NIA Questions Top Kashmiri Islamic Scholar in Terror Funding Case

Maulana Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi, who heads Darul Uloom Raheemiah, Kashmir’s largest Islamic seminary, was questioned for nearly six hours by the agency at its Srinagar office.

Srinagar: A prominent Islamic scholar based in north Kashmir was questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday, June 7, in connection with a terror funding case.

Maulana Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi, a founding member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board who heads Darul Uloom Raheemiah, Kashmir’s largest Islamic seminary in Bandipora district, was questioned for nearly six hours by the agency at its Srinagar office.

Sources said that Maulana Qasmi, who has been critical of the BJP’s policies in Kashmir, appeared before the investigators at 11 am on Wednesday. “He was offered tea which he declined. The questioning went on till around 4:20 pm after which he was let go. During the questioning, he was also allowed to offer afternoon prayers,” sources said.

Maulana Qasmi, who graduated from Uttar Pradesh’s Darul Uloom Deoband in 1978, was questioned in connection with a case filed by the NIA on September 3, 2022 (RC-07/2022/NIA/JMU) against Al Huda Educational Trust (AHET), a J&K-based NGO which has been accused of “radicalizing the youth” in Jammu and Kashmir.

The case was filed under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of Indian Penal Code and sections 10 (act resulting in the death of any person), 13 (commission of unlawful activity) and 22C (punishment for offences by companies, societies or trusts) of Unlawful Act (Prevention) Act 1967.

The agency has alleged that the trust was set up by Jamaat-e-Islami, a socio-politico-religious organisation in Jammu and Kashmir, to skirt the ban imposed on it in 2019 when the Union government declared several organisations as unlawful associations under the anti-terror law.

The agency has also claimed that AHET was set up by Jamaat “to mobilise funds to further its anti-India agenda” after Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status was scrapped in August 2019 and the erstwhile state was divided into two union territories.

“It appears that you are acquainted with the facts of this case. You are hereby directed to report at NIA camp office Church Lane Sonwar Srinagar for the purpose of answering certain questions related to the case,” the summons, which was served to Maulana Qasmi on Monday, reads.

A special NIA court today charged 26 year old Mujeeb Ahmed on terrorism charges Credit : PTI/ Representational

Representative Image of NIA officers. Photo: PTI/Files

Angry response from religious scholars

The questioning of Maulana Qasmi evoked anger from Kashmir’s religious scholars, with Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulama Jammu and Kashmir (MMU), a top conglomerate of religious bodies, expressing “serious concern” over the summoning of its president while terming it as “extremely sad” development.

“Maulana Rehmatullah is not only a renowned Islamic scholar but also a sincere preacher of Islam who has dedicated himself to religious, educational and reformative services towards our society,” an MMU statement said, adding that his questioning has caused “anxiety and anger” among the people.

Earlier this year, Maulana Qasmi had urged Darakshan Andrabi, a top leader of the J&K BJP, to “avoid meddling in religious matters” after the latter announced that the administration was forming a religious committee to end the decades-old controversy in Jammu and Kashmir over the sighting of Eid crescent.

Andrabi was appointed as the head of the J&K Wakf Board after the Union government read down Article 370 in 2019. Earlier this year, the board took control of all Muslim shrines in Kashmir, despite resistance by the local committees which have been managing these shrines for decades.

“I wanted to tell my sister with respect and it is also my duty. She is holding an administrative position and she should use her capabilities as Wakf board administrator to the fullest, but dealing with religious matters is the responsibility of ulema,” Maulana Qasmi had said.

In October last year, Maulana Qasmi, who is considered an authority in Kashmir on Sharia law, had termed an official order asking schools “to sing all-faith prayer Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” in morning assemblies as “unacceptable”.

A week later, the NIA sleuths had raided the Bandipora house of Qasmi and seized his mobile phone and some land documents, according to a person privy to the raid. Qasmi has previously also opposed the government’s takeover of religious institutions in Jammu and Kashmir.

In April this year, the agency filed the chargesheet in the case in which Qasmi was questioned on Wednesday. The agency alleged that Mushtaq Ahmed Mir alias Zargar, a Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen militant, sent funds from across the border to AHET chairman Amir Shamshi, a resident of Rajouri who is also a Jamaat member.

The agency has claimed that Amir collected funds from Zargar “in the form of educational and religious donations” which were “channelised” to the head of Jamaat, Abdul Hamid Ganai, to “further the banned outfit’s anti-India agenda.”

“Investigations have revealed that Amir Shamshi was responsible for the day to day working of AHET, which was formed by JEI (Jamaat) with the explicit purpose of mobilising funds to carry on its secessionist activities in Jammu and Kashmir,” the agency said in its chargesheet.

“Amir Shamshi also conspired with Mushtaq Ahmed Mir, originally a resident of Rajouri. Mushtaq sent funds to Amir from Pakistan through Hawala channels. Amir used these funds to organise propaganda meetings to motivate individuals to engage in secessionist and terror activities,” the agency said.

Founded in September 1979 under the name of “Madrasah Islamia Arabia”, Darul Uloom Raheemiah, which is headed by Maulana Qasmi, is coming up as a “full-fledged Islamic University” in Kashmir on the pattern of Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh.

The institution has taught Tafseer (interpretation of the Quran), Hadees (sayings of Prophet Muhammad), Fiqa (Islamic jurisprudence) and Tajveed-u-Kirat (right recitation of Quran) to thousands of students across Kashmir since its inception.

“Darul-Aloom Raheemiah is an independent institution with no links directly or indirectly with any political or non-political organisation …. and donation from the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir [is] the sole financial source of this institution,” a noting on its website states.