A special court on Wednesday sentenced Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik to life imprisonment in a terror funding case, triggering a spontaneous shutdown of the main markets in Srinagar and strong political reaction in Jammu & Kashmir. Mobile Internet was suspended in parts of the Kashmir Valley “as a precautionary measure”.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of regional parties in J&K that includes the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the life imprisonment to Malik was “unfortunate and a setback to the efforts for peace”.
“Kashmir is a political problem. Muscular policy adopted will have only a negative impact. Instead of resolving the Kashmir problem, it will complicate it. Unless the muscular policy changes, the bloodshed will not end,” PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court of special judge Parveen Singh sentenced Malik — who previously had pleaded guilty to the charges — to life term under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and levied a fine of ₹10 lakh. He was also sentenced for several other offences under the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code.
Death penalty sought
During the course of arguments on sentence, the NIA prosecutor sought death penalty for Malik, stating that his “terrorist acts” had led to severe chaos and unrest in the Kashmir Valley and resulted in the loss of numerous lives and damage to property. The prosecutor said Malik was involved in terror funding, supported terror outfits and had waged war against the country.
The amicus curiae, however, argued for minimum punishment pointing out that since his arrest, and during his confinement, Malik had not engaged in any of the activities for which he had been convicted and that he had voluntarily pleaded guilty.
Malik submitted that after the ceasefire in 1994, he had declared that he would “follow peaceful path of Mahatma Gandhi and would engage in non-violent political struggle”. Not only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but all the Prime Ministers from the time of V.P. Singh till Atal Bihari Vajpayee had engaged with him and given him a political platform, he said.
Having considered all the arguments, the court observed: “The crimes for which convict has been convicted are of very serious nature. These crimes were intended to strike at the heart of the idea of India and intended to forcefully secede J&K from UOI. The crime becomes more serious as it was committed with the assistance of foreign powers and designated terrorists. The seriousness of crime is further increased by the fact that it was committed behind the smoke screen of an alleged peaceful political movement.”
The court said: “The claim of the convict is that he gave up the gun in the year 1994 and thereafter, he was recognised as a legitimate political player which is evident by the fact that the Government of India has been engaging with him and had been providing him the platforms to express his opinions. On the face of it, it seems to be a very sound argument which would give an impression that convict has already reformed. However, in my opinion, there was no reformation of this convict.”
“However, as discussed in the order on charge, the convict did not desist from violence. Rather, betraying the good intentions of government he took a different path to orchestrate violence in the guise of political struggle. The convict has claimed that he had followed Gandhian principle of non violence and was spearheading a peaceful non-violent struggle. However, the evidence on the basis of which charges were framed and to which convict has pleaded guilty, speaks otherwise.”
“The entire movement was planned to be a violent movement and large-scale violence ensued is a matter of fact. I must observe here that the convict cannot invoke the Mahatma and claim to be his follower because in Mahatma Gandhi’s principles, there was no place for violence, however high the objective might be,” the court said.