Imprisoned for Life

Days after pleading guilty, a designated NIA court gave double life imprisonment to the key character in the erstwhile separatist triumvirate and a penalty of Rs 10.60 lakh, reports Tahir Bhat

National Investigation Agency (NIA) on February 26, 2019, Tuesday raided the Maisuma residence of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik.

Kashmiri separatist, Yasin Malik was awarded life imprisonment by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in the 2017 terror funding case. The conviction and the sentencing came days after Malik pleaded guilty on all accounts on May 10. The prosecution had sought the death penalty but Additional Sessions Judge Parveen Singh ruled for a lifer and a penalty of Rs 10 lakh.

The Case

The case registered by NIA in May 2017 accused separatists of receiving funds from Pakistan, including from Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin, to foment trouble in Kashmir through stone-pelting, burning down of schools, and organising strikes and protests. A number of separatists were arrested. Malik was arrested on April 10, 2019.

A number of separatists are said to be involved in the case. NIA said Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali was one of the main hawala conduits who generated and received funds from Pakistan, the ISI, and the UAE using his shell companies. Suffering from a terminal disease, Watali is on bail and is being treated in Delhi.

While probing the case, the federal investigator has protected some of the 25 vital witnesses and named them Jack, John and Alpha so that they are not identified and killed. NIA said it seized around 600 electronic devices during its raids at 70 places during the probe and trial spanning around five years.

Malik was a leading JKLF militant when he was arrested on August 6, 1990, from Watali’s house. In May 1994, after being released on bail, Malik declared Modus Vivendi, a unilateral indefinite ceasefire, and “renounced violence”. In February 2009, Malik married Mushaal Hussain Mullick, in Islamabad. They have a daughter.

Verdict

Delivering a 20-page sentencing order in the open court, the judge said that Malik’s crimes “intended to strike at the heart of the idea of India” and were “committed with the assistance of foreign powers and designated terrorists”. Malik was sentenced to life in jail for two offences under Section 121 (waging war against the Government of India) of IPC and Section 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act) of the UAPA. He was given a 10-year jail term each under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India) of IPC and Sections 15 (terrorism), 18 (conspiracy for terrorism) and 20 (being member of terror organisation) of UAPA. It also handed a five-year jail term each under Sections 13 (unlawful act), 38 (offence related to membership of terrorism) and 39 (support given to terrorism) of the UAPA. All the sentences will run concurrently. Besides, he was fined to the tune of Rs 10,65,000.

“After dropping weapons, I have followed the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Since then, I have been following non-violent politics in Kashmir,” Malik is reported to have told the court.  “If I have been involved in any terrorist activity or violence in 28 years, if Indian Intelligence proves this, then I will also retire from politics. I will accept the hanging. With seven Prime Ministers, I have worked.”

Yasin Malik being brought to the court on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in New Delhi where he was sentenced to life.

The court said Malik “cannot invoke the Mahatma and claim to be his follower because in Gandhi’s principles, there was no place for violence, howsoever high the objective may be. It only took one small incident of violence at Chauri Chaura for the Mahatma to call off the entire non-cooperation movement, but the convict, despite large scale violence engulfing the Valley, neither condemned the violence nor withdrew his calendar of protest which has led to the said violence.”

When the prosecution demanded a death, Malik is reported to have said: “I will not beg for anything. The case is before this court and I left on the court to decide it.”

Malik said there was no evidence that he had provided any logistical support to any terrorist organisation in the last 28 years. Pointing out that he had met seven former Prime Ministers, from the time of V P Singh till A B Vajpayee, who engaged with him, he said the government cannot be considered a fool for providing a political platform to a person who will engage in terrorist activities.

“Rather than betraying the good intentions of the government, he took a different path to orchestrate violence in the guise of political struggle,” the court observed.

After the order was pronounced, Malik hugged amicus curie, Akhand Pratap Singh and thanked him for his assistance. Malik was arguing his case personally till the court on April 18, appointed advocate Singh as an amicus to explain the legal repercussions of pleading guilty.

Reactions

Most of Srinagar observed a spontaneous strike on May 25, and parts of the city remained closed for two more days. Police arrested 10 persons for protests and booked them under UAPA.

People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) termed the lifer to Malik as “unfortunate”, saying the court has ‘delivered verdict, but not justice’. “Life imprisonment given to Yaseen Malik is unfortunate and a setback to the efforts for peace. We are afraid that this will further compound the uncertainties in the region and will only fuel more alienation and separatist feelings,” the PAGD statement said. “The triumphalism being displayed by the BJP and the corporate media is bound to prove counterproductive.”

“We are pained by the sentence announced for Yasin Malik. Irrespective of his ideology we believe that dialogue and peace should be the objectives of the future. We now hope that magnanimity, reconciliation and forgiveness will define the policy of the government of India in the future,” Sajad Lone led Peoples Conference said in a statement. “Irrespective of the pain that has been inflicted, irrespective of the dead bodies, irrespective of the blood-letting, every conflict has to have closure and the closure is through forgiveness, through reconciliation. And may we in our humble capacity ask the government of India that if they are really keen to set right the wrongs of the past isn’t it incumbent upon them to check the origins of this violence – what makes a young man like Yasin Malik and thousands like him pick up guns in 1987. The perpetrators of 1987 are there and ironically they have issued a statement condemning this sentence.”

Yasin Malik arrested ahead of the Jamia Masjid programme, on January 3, 2018, from his Abi-Guzar office in Srinagar

What Next

Convicted and sentenced, Malik will now spend his imprisonment in the high-security Jail No 7 at Tihar, where he will be restricted to a cell. Legal experts say he can go to a superior court against the sentence but not against his conviction as he has already pleaded guilty.

There is another case against Malik involving the killing of four IAF personnel in 1990. He is also involved in the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of then Home Minister, Mufti Sayeed, in 1989.

With Malik’s conviction and sentencing for life, the separatist block is literally faceless. Malik was one of the faces of the separatist triumvirate comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Malik and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. With Geelani dead (days after his deputy Ashraf Sehraie died in jail) and Malik serving a life sentence at Tihar, Mirwaiz is restricted to his Nageen mansion since August 2019.

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