The National Investigation Agency on Wednesday arrested human rights activist Khurram Parvez in an alleged terror funding case registered under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act, PTI reported.
Parvez had already been in prison since November 2021 on allegations that he collected information about vital installations and deployment of security forces, procured secret official documents and shared them with his handlers in militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The National Investigation Agency had filed a chargesheet against him and six others on May 13.
Parvez was arrested in the terror funding case on Wednesday when he was produced before a court.
On Monday, the agency had arrested Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj in the case, claiming that he was a close associate of Parvez. This was the first arrest that it made in the case.
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.
A Delhi court on Wednesday remanded Parvez and Mehraj to the National Investigation Agency’s custody for ten days.
“I have heard the counsel for the accused persons and having regard to the facts disclosed in the two applications and to unearth the incriminating material and other links concerning their unlawful activities besides the aspect of confrontation with digital evidence, the applications are allowed,” Principal District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma said.
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.
The investigating agency has alleged that JKCCS was funding terror activities in the Kashmir Valley and was propagating a secessionist agenda under the garb of protecting human rights.
The agency has 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 Lashkar-e-Taiba and another militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen.
Concerned about UAPA against journalists: Editors Guild
The Editors Guild of India said that it was concerned about the “excessive use” of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against journalists, including Mehraj.
“Irfan Mehraj’s arrest continues a trend in Kashmir of security forces arresting journalists because of their critical reporting of the establishment,” the guild said. “These include journalists Aasif Sultan, Sajad Gul and Fahad Shah. The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir.”
The Digipub News India Foundation, an 11-member digital-only news association, also said it was deeply concerned about Mehraj’s arrest under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“The arrest of other Kashmiri journalists under anti-terror laws since the abrogation of Article 370, in addition to being subjected to frequent raids, questioning and detentions has undermined the media’s ability to inform the people about matters of concern in Jammu and Kashmir,” it said.
Digipub added that the Union government’s “overly aggressive muzzling of journalists” in Kashmir contributes to India’s “dismal ranking” on the World Press Freedom Index released by non-profit Reporters Without Borders. India currently ranks at 150th place among 180 countries on the list.
Scroll is among the founding members of the Digipub News India Foundation.