December 2001 News

Hawala, fake currency fuelling militancy in J&K

10 December 2001
The Tribune

Jammu: The seizure of Rs 40 lakh from Rashid Lone, a Hizbul Mujahideen in Srinagar, and the arrest of over 12 businessmen involved in the hawala racket is only a tip of the iceberg. “The flow of funds has sustained militancy in Kashmir and insurgency has saved the economy from collapse after tourism, the backbone of the valley’s economy, was hit in the past 12 years.” Several police officials, engaged in anti-militancy operations, state this about the flow of funds from various sources to Jammu and Kashmir. Preliminary reports said Rashid Lone was carrying Rs 40 lakh for distribution among the activists of the Hizbul Mujahideen. A senior police officer said the flow of funds from Pakistan, Gulf countries and other separatist organisations indulging in anti-India campaign in different parts of the world, had been so much that the hawala money and fake Indian currency notes had built a “parallel economy” in the Kashmir valley and some parts of the Jammu region. Police sources say that fake Indian currency in the notes, smuggled into the state in past three years, to the extent of several crores of rupees have already entered the state and the banks and the security agencies have so far seized fake currency notes to the extent of over Rs two lakh. According to the police, hawala operators are functioning from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai and have established channels within Jammu and Kashmir through which funds are diverted to the militants, separatists and even to some mainstream politicians, bureaucrats and those who lend indirect support to the militants. A number of cars in the Kashmir valley is the highest as per the population ratio, courtesy funds from foreign countries. A snap survey has revealed that every third person owns a car in the Kashmir valley and one finds cars of different models and make moving on the valley roads. At least 2000 to 3000 cars stolen from various areas of Jammu, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana have found buyers in the Kashmir valley. The police recovered 24 cars in Kathua and Srinagar in recent months. The Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, has so many times accused them of “gulping” money received from Pakistan for enlarging business ventures. He charged them with having built big estates and amassed huge wealth which had come from various foreign channels. On several occasions separatists have accused some of them of having swindled money they had received from foreign channels meant for distribution among those affected by militancy. The flow of foreign funds has pushed up the prices of land in the Kashmir valley greatly while in rest of the country, including Delhi, these showed downward trend during the past four years. The growth of posh shopping centres, not only in the summer capital, but in other major towns when the old and ancient shopping complexes and residential houses were destroyed in militancy related violence. Even amid the roar of the guns and the grenades and bloodshed more than 20,000 new houses, 50 per cent of them being palatial houses, were constructed in various parts of the Kashmir valley in the past 10 years. No doubt fruit, saffron, handicrafts export does yield several hundred crores annually but this amount is not considered sufficient to allow a new rich class to grow when the valley is dependent on import of foodgrains, mutton, eggs, other eatables, cloth and garments. Another police officer said militancy had created a new vested interest. Those who have earned fortunes from the ongoing turmoil would love to see no end to it. The police officer said, “Militancy is a highly lucrative trade for several thousand families in the state”. He had also cited the example of scores of doctors, engineers, and technicians, besides some business houses, who, while working in some Gulf countries and engaged in export to carpets and other handcrafts, divert funds through hawala operators for financing militants and separatist leaders. Militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir have lately been hit by a shortage of arms and funds prompting them to make distress calls to their mentors across the border in Pakistan, Defence sources said here today. Security agencies had intercepted conversation between militant cadres based in the state and their leaders in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) during the last fortnight which also indicated that the groups were under pressure due to the killing of terrorists by security forces in the state and on the border, sources told PTI. “Colleagues require stores and faloose (funds)”, was one of the distress messages sent by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) ultras in the state to the outfit’s leaders in PoK on December 5. A LeT leader in PoK was heard responding, “everyone is demanding that. But there is shortage of funds. We cannot do anything”. A similar conversation intercepted on December 4 between Hizbul Mujahideen operatives in Kashmir and their leaders in Pakistan also indicated the “demoralisation” within the cadres on account of shortage of arms and funds, they said. The defence sources narrate another conversation between Hizb operatives in the Jammu and Kashmir and those across the border. “How is the situation in your area? Why are colleagues being lazy in carrying out actions”, asked a Hizb leader in Pakistan. The reply from a Hizb commander in the state was, “you know the situation here. Colleagues have not received stores (arms) because of which actions cannot be carried out”. “We are facing a shortage of faloos (funds). Most of the colleagues are still to be given their share, if we behave like this with our Pathan colleagues (Afghans) they will not come back. They are going home for Ramzan”, said a message from a Harkatul Mujahideen operative in Kashmir to leaders based in Pakistan on December 1. The recent reshuffle of Hizb commanders in Jammu and Kashmir has triggered defections from the outfit. A conversation indicated that cadres had started joining other outfits after the change in leadership. “I have come to know that Ukab has joined Al Fatah group”, said the voice of one Shahbaz from across the border. To this, the voice of one Ibrahim in Kashmir said, “yes, I too have joined it along with my colleagues. No one is happy with the new leadership”.

 

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