Srinagar: A young Kashmir-based journalist has been summoned in connection with an anti-terror probe launched by Jammu and Kashmir Police’s counter-intelligence wing against the Srinagar-based digital magazine The Kashmir Walla.
The State Investigation Agency (SIA) of J&K Police has summoned 23-year-old Yashraj Sharma, acting editor of the magazine, to appear at its police station in Joint Interrogation Centre, Jammu, by today, June 2, where a case (FIR number 01/2022) has been filed against the magazine for publishing a “seditious” article in 2011.
The Kashmir Walla editor Fahad Shah is already in SIA custody for questioning in connection with the publication of a controversial article in the magazine. Its author, Abdul Aala Fazili, a PhD student at the University of Kashmir, was arrested by the SIA following a raid at his residence in Srinagar on April 17.
Yashraj, who is filling in for Fahad at The Kashmir Walla, was 12 years old when the article titled ‘The Shackles of Slavery Will Break’ was published on November 6, 2011. A resident of Rajasthan, Yashraj joined the Srinagar-based magazine in 2018 and he has been working out of Srinagar in various roles.
In its case against The Kashmir Walla and Aala, the SIA has invoked sections 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) and 18 (involvement in terrorist acts) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 120-B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the Government of India), 124 (sedition), 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) of the Indian Penal Code.
“Whereas it appears that you are acquainted with the circumstances of the case, which is under investigation at Police Station JIC /SIA, Jammu, You are hereby required to appear at Police Station JIC Miran Sahib, Jammu on or before 02-06-2022 for the purpose of answering certain questions related to the case,” the summon issued to Yashraj under Section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code states.
The counterintelligence agency, which was formed last year to pursue anti-terror investigations, told the court on May 30 that the 2011 article has “led to increase in terrorism and unlawful activities across Jammu and Kashmir.”
The agency said that the article was “highly provocative, seditious and intended to create unrest in Jammu and Kashmir” and it was written with the purpose of “abetting the youth to take the path of violence by glorifying terrorism, promoting…false narrative, which is essential to sustain secessionist cum terrorist campaign aimed at breaking the territorial integrity of India”.
Besides Aala and Fahad, who is the recipient of the 25th Human Rights Press Award, the SIA has booked “other associates of the monthly digital magazine” in the case.
The Srinagar-based magazine has come under fire from the security agencies this year with multiple investigations opened against Fahad for allegedly publishing “seditious” and “anti-national” articles.
The trouble started when Fahad was first arrested by Pulwama Police for allegedly posting “anti-national content” on social media and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in February this year. A court granted him bail after 22 days.
However, hours before he could walk out of custody, Shah was arrested by Shopian Police in a similar case and taken into custody, He got bail in the case on March 5. However, he was was immediately arrested in a third case and charged with rioting, attempt to murder, abetment, printing or engraving defamatory matter and public mischief.
On March 14, authorities invoked the stringent Public Safety Act against Fahad, hours before his bail application was to come up for hearing before a court in Srinagar, and shifted him to a jail in north Kashmir’s Kupwara. His arrest has been condemned by the Editors Guild of India, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and other free speech advocacy groups.
On May 23, the custody of Fahad, who has been jailed under the stringent Public Safety Act was transferred to the SIA from the prison in Kupwara. This is the fifth case against the Srinagar-based editor and journalist whose work has featured in prominent national and international publications.
In its response to the latest bail application filed by Fahad, the agency has argued that the article published by The Kashmir Walla “has and will motivate many youth to become terrorists and separatists after joining militancy.”
The agency told the court that Aala has “so far denied having written this write up and hence the onus of the writing the seditious write up is on the editor (Fahad Shah).”
“It will be clear in the coming weeks about the credibility of the statements made by the accused author and the editor in chief of the Kashmir walla about the authorship of the instant writeup (sic),” the agency told the court.