SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
A prominent Kashmiri cleric and pro-independence leader refused a summons by Indian intelligence to New Delhi, citing safety issues.
India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) summoned on Monday Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose attorney conveyed his refusal to go to the capital, asking for the interrogation to be conducted in the Srinagar, the administrative seat of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
“If the NIA wants to examine my client Mirwaiz Umar Farooq they can do so in Srinagar. He is willing to cooperate as he has nothing to hide,” Aijaz Ahmad Dar said in a written statement.
Mirwaiz’s lawyer underlined that it was unwise for the cleric to travel to New Delhi “under the prevailing conditions of hostility” that posed a threat to his safety.
Mirwaiz, like most other pro-Independence leaders in the region, is being investigated by Indian agencies in “terror-funding cases”, believed to be a means for pressuring and imprisoning Kashmiri leaders.
Dar called the NIA case an unsubstantiated attempt to link the Mirwaiz to false and fabricated cases of “terror funding” through manipulation.
“It [the case against Mirwaiz] is clearly aimed to silence him through intimidation and harassment,” he said, stressing that Mirwaiz has always been committed to a “non-violent and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.”
The NIA summons against Mirwaiz is seen as part of an ongoing crackdown by Indian authorities on pro-independence figures in the Kashmir region.
Two weeks ago, the Indian government banned the Jamaat e Islami organization and arrested over 300 of its members, imprisoning major pro-independence figure Yasin Malik without trial.
Different parts of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir are held by India and Pakistan with both sides claiming the region in full.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.
Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently in northern Kashmir since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting for independence from Indian rule, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.