A special NIA court in Delhi on Wednesday pronounced two concurrent life term imprisonment sentences to JKLF leader Yasin Malik on charges of terror funding and waging war against the nation. Special Judge Parveen Singh rejected Yasin Malik’s contention that he had been adhering to Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of non-violence for the last 28 years when he gave up militancy in 1994.
In his verdict, the Special Judge said, “The convict may have given up the gun, but he never expressed any regret for the violence he committed prior to 1994…The convict claimed that he had followed the Gandhian principle of non-violence…It took only one small incident of violence at Chauri Chaura, for the Mahatma to call off the entire non-cooperation movement, but the convict….neither condemned the violence (in the Valley) nor withdrew his calendar of protest which had led to the said violence.”
On the NIA prosecution’s argument that Yasin Malik should be given the death penalty for his role in the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, the Special Judge said: “This issue is neither before this court nor has been adjudicated upon and thus the court cannot allow itself to be swayed by this argument”.
This is the first big case in which the Centre has taken a strong stand against terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. This is the also the first case of terror funding in which a verdict has been given. Yasin Malik has also been sentenced for 10-years rigorous imprisonment under five different sections, and 20-year imprisonments under two other sections, apart from paying Rs 10 lakh fine.
The charges include, conspiring terror attacks, arranging funds for terrorists, maintaining contacts with terror groups, sedition and waging war against the nation. If Yasin Malik does not challenge this verdict in higher courts, he may have to spend his time in jail till his last breath.
Soon after the sentencing, Yasin Malik was sent to Delhi’s Tihar jail, and simultaneously, incidents of stoning began in the Valley. There were protests too. In Pakistan, leaders, right from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, ex-PK Imran Khan, to ex-cricketer Shahid Afridi and others, condemned the verdict.
Let me first go into the depth of this case. National Investigation Agency (NIA) had begun its probe into terror funding charges against Yasin Malik, way back in 2017. NIA proved in court that he had taken money from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba chief Hafiz Saeed. Yasin Malik sent this money to terror groups active in the Valley. This money was used to provoke stone throwing incidents, attacks on army and security forces and targeted killings.
There were 12 persons accused, out of whom two are absconding. NIA filed its chargesheet in January, 2018, and made Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, Masrat Alam, Aasiya Andrabi and Engineer Rashid as accused. During trial, NIA produced 3,000 pages of evidence, recordings of conversations between the accused, e-mails between Shabbir Shah, Yasin Malik and others.
In all, more than 400 electronic evidences were produced in court. Evidences were produced on how the accused had contacts with Pakistan High Commission in Delhi, and terror plans by Hurriyat Conference. A total of 125 witnesses were produced before the court. The NIA gave evidences of properties acquired by Yasin Malik, on the basis of which the court levied Rs 10 lakh fine on him.
The world knows that Yasin Malik had taken up the gun in 1990, went to Pakistan for arms training, and on his return carried out several terror attacks. He was the mastermind behind the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, sister of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, and daughter of the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. He was also the mastermind behind the terror attack on Indian Air Force personnel in January, 1990, in which four officers were martyred.
The martyrs’ families included Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna’s family, which has been waiting for justice for last 32 years. His widow Nirmal Khanna said on Wednesday that her hopes for getting justice have been rekindled by this verdict. “Wheels of Justice have finally started rolling. I am 100 per cent confident that we will get justice. Normally people say, justice delayed is justice denied, but I do not believe in that”, the martyr’s widow said.
Nirmal Khanna said, “Yasin Malik not only murdered my husband, but also killed my mother-in-law, father-in-law and my mother. Childhood of my two small kids was lost and my happiness was snatched away in a second. This terrorist turned our world upside down.” Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna was shot 27 times with an AK-47 assault rifle.
In August, 1990, Yasin Malik was injured in an encounter with security forces, and was arrested. He remained in prison till 1994. Yasin Malik claimed in court that after his release from jail in 1994, he never indulged in violence. In the current case, Yasin Malik refused hiring a lawyer and the court allowed him to place his defence on his own.
Now that Yasin Malik has been lodged in security barracks of Tihar Jail, it is awaited whether he will appeal against this verdict in high court. Considering Yasin Malik’s mindset, I do not think, he may seek appeal. He had told the trial court that he admits his guilt and would accept whatever sentence is given.
