Srinagar: In first of its kind case, police has arrested a non-Kashmir Hindu militant from Uttar Pradesh - Muzaffarnagar resident Sandeep Kumar Sharma - who has been found to be working for Pakistan based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
With Sharma’s arrest, thousands of non-Kashmiris working in Kashmir have now come under police scanner.
“There are lakhs of people who come to work in Kashmir from states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as daily wage labourers, masons etc. With Sharma’s arrest now we’re going to begin identification of each outside person in the state,” said a senior police officer.
At this point it isn’t clear how Sharma, who has been found involved in a number of cases - killing of police officers, attacks on army convoys, weapon snatchings, bank robberies and arranging funds for LeT’s South Kashmir division - came to join militancy. But police officers say they’re making significant advancements in the case.
Talking to the press in Srinagar on Monday, police said that they had caught Sharma, only by a matter of chance, as they conducting search operations near the house where LeT commander Bashir Lashkari was killed in an encounter.
“He was present in a house at Brinty Dialgam where the encounter of LeT commander Bashir Lashkari took place. We recovered him from the target houses along with 17 civilian who were trapped there. But police grew suspicious to find a non-local there. We questioned him and he revealed that he was part of the bank robbery gang," said Kashmir's Inspector General of Police Muneer Khan.
He added that police are questioning him and conducting inquiries separately to identify how many other non-Kashmiris are working in terror groups as militants or their Over Ground Workers (OGW).
Police claim Sharma to be the brain behind funding of Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba in the valley. He is also accused of being part of group that recently attacked an army convoy and was also found involved in weapon snatching incidents.
Sharma’s arrest has led police to crack many militancy related incidents in south Kashmir, Khan told reporters.
Police said complicity of Sandeep Sharma has been found involved in an attack on Army convoy at Lower Munda Qazigund on June 3, and in some weapon snatching and bank and ATM robbery cases across south Kashmir.
Police said Sharma was also a part of many criminal conspiracies since January 2017.
“Sharma said that some of his associates from the valley came from Patiala to Kashmir to carry out criminal activities. Consequently, the group stayed at Wanpoh near Anantnag and got involved in different kinds of robberies including ATM looting in South Kashmir. In these crimes, they worked in conjunction with LeT in South Kashmir,” said Khan.
Police said he was earlier arrested along with some other associates in a robbery case in March 2017 but got bailed out.
He then joined Bashir Lashkeri of LET and worked as his key aid. Sharma got in touch with his old acquaintances and became part of the Over Ground worker for LeT. During the encounter, he was rescued along with other members of the family by the Police.
Police said Sandeep Kumar Sharma gave details about how his accomplices helped provide a safe refuge to militants, how they ferried terrorists from one place to other for terror strikes and in what capacity did they participate in terror attacks.
Police is now looking to broaden the base the investigations. “Investigation so far conducted has revealed that LeT in league with criminal network is raising money by looting banks and ATMs in South Kashmir Range,” said Khan.