Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Wednesday arrested Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed Para under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a case related to suspended Jammu and Kashmir police officer Davinder Singh, who is under the lens for alleged links to militants.
“Mr Para was taken into NIA custody after the third round of questioning. He has been booked in the same FIR (as Davinder Singh),” an NIA spokesperson said.
Para, a resident of south Kashmir’s Pulwama region is currently the president of the PDP’s youth wing. He is considered a close aide and adviser of party president Mehbooba Mufti. In the erstwhile PDP-BJP alliance government, Para served as secretary of the sports council.
Davinder Singh, a deputy superintendent of police, was arrested earlier this year after he was allegedly caught ferrying top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Naveed Babu from Kashmir to Jammu in a private vehicle.
Para had been summoned by the NIA to its Delhi headquarters this week for questioning in connection with the probe. According to sources in the PDP, Para was questioned twice this week before being booked.
Sources in the agency said the investigators require his custody to “establish links between him and Singh, whose links with militant groups are under investigation”.
The PDP, including Mufti, has criticised the arrest, alleging a link with his candidature in the upcoming Kashmir district development council (DDC) elections.
He had filed his nomination for the election on 20 November.
Para was among the scores of Kashmiri politicians who were detained by the J&K administration after the central government scrapped Article 370 last August.
After his release in February, Para was kept under house detention for several months, said a PDP leader who didn’t wish to be named.
Expressing shock at the arrest, the leader added, “He had filed his nomination from south Kashmir’s Rajpora area. Is this a coincidence?”
In a series of tweets, former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti alleged as much, saying she “can personally vouch for Waheed’s integrity, honesty & character”.
PDP’s @parawahid applauded by then HM @rajnathsingh for strengthening democracy in J&K has been arrested on baseless charges by NIA today. No coincidence that he filed his nomination for DDC on 20th Nov & received NIA summons next day itself. pic.twitter.com/8aYhHBkKNl
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) November 25, 2020
She also shared a video of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh applauding the youth leader.
In an official statement, the PDP said the “Government of India through its ruthless brigade” had arrested Para “ahead of the DDC election, which was purportedly supposed to give an opportunity to a new youth leadership in Jammu and Kashmir”.
“He was arrested immediately after filing the nomination for the polls — a clear attempt by a central agency meddling into the electoral process and influencing it in favor of the cronies of New Delhi,” the statement added. “The PDP leadership outrightly condemns New Delhi’s latest ruthless action against its youth leader who was a beacon of change in the society and always upheld the values and principles of nonviolence and democratic engagement.”
Para joined the PDP right after completing his Master’s in peace and conflict studies from the Islamic University of Science and Technology in south Kashmir. Para has been a vocal critic of the Modi government’s Article 370 move and was detained while protesting against the new land laws introduced in J&K last month that allow non-residents to own property in the union territory.