Srinagar: Police in Kashmir have arrested the mother of a slain militant under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for posing with a gun, and allegedly playing a role in the recruitment of two youth into militancy.
Naseema Bano of Rampora village, Kulgam district in south Kashmir was arrested by the police on June 20 following a raid at her residence by a joint team of the police and army, her relatives said.
Bano has been arrested in a case (FIR No. 30 of 2018) under Sections 13B, 17, 18, 18B, 19, 39 of the UAPA. “She (Bano) was involved in a serious criminal case. In the photo, the arrested woman is toting an automatic weapon and posing next to her son, who was an active terrorist,” police said in a statement today.
A police official said the photograph first surfaced in 2015, two years after Bano’s son, Tauseef Ahmad Sheikh, joined the militancy. “The photograph was again in circulation in 2018,” said the official.
The police said Bano, who is in her mid 50s, was “involved in much more serious offences and her role has surfaced in recruiting at least two youth into terrorist ranks, arranging arms and ammunition, communication and logistics for terrorists and terror organisations.”
“Just because she happens to be a woman or the mother of a killed terrorist does not make her immune to arrest. It is the prime duty of the police to arrest criminals to safeguard people it serves and that is what it has done. Anyone who wishes to challenge the decision is free to approach the court of law for redressal,” the police statement said.
Bano’s son, Tauseef Ahmad Sheikh, was killed along with four other militants during a gunfight with security forces on May 6, 2018. He was active for around five years.
Her elder son, Farooq Ahmad Sheikh, was arrested in November 2018, said Rafeeq, Bano’s sister. He is lodged at Anantnag district jail.
Rafeeqa said the police were also looking for Bano’s daughter. “The police raided their houses again three days ago, looking for her,” said Rafeeqa. “We haven’t seen her all these days. We don’t know where she is.”
Rafeeq said the police first raided the house of her sister on the intervening night of June 19 and 20, at around 3 am. “They ransacked the house and even beat up family members. Then, they conducted searches in the entire village,” she said.
According to Rafeeqa, after returning from the village on the morning of June 20, police summoned some villagers and asked them to bring members of the Sheikh family to the police station.
“My sister, her husband and other family members went to the police station in the afternoon. While other members were released, she (Bano) and her husband (Abdul Salam) were detained,” said Rafeeqa.
Later in the evening, she said police released Salam, while Bano was formally arrested.
“She is a diabetic patient and suffers from heart ailments as well. After her arrests, her health condition had deteriorated and she had to be hospitalised,” said Rafeeqa.
Bano is presently lodged in the women’s police station in Anantnag. The Sheikh family has now approached a court to seek her release.
“We applied for bail earlier this week in the court of the additional sessions judge, which is the designated National Investigation Agency court. The case has been listed for submission of objections by the government on July 2,” said Tanveer Ahmad Khan, Bano’s counsel.
Under the UAPA, an individual can be designated as a terrorist and if convicted, he/she can be jailed for up to seven years.
The police have warned social media users against “instigating people”. “Many social media posts have been generated and shared which have twisted the facts of the matter in order to cause disturbance of peace and tranquility. Police have taken cognisance of the matter and anyone trying to instigate others through whatsoever means will be prosecuted against,” said the police.
Bano is the sister of Abbas Sheikh, who is a “recycled” militant. Forty-five-year-old Abbas, who first joined the militancy in the early 1990s, was arrested several times before he picked up the gun again in 2014. He is one of the “most wanted militants”, as per a fresh dossier prepared by the security forces, media reports said last month.
Rafeeqa said at least four members of the extended Sheikh family, including her brother and son, are at present serving detention in different jails in J&K.
Since 1990, when militancy erupted in Kashmir, 15 members of the extended family who had picked up guns have been killed in encounters with the security forces. Muhammad Ibrahim Sheikh, uncle of slain militant Tauseef, was the first militant form the family. Ibrahim was killed in a gunfight with the forces in 1997.