An Old Bogey

  • Shabir Ibn Yusuf
  • Publish Date: Jun 16 2017 7:11PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jun 16 2017 7:11PM
An Old Bogey

                                           Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/KI

The backstory of the NIA raids on separatist leaders and businesspeople in Kashmir

 

The raids, recoveries and questioning of some separatist leaders and businessmen by the National Investigation Agency is follow-up of the case registered in connection with cross-LoC trade about seven months ago. Although part of the operation, especially raids on the homes of some low-rung separatists, was the outcome of a sting operation carried out by the India Today news channel, it is only incidental to the probe.

The investigation is a major setback to the cross-LoC trade at a time when relations between India and Pakistan are at a nadir. Started in 2008, the barter trade, which does not involve any money changing hands, was meant to be a key Confidence Building Measure between India and Pakistan. A trader “exports” an item worth a certain amount across the Line of Control and his buyer sends back goods worth an equal amount. The goods exchanged have to be in the list of 21 items mutually accepted by both sides.

Records available with Jammu and Kashmir’s industries and commerce ministry, goods worth over Rs 2,800 crore were traded across the LoC from April 2013 to March 2016, Rs 1,496.96 crore worth of exports and Rs 1,307.62 crore worth of imports.

An NIA official familiar with the probe said the agency had filed a case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, in New Delhi, and an FIR was then presented before the NIA special court in Jammu. The case, he said, was registered after “reliable information was received by the central government that large-scale transfer of funds from Pakistan to India has been taking place through the import of goods via the cross-LoC trade mechanism.”

“The central government, in December 2016, then issued orders under section 6(5) of the NIA Act, 2008, directing the agency to take up the investigation,” he added. 

In the wake of the raids, the officer said, “We have summoned traders from Kashmir and Jammu to Delhi for questioning.” He added “there was good response” from the traders who have been called for questioning. “Some are from Uri, Baramulla, Jammu and Poonch.”

The officer said they are primarily probing “violation of norms and diversion of funds from the LoC trade for fomenting militancy and separatism in J&K”.

As for the allegedly modus operandi, he said money was moved through “overevaluation of goods”. “In some cases, the amount of trade was so high it even crossed the actual amount of item produced in Pakistan during that period,” the officer said, adding the NIA has seized “stacks of documents from trade facilitation centers that are being examined”. 

“The transactions under the scanner at the trade facilitation centers of Salamabad and Chakkan Da Bagh is a staggering Rs 2,100 crore and Rs 670 crore, respectively,” the officer said.

Parallely, the NIA has found “gross violations of the state policy of prohibition on trade in third-party origin goods”. “This mechanism too has been used to generate funds to foment militancy and separatism in Jammu and Kashmir,” the officer said.

Militancy’s links with the cross-LoC trade were proved, the officer said, when, in March this year, the state police recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions from a truck bringing goods from Muzzafferabad. 

Meanwhile, a trader said the NIA raids and “harassment by the security agencies” will only compound the challenges facing the cross-LoC trade. “NIA is now harassing us. We had anyway been facing all harassment since the trade started,” he said, adding that there have been instances when “such things were fabricated”. “That resulted in suspension of trade for weeks together and caused a huge loss to traders,” he added.

The traders’ body Kashmir Economic Alliance has described the NIA raids on business houses as a “conspiracy” to crush Kashmir’s economy. “After wounding the people of Kashmir with human rights abuses, the government wants to bleed the economy. The NIA raids were aimed at crushing the economy of Kashmir. The civil society and political parties must seriously look into the matter and look for a way out,” it said in a statement. “Instead of promoting business and tourism, the government wants to frighten the business community through the pressure tactics of NIA raids.”