NEW DELHI — Court has released a Kashmiri photojournalist, terming the charges against him by National Investigation Agency (NIA) as ‘mere assumptions’.
Muhammad Manan Dar, a resident of Batamaloo Srinagar, was released from the Tihar Jail after spending over a year in jail. Dar was arrested by NIA along with 12 others in October 2022, days after the killing of a few non-locals.
NIA had said that the conspiracy to “execute spree of target killings in the valley in October 2021” was hatched by Pakistan-based Syed Salahuddin, the head of United Jihad Council, an umbrella organization of militant outfits operating in Kashmir, Bashir Ahmed Pir and Imtiyaz Kundoo, residents of Kashmir who are believed to be living in Pakistan, and unidentified commanders of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Al-Badr and other unidentified terror outfits.
The agency filed a case (RC No.29/2021/NIA/DLI) under sections 120B, 121A, 122, and 123 of IPC and sections 18, 18A, 18B, 30, 30, and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in 2021, and a chargesheet was filed in the NIA court last year.
Notably, militants shot dead at least nine civilians, mostly non-locals, in October 2021. These include a civilian Abdul Rehman Guroo from Galwanteng Chatabal who was killed by suspected militants in Karan Nagar area of Srinagar; another civilian, who was a PDD employee, identified as Shafi Dar was shot dead at SD Colony Batamaloo.
Militants also shot dead three civilians — Bindro Medicate owner Makhan Lal near Iabal Park Srinagar, Virendra Paswan from Bhagalpur Bihar at Lal Bazar, and Sumo president Muhammad Shafi alias Sonu in Shahgund Hajin area of Bandipora.
Militants shot dead two teachers Sapendar Kour and Deepak Chand in Idgah Srinagar. A non-local vendor Arvind Kumar of Bihar was shot dead by militants in Eidgah area of Srinagar. Another non-local carpenter Sageer Ahmed from Saharanpur UP shot dead by militants in Litter Pulwama.
Family sources confirmed the release of Dar, saying the jail authorities handed him over to the family in presence of his lawyer. The court had observed the charges against Dar are insufficient and ‘mere assumptions’.
In its chargesheet, the agency, citing witnesses and data recovered from Manan’s phone, claimed that the 23-year-old, who was selected to join the 2022 cohort of Integrated Journalism and Mass Communication course at Cluster University, Srinagar before his arrest, was working “under the cover of a photojournalist” to “share details” about security forces and their deployment in Kashmir with terrorist outfits.