Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj arrested by NIA in UAPA case
The central agency said that he is associated with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which it alleged spreads secessionist agenda in the Valley.
Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj was on Monday arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Srinagar in a case registered under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act.
In a statement, the central agency said that Mehraj is a close associate of human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was arrested in November 2021 under sections of the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act which deal with terror funding.
Both Mehraj and Parvez are associated with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a union of non-profit campaign and advocacy organisations in Srinagar.
“Investigation revealed that the JKCCS [Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society] was funding terror activities in the Valley and had also been in propagation of secessionist agenda in the Valley under the garb of protection of human rights,” the agency alleged. “Involvement of some Valley-based NGOs [non-government organisation], trusts and societies in funding of terror-related activities is being probed in this case.”
The National Investigation Agency also alleged that some non-governmental organisations in Jammu and Kashmir have been collecting funds under the garb of charity and welfare activities but have links with militant outfits such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen.
The agency said Mehraj is the first person to be arrested in the case registered in October 2020.
Mehraj has been taken to Delhi, according to journalist Raqib Hameed Naik.
Mehraj is the founding editor of Wande Magazine and now works as a senior editor at TwoCircles.net. He has contributed to leading news publications like The Indian Express, Al Jazeera, Himal Southasian, DW and TRT World.
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People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti criticised the action against him, saying journalists like Mehraj are being arrested for “speaking the truth” while conmen get a free run in Kashmir.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister was referring to a Gujarat resident who was impersonating an additional director for strategy and campaigns in the prime minister’s office. Kiran Bhai Patel, who was granted access to high-security zones and provided with Z-plus security, was arrested on March 3.
“Draconian laws like UAPA are abused constantly to ensure that the process itself becomes the punishment,” Mufti wrote on Tuesday.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor expressed her concern on Mehraj’s arrest and called for his immediate release.
The Press Club of India described the arrest as a misused of the draconian UAPA law, adding that it “ominously points towards a violation of freedom of speech and expression”.
Amnesty International India Chair Aakar Patel said in a statement that the arrest was a travesty and demanded that Mehraj be immediately released.
“Indian authorities should prioritize ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders and journalists have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure that human rights defenders and activists can work in a safe and enabling environment without any fear of reprisals,” Patel said
Journalist Federation of Kashmir, a press body based in the Valley, issued a statement saying that the arrest was an attempt to intimidate journalists in Kashmir “who have always worked under perilous conditions, holding up values of press freedom in the face of dangers to life and liberty”.