The Game of Political Allegiance
Does Hilal Rather belong to People’s Conference or National
Hilal is occasionally seen sharing the stage with Lone. But he is
also involved with NC workers in his father’s Charar-e-Shareif
constituency as Abdul Rahim Rather is old and is also suffering some
health issues and is unable to meet his party members.
Hilal Rather, son of veteran National Conference (NC) leader Abdul
Rahim Rather, has created a history of sorts in Kashmir politics. Hilal,
who joined Sajad Gani Lone’s Peoples Conference in October 2021, is
also looking after his father’s party in his home constituency in Central
Kashmir’s Budgam District. This is unprecedented.
Hilal is occasionally seen sharing the stage with Lone. But he is also
involved with NC workers in his father’s Charar-e-Shareif constituency
as Abdul Rahim Rather is old and is also suffering some health issues
and is unable to meet his party members. Hilal is readily available to
NC workers at his Friends Enclave residence close to the international
airport in Srinagar.
Hilal meets NC workers on a daily basis. He has been urging them to
strengthen the party and see to it his father makes a comeback as and
when elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir. He also seeks feedback
for the whole Budgam District.
Hilal joined the Peoples Conference soon after court granted him bail in July last year in a case related to diversion of loan money taken from
the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. He was arrested by the Anti-Corruption
Bureau (ACB) on January 17, 2021, for his alleged involvement in
misappropriation of crores of rupees from the term loans sanctioned by
J&K Bank for his ambitious township project known as Paradise
Avenue at Narwal Bala, Jammu, in 2012.
The case was later taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI). Hilal was granted bail in July 2021 on surety bond of Rs 5 lakh
with the direction to surrender his passport and not to leave Jammu and
The CBI took over the probe against Hilal in March and a special court
subsequently refused to grant him interim bail, rejecting his petition that
he feared contracting COVID-19 and noting that he was more at risk
outside the prison.
The case was being investigated by the anti-corruption branch of Jammu
and Kashmir Police but was handed over to the CBI because of
international ramifications of the conspiracy of loan funds diversion.
The possibility of stashing of funds and diversion of funds to
subversive elements cannot be ruled out, the ACB had stated as one of
the reasons for handing over the probe to the central agency.
Hilal took the loan from the J&K Bank in 2012, when his father was
finance minister in the Omar Abdullah led NC-Congress government. It
is alleged that the loan was sanctioned without submitting any collateral
and the money was diverted from the bank account. The account turned
into a non-performing asset in 2017, the officials had said.
The CBI has alleged that Hilal entered into a criminal conspiracy with
the then officials of the Bank to get loans of about Rs 178 crore in
violation of the rules and guidelines.
The loans that were sanctioned for the construction of flats were
allegedly diverted and misappropriated by the accused using the bank
accounts of his employees. It was further alleged that the accused submitted forged certificates and bills to the bank, a CBI spokesperson said earlier.
On August 6, 2021, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched multiple
raids at 16 locations in Kashmir, Jammu, Delhi and Ludhiana in
connection with the money-laundering case linked to the bank fraud
probe. The ED filed a case against Hilal and others under the Prevention
of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), taking cognizance of a CBI FIR and
Income Tax Department probe against him in the alleged bank fraud
Hilal joined Peoples Conference apparently for “asylum” to evade
government agencies’ action against him for defrauding the Jammu and
Kashmir Bank purportedly by misusing his father’s position. Lone is
considered close to the BJP.
Meanwhile, Hilal is busy strengthening People’s Conference’s rival NC,
at least in the Charar-e-Sharief constituency. His father lost the last
election in 2019 to People’s Democratic Party leader Ghulam Nabi
Hanjoora. Hilal appears determined to see his father make a comeback.
Recently this correspondent visited Hilal’s Friends Enclave residence to
meet the elder Rather. And this correspondent saw Hilal meeting NC
workers from Charar-e-Sharief. Hilal was seen urging NC workers to
work hard to regain the constituency.
On December 11, Hilal was seated next to Lone at a party function at the
People’s Conference office in Srinagar. But Hilal has not organized any
function under the banner of the party since joining People’s Conference
in October 2021 nor has he addressed any public gathering. So, is Hilal
using Lone as a shield to evade any action by government agencies?