The Jammu and Kashmir Police have launched an in-depth investigation into threats to more than 20 prominent journalists allegedly by former scribe Mukhtar Baba, currently based in Turkey, at the behest of terror elements.
The threats have led to the resignation of five journalists from Rising Kashmir newspaper as fear mounts in the press.
In its preliminary investigation, security agencies have identified former journalist Mukhtar Baba, who also ran a public relations (PR) agency, as the mastermind behind the publication and circulation of a list of journalists that accused them of being “collaborators” and informers of security forces.
According to the police, an FIR has been registered under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and an investigation has been launched.
An assessment based on inputs received from central intelligence agencies suggests that Baba visits Pakistan frequently through Turkey and is behind propagating a false narrative, grooming youngsters in Kashmir for terrorism under the banner of The Resistance Front (TRF), an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
It said that Sajjad Gul who is originally from Srinagar is one of the main operatives of the TRF and is also involved in issuing threats. The agency has identified six persons who are in touch with Baba and are providing information to him.
Authorities have also identified more than six people including four journalists and two government employees on the basis of evidence. They have recommended a mission-based approach to expansively identify these elements, and collect evidence by way of mapping their properties, their telecommunication usage, and their travel within the country and abroad to provide an effective response to the challenge.
Baba, originally a resident of Srinagar, shifted to Nowgam in Anantnag before escaping to Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. He has built a network of informers within journalists and prepared his hit list based on their inputs.
“He remained affiliated with terror outfit Hizbullah in the 1990s and was shunted out from the outfit after he was found involved in selling 40 AK series rifles belonging to another terrorist organisation,” a dossier about Baba read.
“Thereafter, he was associated with Masrat Alam-led Muslim League and is notorious for his coercive means to compel journalists and media outlets in the Valley to toe Pakistani and terrorist lines in reporting and opinions,” it read further.
Sources stated that he has always been close to Pakistani agencies while actively working with several secessionist outfits in Srinagar. Baba has also been active on social media, making all-out efforts to push the narrative at the behest of hostile foreign agencies.
The 55-year-old man had worked as a journalist with four Kashmir-based organisations earlier and is very familiar with the media environment in Kashmir. He was lodged in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal Jail for quite some time in 1990.
As per reports, Baba was placed in Turkey sometime in 2018 by Jodha Carin Fischer, an American national of German origin who operated in Jammu and Kashmir as a deep penetration ISI agent for almost eight years before her cover was blown and she was forcibly deported out.
On November 12, the Srinagar Police said that a case was registered against handlers, active terrorists and Over Ground Workers (OGW) of terror outfit LeT and its offshoot TRF for online publication and dissemination of a direct threat letter to journalists and reporters based in Kashmir. The FIR was filed under sections 13 of the UAPA, and sections 505, 153B, 124A and 506 of the IPC at Shergari police station.
Meanwhile, the police have urged media houses not to discuss the names of the journalists during their debate regarding the online anonymous threats to them.
“It has been noticed by our social media cell that many news portals are irresponsibly discussing names of media persons in their debates regarding the online anonymous threat to them,” Srinagar police said in a statement.
“Media houses are requested not to fall for sensationalism in discussing names of victims in reporting and also to behave responsibly and not endanger the safety and security of their fellow journalists,” the police added.