It is true that Yasin Malik did not directly take part in any incident of violence for the last 28 years. He had met Prime Ministers I. K. Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh in the past. It is also true that the Vajpayee government issued him a passport to travel abroad. This shows that the previous governments trusted him and tried to bring him into the political mainstream. In spite of all these, if Yasin Malik arranged funding for terror groups in the Valley, it is a crime, which has now been proved in court. His crime has already been proved in the court of the people. The common Indian’s perception is against Yasin Malik.
As protests begain in Yasin Malik’s locality, Maisuma, in Srinagar, JKPDP chief Mehbooba Mufti came up with her remark that this is an example of “atrocities on Kashmiris”. She said, “Sentencing won’t help resolve Kashmir issue. ..I feel the consequences of the muscular policy of India won’t be good. The situation is deteriorating by the day. The issue is getting complicated instead of being resolved.”
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, Yasin Malik has every right to approach the higher court. “the court has given its verdict, and it is up to Yasin Malik to decide what to do. I don’t want to comment on that.”
I know Yasin Malik personally. He came twice to my show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’. I grilled him by asking him many tough questions. There was much tough talk during the show. Kashmiri Pandits, sitting in the audience, described him during the show as a murderer, responsible for genocide and killing of air force officers. This is a case of terror funding.
Yasin Malik used to say, he took up the gun only because the situation was such in the Valley. He claimed that he was following the Gandhian path of non-violence since 1994. Yasin Malik also told me, he used to ask Kashmiri youths to fight with ballots and not bullets.
It is also true that Yasin Malik had tried to solve the Kashmir issue by sitting with several governments in the past. But is also a fact that he wanted to make Pakistan a party in the Kashmir dispute, which was not acceptable to India.
Yasin Malik used to say that the Kashmir issue can never be solved without involving Pakistan. He had close relations with the Pakistani masters sitting across the border. I had shown the pictures of Yasin Malik sitting with LeT chief Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan.
Yasin had married a Pakistani girl Mishal Malik, and has a young daughter. Mishal is staying in Pakistan with her daughter. On Wednesday, when the sentencing was done in Delhi, Mishal appeared at a press conference in Islamabad with her daughter, along with Pakistan’s Federal Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb. Mishal Malik said, “My husband was not given a lawyer, nor was allowed to place his arguments, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.” Maryam Aurangzeb said that Yasin Malik has not been able to meet his daughter for the last eight years.
Among top Pakistani leaders, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted: “Today is a black day for Indian democracy & its justice system. Indian can imprison Yasin Malik physically but it can never imprison the idea of freedom he symbolises. Life imprisonment for valiant freedom fighter will provide fresh impetus to Kashmiris’ right to self-determination”.
Former PM Imran Khan tweeted: “Strongly condemn the continuing fascist tactics of Modi govt against Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik from his illegal imprisonment to his conviction on fake charges. International community must act against the Hindutva fascist Modi regime’s state terrorism in IIOJK.”
Pakistan Foreign Minister and PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari remarked: “Strongly condemn unjust sentencing of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik in a sham trial. Indian can never silence Kashmiris’ voice for freedom and self-determination. Pakistan stands with Kashmiri brothers and sisters, will continue to provide all possible support in their just struggle.”
I think, going by the track record of Yasin Malik for the past 28 years, when he did not take up the gun and tried to join the political system, he could have been dealt with lightly, and that too, in a case of terror funding.
But when I remember the martyrdom of our four valiant IAF officers, Yasin Malik taking money from LeT mastermind Hafiz Saeed and instigating violence in the Valley, I feel Yasin Malik deserved imprisonment. Yasin Malik may not have personally taken up the gun, but he encouraged Kashmiri youths to take up stones and guns to cause mayhem. He took funds from Pakistan and channelled them to these youths. Such a crime can never be condoned.
The popular Indian perception is that Yasin Malik deserved imprisonment. Mehbooba Mufti and her Ilk may be speaking Pakistan’s language today, but this much is certain: There can be no place for Pakistan’s language in India. India has now changed. Terrorists are no more given leniency. Pakistan is being paid back in its own coin.
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