Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has arrested the mother of a slain militant under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in connection with an FIR registered back in 2018.
Fifty-five-year-old Naseema Banoo, arrested on 20 June from Kulgam district, is the mother of Hizbul Mujahideen’s militant commander Tawseef Sheikh, who was killed in an encounter in 2008. She is also the sister of Abbas Sheikh, who is believed to be in his late 40s and is one of the oldest militants active in Kashmir.
The police, in a statement, said Banoo was involved in serious crimes that included recruiting militants. They said she had posed for a photograph with her son Tawseef, when he was an active militant, holding a gun.
According to sources, police officers are also searching for Banoo’s younger daughter who has been absconding since 20 June.
“The arrest was done in compliance with provisions of law and she has been under legally sanctioned custody in women police station Anantnag ever since her arrest,” the police’s statement said Sunday.
“The arrested person is involved in a serious criminal case. The photo of the arrested woman in which she is toting an automatic weapon and posing next to her son who was an active militant at the time speaks it all. The photo is just the beginning of her criminal involvement,” the statement added.
The police also detailed her “serious offences”, which included her role “in recruiting atleast 2 youth into militants ranks, arranging arms ammunition, communication and logistics for Militants and terror organisations”.
Banoo’s family shocked over arrest
Banoo’s family expressed shock at the arrest, stating that when the FIR was filed against her in 2018, she had been summoned and interrogated but was eventually let off by the police.
Aamir Bashir, who is Sheikh’s cousin, said he was clueless as to why the police would take such an action two years after the FIR was filed.
“On 20 June, the security forces came at 4 am and checked the home and even threw things around. At 10 o’clock the mother and daughter were called to the police station. While Naseema went, the daughter was too afraid and ran away. We don’t know where she is. Tawseef’s younger brother has also been in jail since 2018 on flimsy grounds. We have been harassed for years now,” said Basheer.
He also talked about how the photograph was misleading and Banoo had told the authorities about the truth behind it.
“She told authorities that she had no idea Tawseef would come to meet her or click pictures with her. Her son had come to meet her years after joining militancy. The story ended with clicking that picture and now we are being told they (Naseema and her daughter) are active in militancy. This is not true at all,” Bashir added.
Police threatens Twitter users with action
As soon as news about Banoo’s arrest broke, several people took to Twitter to question the police’s motive behind the arrest. The J&K Police was also accused of targeting and punishing family members for choices and decisions made by their wards.
In response, the police issued a threat stating that they had taken cognisance of the social media posts and anyone trying to instigate others will be prosecuted.
“Just because she happens to be a woman or the mother of a killed terrorist does not make her immune to arrest. It is the prime duty of the police to arrest criminals to safeguard the people it serves and that is what it has done,” the police said.
It added, “Many social media posts have been generated and shared which have twisted the facts of the matter in order to cause disturbance of peace and tranquility. Police has taken cognisance of the matter and anyone trying to instigate others through whatsoever means will be prosecuted.”
Inspector General of the Kashmir Division Vijay Kumar also issued a statement through the J&K Police’s Twitter handle stating that the police do not “target family of terrorists without evidence”.
JKP donot target family of #terrorists without evidence. #Sister of active terrorist Abbas Sheikh & #mother of killed terrorist Tausif, Naseema Banoo was arrested on 20 June 2020 in FIR 30/2018. Besides, recent involvement in #recruiting youth into #terrorist ranks: IGP Kashmir
— Kashmir Zone Police (@KashmirPolice) June 28, 2020
The police, however, did not elaborate on the timing of the arrest.
Despite repeated calls, IG Kumar was not available for a comment. SSP Kulgam Gurinderpal Singh’s mobile also remained unavailable till the publishing of this report.
Tawseef Sheikh, who had joined militant group Hizbul Mujahideen in 2015, was killed in an encounter along with Mohammed Rafi Bhat on 6 May 2018.
Bhat was an assistant professor at the Department of Sociology in Kashmir University and was killed 40 hours after allegedly joining militancy. Other militants killed in the encounter included HM commander Saddam Paddar, Bilal Ahmad Mohand and Adil Ahmad Malik.