Aala Fazili’s article, ‘The shackles of slavery will break’, is intended to create unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, and written with the purpose of abetting the youth to take the path of violence by glorifying terrorism,” the police had said in a statement in April.

The article promoted a false narrative to sustain a “secessionist and terrorist campaign aimed at breaking India’s territorial integrity”, the statement alleged.

On May 18, an order by an additional sessions judge in Jammu stated that Fazili had denied writing the article during his interrogation. “Therefore for the investigation agency to come up with facts, the custody of the editor-in-chief of ‘’ [Fahad Shah] is imperative,” the order added.

This the fifth case against Shah, who had been first arrested by the Pulwama Police in February for posting allegedly anti-national content on social media and was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Fahad Shah, editor of The Kashmir Walla. Credit: Bhat Burhan for The Kashmir Walla.

The summons

The summons issued to Sharma alleged that “contaminated and compromised media persons” are covertly working to present a “false and distorted account of events in Kashmir” to persuade their readers that “nothing good can happen and should happen as long as Kashmir is part of India”.

The summons stated, according to The Kashmiriyat:

“Guided from across, select anti-India elements within the media, many of whom are on the payroll of ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] have formed media platforms, especially digital platforms, that are inexpensive but have a wider reach, and screen their connections with and funding from hostile foreign agencies and terrorist and secessionist entities.”

The summons also alleged that the article published by The Kashmir Walla “has and will motivate many youths to become terrorists and separatists after joining militancy”.

Moreover, the agency claimed that Shah had intentionally conspired with the author and published it in his magazine, thereby endorsing the contents of the article.

“The owner cum managers of the digital portal The Kashmir Walla had surreptitiously removed the write up a as a part of destroying evidence even though with technical tools and further corroborated by human witnesses it has been established that the write up was very much there in The Kashmir Walla web portal,” the summons said.

The State Investigation Agency also claimed that Shah could destroy evidence in the case if he is granted bail. “We also have apprehensions that he may flee the country like many other contaminated journalists,” the summons read.

Apart from Fazili, the “unnamed editor” of The Kashmir Walla and associates have been booked under Section 13 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, the magazine said in a statement last month.

“For the team at The Kashmir Walla, it is yet another hard blow as we remain concerned about the health and wellbeing of Shah in the JIC in Jammu,” the statement added. “We reiterate our appeal to Manoj Sinha-led Jammu and Kashmir administration to drop all the charges against Shah and The Kashmir Walla’s journalistic work and facilitate his immediate release.”

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