Ahead of the sentencing of Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik in a ‘terror-funding’ case, spontaneous shutdown was witnessed in Kashmir parts, with clashes, sloganeering in Malik’s native area.
Muhammad Raafi | TwoCircles.net
NEW DELHI — The Special NIA judge, at Patiala House Court in New Delhi on Wednesday, awarded a life sentence to Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairperson Muhammad Yasin Malik in the “terror funding case”. Malik, however, is eligible to appeal in High Court.
The court awarded two life sentences and 10-year rigorous imprisonment each in five other cases. All the punishments will run concurrently, it said.
On May 19, Malik was convicted for the offences punishable under sections 120B IPC, 121 IPC, 121A IPC, 13 UAPA r/w 120B IPC, 15 UAPA r/w 120B IPC, 17 UAPA, 18 UAPA, 20 UAPA, 38 UAPA and 39 UAPA.
Earlier, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) urged the court to give the death penalty to Malik, while Malik said that “he will not beg for anything” and left the decision to the court.
Parts of Jammu and Kashmir’s capital city Srinagar witnessed a shutdown ahead of the court’s verdict on the quantum of sentence for Malik, who was convicted in a “terror funding” case earlier this month.
Shops and other business establishments were shut in some parts of the city. Government forces including paramilitary Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) personnel and Jammu and Kashmir police have been deployed in strength to thwart any public protests, officials said.
Besides, drones were deployed to keep a watch in sensitive areas of the capital city. No organization had called for the shutdown.
In the afternoon, civilian protesters clashed with government forces and pelted stones. The government forces shot tear smoke shells to disperse the protesters.
#Kashmir| Clashes erupted in Maisuma area of central Kashmir's Srinagar city ahead of #YasinMalik Quantum of punishment by NIA court at Delhi. pic.twitter.com/qijsdFX5Ba
— Sajid Raina (@SajidRaina1) May 25, 2022
On May 10, Malik reportedly pleaded guilty to all charges, including those under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He told the court that he was not contesting the charges levelled against him.
He had been charged with “terrorist” acts, illegally raising funds, being a member of a “terrorist organization”, criminal conspiracy, and sedition.
During the trial, Malik protested the charges and said he was a freedom fighter.
“Terrorism-related charges levelled against me are concocted, fabricated, and politically motivated,” his organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), cited him as telling the court, Al Jazeera reported. “If seeking Azadi (freedom) is a crime, then I am ready to accept this crime and its consequences,” he told the judge.
In Srinagar, reports said that people were seen gathering at Malik’s Maisuma residence early Wednesday where women chanted slogans in support of Malik.
The JKLF was one of the first armed rebel groups to come into existence in Jammu and Kashmir in the early 90s. JKLF led by Malik supported an independent Kashmir and laid down arms in 1994. In 2019, the government arrested Malik and banned JKLF.
Ahead of the sentence, Malik told the Special NIA judge, at Patiala House Court on Wednesday that he has been following “Gandhian principles” after giving up arms. “After dropping weapons, I have followed the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Since then, I have been following non-violent politics in Kashmir.”
The lawyer who attended the court proceeding said, “Yasin said (in the courtroom) that 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.”
On the demand by NIA for the death penalty to him, Malik said, “I will not beg for anything. The case is before this court and I leave it for the court to decide.”
Earlier the court asked NIA to give an affidavit on the socio-economic status of convict Yasin Malik after taking the help of local authorities. Malik is also directed to file an affidavit disclosing all sources of his income and assets (movable and immovable).
Reacting to the court’s verdict, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of various mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmri said that life imprisonment given to Malik was “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,” a spokesman of the PAGD said in a statement.
“NIA Court has delivered its verdict but not justice,” he said, adding, “The triumphalism being displayed by the BJP and the corporate media is bound to prove counterproductive.”
Meanwhile, the PAGD said, “we suggest that Yaseen Malik should avail all legal opportunities to contest this verdict.”
Meanwhile commenting on the court’s decision, a senior lawyer based in Kashmir told TwoCircles.net that it is insane that anyone without an opportunity to meet his family and the counsel of choice can be convicted in such haste.
Reacting to Malik pleading guilty, the lawyer said it is not enough to say “I am guilty”.
“The court has to draw satisfaction that the accused understands what he is saying and is aware of the consequences of his admission/confession,” the lawyer added.
Muhammad Raafi is a journalist based in New Delhi. He covers politics and human rights and tweets at @MohammadRaafi