A group of friends from Anantnag in South Kashmir. Some of them – supposedly harmless stone pelters. Others – into serious anti-state activities. And some – seriously into studies and regular careers, but came under the radar for their association with their friends engaged in illegal activities. They could have escaped police action if they had disassociated themselves from their friends involved in anti-state activities.
Umar Bhat, Tanveer Bhat, Javid Mir, Zeeshan Malik, Rameez Lone, Aqib Sofi. The friends circle, all in their 20s. Some of these young men began with what is labeled as innocent stone pelting. They got so deeply entrenched in lawlessness that they now have links with ISIS, and are involved in terror funding. They got indoctrinated by radical thought in Ijtimas. Some of them share the Jamaat-e-Islami ideology. The meeting point for the violent members of this group was Umar Bhat’s shop. They used it as their office.
It was from here that some of these young men created a network to propagate ISIS-related material. They got engaged in the promotion of ISIS magazine Voice of Hind (VOH), T-shirts with the ISIS logo, hard discs etc. Voice of Hind, a monthly, is published to whip up passions among the youth in India, especially Kashmir. ISIS provokes the youth to take up arms against the state, get involved in heinous acts and ruin lives. Their magazine stimulates alienation and communal hatred. The group got involved in the running of Voice of Hind.
This calls for deep introspection by the Kashmir society, and wide-ranging debate. Why are our youth joining such deadly organizations? Why do their parents allow them to ruin their futures? Why don’t they stop them the moment they pickup stones, knowing that there is nothing harmless about lawlessness? Kashmir needs well-calibrated responses to our crises.
Arrested by NIA For Anti-State Activities
These six friends had been under the surveillance of National Investigation Agency (NIA) for the past three months, and were arrested a few days ago. NIA, in collaboration with Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and J&K Central Reserve Police Force (JK CRPF), conducted raids in Anantnag district in South Kashmir. The raids were conducted in three villages on July 11 and 12, and eight people were arrested. The case registered by NIA focused on the conspiracy of the embargoed terrorist organization ISIS to radicalize and recruit Kashmiri youth and form modules.
NIA has recovered a large number of incriminating documents and digital devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptop, hard discs along with T-Shirts bearing the ISIS logo. Ovais Bhat, Javid Ahmad Mir, Zeeshan Malik and Aqib Sofi were later released by NIA since there wasn’t incriminating material against them.
Umar Bhat – Strong ISIS Links
Umar Bhat, a resident of Achabal village of Anantnag, graduated in arts from an Anantnag college this year. His father Nisar Ahmad Bhat, who was working in the Finance Department, retired in March 2021. Bhat had been running his readymade garments shop for the last two years.
According to shopkeepers of the complex, Umar is an anti-social man. He did not interact or mix with the shopkeepers. He and his brother Ovais were arrested from their house during the raid, and taken for questioning. Ovais was released in the evening after the NIA sleuths found that he is not associated with Umar. NIA recovered incriminating documents, magazines and T-shirts with the ISIS logo from Bhat’s shop and home. According to sources, Umar Bhat was the editor-in-chief of Voice Of Hind. People operating from Bangladesh and Maldives sent to him reports and articles aimed at radicalizing the youth and propagating ISIS ideology.
Bhat was using a double VPN and was tracked to different locations. After investigation, agencies cracked the IP address to Achabal in South Kashmir. Umar had been booked under PSA last year. The police had raided his shop and house for his close links with militants. Umar later managed to secure bail on the basis of his connections, say sources. Umar used to be on the forefront during the stone-pelting incidents and also the clashes with the security forces, but had always escaped punitive action.
Family Denies Umar’s Involvement
KZINE visited Umar Bhat’s family after his arrest by NIA. Umar’s family denied having any information about why he was arrested. They claimed that he is a student and had not been involved in any anti-national activity. When asked about how many T-shirts with the ISIS prints were recovered from Umer, the family said they had no knowledge about this. They added that their phones had been seized by NIA and were later returned. Umar’s family refused to share information regarding this social media handles. They said that Umar had got engaged some days ago, and is not involved in stone-pelting. Some neighbors of the family said they were confused about what the Bhat family stands for. “Umar’s father Nisar Ahmad Bhat was working in a government department, taking salary and now pension from the government. Why is their son propagating hate against India,” a neighbor questioned.
Rameez Lone – Son Of An Ikhwani
Rameez Ahmad Lone is the son of Javid Ahmad Lone, a former Ikhwani. Rameez discontinued studies after Class 12. He was arrested on July 12 from his residence. He had joined his father’s bandsaw business about six months ago. He was also the Imam of a Masjid. Rameez has several cases registered against him for stone-pelting. He is in NIA custody. Sources say that he is involved with Umar Bhat in the ISIS module case.
Tanveer Ahmad Bhat – Habitual Stone Pelter
Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, son of Gull Mohammad Bhat, is a resident of Gorimohalla Achabal. He runs a general store adjacent to his house. Tanveer is a known stone pelter and a regular at protest agitations. He used to be on the front foot for pelting stones on security forces, and several cases were registered against him. Tanveer has been arrested. His elder brother Tahir Ahmad who is a shopkeeper told KZINE, “NIA does not take anyone without any fault. There must be something wrong in what our brother was engaged in. That is why they took him.” Tanveer’s brothers said that they are not aware of his social media handles.
Aqib Sofi alias Nadim Sofi is the son of late Ghulam Nabi Sofi, resident of Sofi Mohalla Achabal. His family members have been militants and also Ikhwanis. Aqib is the nephew of former militant Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, who was involved in the murder of an Ikhwani. Thereafter, driven by fear, Ghulam Mohammad Sofi moved from Anantnag to Srinagar in the 1990s. To take revenge, another Ikhwani killed the brother of Ghulam Nabi Sofi – father of Aqib Sofi. Another uncle of Aqib, Ghulam Yousuf Sofi, used to work for Ikhwanis. He was murdered by Hizbul Mujahideen. Aqib’s mother got a job through Mufti Sayeed’s rehabilitation scheme in 2002. Aqib has done B. Tech from Dehradun. He was not involved in any case before. He was arrested on July 12, and was released after investigation.
Zeeshan Malik from Pushroo has a chemist shop. He is also pursuing B.Sc Nursing from Islamabad, Anantnag. His father Mohammad Aameen Malik works in the DC office at Anantanag. Zeeshan is a known stone pelter from his village, and was involved in many agitations. He used to travel almost eight kilometers from his house to pelt stones on security forces.
Zeeshan is a hardcore supporter of Hartals in the Valley. He has served jail terms too. He was arrested by the NIA on July 11 at around 6 am from his residence. Zeeshan was released the same evening after investigation. His family claimed that he used to go to Achabal to learn the Quran from someone, and got trapped in the case. His family claimed that he had never been involved in stone pelting. They did not accept that he had been arrested before.
Javid Ahmad Mir – Son of a Police Official
Javid Ahmad Mir from Sunsooma, Anantnag, is 28 years old. He did MBA from Doon University, Dehradun. Mir came back from Dehradun this year and started his own business. His father Mohammad Shaban works with J&K Police. Mir and main accused Umar Bhat have been friends for long. They did schooling together from Hanfia School, Achabal. Mir has not been arrested or involved in any case before. His brother said that Javid may have been taken by the NIA because of his links with Umar Bhat. Mir’s father did not share information regarding his son’s social media handles.
Ovais is 21 years old and has done B.Sc. He took up a job this year as a lab technician. NIA concluded that Ovais has no incriminating links. He was freed after investigation.