In a significant development, the Delhi High Court has scheduled a hearing for February 14, 2023, in response to the National Investigation Agency’s plea seeking the death penalty for Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik in a funding case fraught with alleged falsities. Malik, a prominent figure in the Kashmiris’ struggle and a founding member of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), has been directed by the court to participate in the proceedings virtually.
At 57, Yasin Malik has long been a symbol of resilience and bold resistance in the Kashmir freedom struggle. Originating as one of the early proponents of armed resistance against Indian rule in the late 1980s, Malik transitioned in the mid-’90s to champion a democratic and non-violent movement for Kashmiri rights. However, his recent legal troubles have cast a shadow over his legacy.
Malik’s predicament took a decisive turn on May 10, 2022, when he announced not to challenge the charges brought against him saying that he had no trust in the Indian judiciary. Opting to represent himself without legal counsel, Malik conveyed his readiness to face the consequences. The court, in response, appointed an amicus curiae to elucidate the charges to Malik, who confirmed his decision not to contest and expressed his preparedness for the impending legal repercussions.
The NIA Court, on May 19, 2022, convicted Malik on charges of conspiracy and waging war against India, imposing two life sentences and five concurrent 10-year prison terms. Notably, these convictions stemmed from alleged violations of section 121 (waging war against the government of India) of the IPC and section 17 (raising funds for a terrorist act) of the UAPA. According to the Supreme Court, life imprisonment entails incarceration until the last breath, unless commuted by the relevant authorities.
Yasin Malik’s political party, the JKLF, had been banned by the Indian government in 2019, further complicating the narrative surrounding his conviction. His wife, Mushaal, currently serving as the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Human Rights and Women Empowerment, has appealed to international bodies, including the UN and UNHCR, to intervene in what she deems a “war crime” and to prevent an injustice against her husband.
The international response has been swift, with Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemning the sentencing as a “sham trial” and accusing the Indian government of attempting to strip the Kashmiri people of their authentic leadership. Furthermore, there are assertions that the Modi government’s push for the death penalty against Malik is politically motivated, aiming to gain electoral leverage in the 2024 general elections.
For lasting peace in Kashmir, it is imperative to involve genuine Kashmiri leadership and recognize both Pakistan and India as stakeholders. Heavy-handed tactics risk exacerbating the desire for Azadi (freedom). In Yasin Malik’s case, there is a compelling argument for the Indian government to re-evaluate the charges, taking into account his contested health conditions, and consider his release to reunite with his family. This reconsideration would not only serve justice but also contribute to the broader cause of fostering a more inclusive and sustainable resolution to the Kashmir issue.
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