Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday came in support of journalist Irfan Mehraj, who was arrested by National Investigation Agency (NIA) under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in an alleged terror funding case. She said that while journalists are arrested, conmen are given a free run.
Mehraj was arrested in Srinagar and then was taken to New Delhi.
Mufti lambasted administration over the arrest of Mehraj and termed it a ploy to hamper journalists from discharging their professional duties.
Mufti also took a dig at the J&K administration by saying that while conman like Kiran Bhai Patel from Gujarat are given free run in Jammu and Kashmir, journalists like Mehraj are put behind bars.
The imposter Patel was arrested by authorities recently from a five-star hotel in Srinagar after he was found impersonating as an Additional Director for Strategy and Campaigns in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). He had managed to get Z-plus security cover. He also visited sensitive places in Kashmir, including Line of Control (LoC) and held a series of meetings with senior officials in the Union Territory.
“While conmen are given a free run in Kashmir, journalists like Irfan Mehraj are arrested for doing their duty by speaking the truth. Draconian laws like UAPA are abused constantly to ensure that the process itself becomes the punishment,” Mehbooba said.
Mehraj at present is an Editor with TwoCircles.net. He is also founding editor of the online media platform: Wande Magazine. Besides, he has also worked with international media organisations including Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, and TRT. Mehraj has also worked with local publications. He was also editor with local daily Rising Kashmir and Brighter Kashmir. His work has also appeared in Himal Magazine and The Caravan. He was also working as reseracher at Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS).
Among Mehraj’s recent noteworthy works include story on drug addiction in Kashmir. The story was a hit and was even shared by former Chief Minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah on 16 December 2022. He also published a report on Kashmiri Pandits recently.
This is not the first tryst of Mehraj with NIA. In fact, in the last two years, Mehraj has been questioned multiple times by the agency. His electronic gadgets were confiscated in 2020. NIA has described Mehraj as close associate of “Khurram Parvez and was working with his organization, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS)”.
The agency also said, “JKCCS was funding terror activities in the valley and had also been in propagation of secessionist agenda in the Valley under the garb of protection of human rights.”
It also said, “Involvement of some Valley based NGOs, Trusts and Societies in funding of terror related activities is being probed in this case. Some NGOs, both registered as well as un-registered, have come to notice collecting funds domestically and abroad under the cover of doing charity and various welfare activities, including Public Health, Education etc. But some of these organisations have developed links with proscribed terrorist organizations, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) etc.”