‘He was given clean chit’: Srinagar family questions son’s arrest by NIA

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On Thursday sleuths of National Investigation Agency (NIA) accompanied by a heavy contingent of government forces dotted Zaldagar area in Srinagar to carry out searches in the house of 19-year-old Arsalan Feroz in connection with the “case of radicalising, motivating and recruiting youth of Jammu and Kashmir by Lashkar e Taiba  (LeT) operative”.

“The searches continued for several hours without finding any incriminating material and later we were asked to produce Arsalan in the police station,” said Feroz Ahmad Ahanger, his father. 

On Thursday morning, while referring to official sources, it was reported that the NIA conducted a raid on the house of “chronic stone thrower” Arsalan Feroz in Zaldagar Maharaj Gunj Srinagar. 

The NIA later on Friday claimed it had arrested an operative of The Resistance Front (TRF) during raids, who was involved in radicalising, motivating and recruiting youth of Jammu and Kashmir to effect violent activities in Jammu and Kashmir (J-K). 

In a statement, NIA said that “they yesterday (30.12.2021), conducted a search in Srinagar and arrested one TRF operative, Arsalan Feroz @ Arsalan Soub son of Feroz Ahmad Ahanger resident of Zaldagar, M. R. Gunj, Srinagar in Case No. RC 32/2021/NIA/DLI.”

Arsalan, as per the family members, was detained earlier in October for forty days and was released in November after “cleared from all allegations”. 

Questioning his son’s arrest on “grave charges”, his father, Ahanger, said that in October police called them on the phone and inquired about the sim card that was being used by his son. 

“They told us to produce him in the police station. He was at the tuition centre and after he returned we took him to the police station where he was detained for 40 days until released in November,” Ahanger said.

As per family after Arsalan spent 20-25 days at home after being released on 27 November “on Thursday NIA raided the house and searched everything, but got nothing incriminating”.

“We presented him in the police station again. They made me sign papers which I do not know what they were. They told me that you do not need to worry as he will be released after being questioned,” said ailing Ahanger as he broke down.

Distraught Ahanger family and acquaintances on Saturday held a protest at Srinagar’s Press Enclave, and termed the allegations against Arsalan as “baseless” and “far from reality”. 

“He is a student of class 12th and has no police case registered against him before. How can a teenager be involved in such activities when he has already been released from 40 days long detention in November?” they asked. 

Sehrish Feroz, sister of Arsalan, said they were surprised after police raided the house and then accused him of being a TRF operative, 20-25 days after he was released from custody.

“Imagine he is a 19-year-old. How could have he been a recruiter or TRF operative? A day before they said that he was a chronic stone pelter and then changed their statement and said he is a TRF operative,” Sehrish said.

“When he was not found as a TRF operative when he was under custody for 40 days and released, then how he turned out to be a chronic stone pelter or TRF operative now. How did it happen? How justified is it? Release him or shoot us all dead. He is our only support,” she said.

“There was no FIR registered against him when he was detained for 40 days,” said Sehrish. 

Neighbours remember Arsalan as a pious, harmless and honest youth and said they were surprised to see a heavy contingent of forces raiding their house as if they had to arrest some top commander. 

“I have been married in the locality for the last 15 years and have seen him as a kind boy. Today they arrested him. Tomorrow it will be someone else. They are poor people living a simple life,” Sabreen, a neighbour recalled.

“There has been no police case registered against him. NIA has claimed that he was a mechanic but he is a student. If he had any such allegation [militancy links] then how was he released after 1 and half month of detention,” a group of neighbours asked.

In the past several months NIA detained several dozen people in connection with the civilian killings that rattled the region as over 2 dozen have been killed and the majority of attacks have been claimed by TRF – that police believe to be an offshoot of LeT.

As per the rough estimation in the past six months the anti-terror agency has conducted around 140 raids across Jammu and Kashmir in connection with different cases.

Since July 2021, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed frequent NIA action in various cases largely related to “terror funding, anti-national activities or militancy related cases”.

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