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India sentences pro-freedom Kashmiri leader, Yasin Malik, to life

This is a ground zero report


On Wednesday, 25th May, the Indian Judiciary pronounced life imprisonment for Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik in a “terror” funding case. The charges were framed by a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in New Delhi. Special NIA Judge Praveen Singh delivered the sentence.


Yasin Malik is a Kashmiri separatist leader and former militant who advocates the separation of Kashmir from both India and Pakistan. He is chairman and founder of the now-banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), based in Indian-controlled Kashmir. In 1994, the organisation decided to stop using violence.


Malik was arrested by the NIA  in a “terror-funding case” shortly after the JKLF was banned in 2019. He was also sentenced to jail terms ranging from five years to life for nine other offences and ordered to pay fines ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10 lakh.


Malik, 56, last week was convicted of “terrorist” acts, including illegally raising funds, membership in a terrorist organisation, criminal conspiracy, and sedition. Malik had previously pled guilty to all charges, including those under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the NIA had sought the death penalty for him.

 

 When asked about the death punishment requested by the NIA in his case, Malik reportedly stated that he “had not come to beg [for leniency].” A Delhi-based TV channel also asked the court why he hadn’t been detained over the years if there were significant charges against him of conspiring with Pakistan to act against India. 


According to the channel, the court asked Malik what the appropriate sentencing should be. “If pursuing azadi is a crime, I am willing to accept this crime and its repercussions,” Malik told the court.


Malik’s life sentence was described as “unfortunate” by the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a regional alliance of pro-India parties.


“The life sentence imposed on Yasin Malik is terrible and a setback for peace efforts. We are concerned that this would exacerbate the region’s uncertainty and foster greater isolation and separatist sentiments,” the group warned.


The statement said that the “court has delivered its verdict, but not justice,” adding, “We suggest that Yasin Malik should avail all legal opportunities to contest this verdict.”


Soon after the judgment, mobile internet services were suspended despite no official orders.


As the news spread, pro-freedom slogans broke out in several parts of Kashmir. Scores of protesters, including young boys and women, reportedly threw stones at police personnel in the Maisuma neighbourhood of Srinagar, Malik’s hometown.

 

Photo by Basit Zargar


Ahead of the verdict, the Jammu and Kashmir police had increased security deployment in downtown Srinagar, and Maisuma near Lal Chowk, where all stores were closed and drones were seen circling over Maisuma, keeping a watch on enormous crowds.


Abida Malik, Malik’s sister, appeared on one of their Maisuma home’s windows while awaiting the court’s decision. She was caught on camera reading the Holy Quran. Several women, led by Malik’s relatives, reportedly gathered at their home and chanted pro-freedom, pro-Islam, and pro-Malik chants. Many young people gathered outside Malik’s house as the sloganeering became louder and the demonstration gained momentum. “How many Maliks are you going to kill?” 


While marching towards Lal Chowk, they shouted slogans like, “A Malik will arise from every house” and “Ye tamasha nahi hai, ye matam sahi hai” (This is not a spectacle, this grief is a reality). 


To push them back, security personnel fired teargas shells. The demonstrators retaliated by throwing stones at them. Clashes between protestors and security officers lasted around an hour before being repulsed.


Malik’s family members said they were “shattered but unable to speak a word” once the penalty was announced.

One of Malik’s relatives, who did not want to be identified for fear of government retaliation, stated, “He has rested his case with God.”


Malik was one of the first Kashmiri youth to infiltrate Pakistan for gun training in 1988 and went on to become the leader of the pro-independence JKLF.


The group led by Malik, on the other hand, declared a unilateral ceasefire in 1994 and afterwards claimed to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolence method. After the government banned the JKLF in March of that year, he was arrested by the NIA. Malik married Pakistani national Mushaal Hussien in 2009, and the couple lived in Pakistan with their daughter Razia Sultana.


Kashmir has long been a source of hostility between the nuclear-armed neighbours, India and Pakistan, sparking two of their three wars.


For three decades, rebels in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir have fought the Indian military, hoping to be either part of Pakistan or independent.


Thousands of individuals have perished due to the violence, most of whom were non-combatants. While India claims it often, Pakistan has denied arming and supporting the insurgents.


The Hindu nationalist administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi established direct authority over the Muslim-majority province in 2019, detaining hundreds of people and shutting down the internet for months.


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About the author

Due to high safety concerns, South Asian Today has protected the identity of the journalist(s) reporting on this story. This is an editorial decision and is final as is. 


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