Meet The Al-Jazeeras Of India, In Kashmir
16 August 2005
The Times of India
Srinagar: Ever wondered about the credentials of 'news agencies' in Kashmir through which militant outfits make claims or counter-claims about an attack? These - there are five of them in the state - are to militant outfits what the Al-Jazeera news channel is to the Al-Qaida. Running an agency that is relied upon by groups working from across the border to disseminate information about their activities is no easy task. To do so, one must have 'militant' credentials. It is perhaps easier to be acknowledged as a news source by the Indian intelligence agencies, police, para-military forces and the army. Issuing one-page 'news bulletin' in Urdu over a month's time is considered enough. In a zone where information on militant outfits is difficult to come by, it is no surprise that these agencies are no eyesore for security agencies. But organisations like Current News Agency (CNS), Kashmir News Service (KNS), Kashmir Press Service (KPS), United News Service (UNS) and News and Feature Alliance (NAFA) have no legal identity. They are neither registered with the office of registrar, newspapers of India, nor do they possess the authorisation necessary from the district magistrate for the purpose. Some of the agency owners have spent days in jails. In fact, one of them spent over two years in Tihar jail on account of 'hawala deals'. According to a senior intelligence officer, a few of them even work in government... ... departments. Needless to say, these agencies are on the mailing list of the state information department as they are on that of the militant training camps in Kotli, Mirpur, Oggi, Jungal-Mangal, Haripur and Gadhi-Dupatta in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. The selfstyled agency owners enjoy the privileges of protocol, with government houses allotted to them in posh areas like Pratap Park Road and Chanpora, besides suburban localities. The moment there is a militant attack on security forces or vital installations, the agencies become the focus of attention, with the police, mediapersons and intelligence agencies all looking for them for information on the group behind the attack. Sometimes, the propaganda job backfires, and 'news agency' owners get targeted by militant outfits. This usually happens when they disobey their diktats or cross the parameters prescribed by them. For example, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants are widely believed to have killed NAFA proprietor Parvaz Mohammad Sultan in Srinagar on January 31, 2003. NAFA had been reporting on the internal feud in the HM for two weeks prior to Sultan's killing. NAFA had reported that the Valley-based faction led by Abdul Majid Dar had 'overthrown' the Salahuddin faction, incurring the outfit's wrath.