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Stating that his crimes “intended to strike at the heart of the idea of India” and were “committed with the assistance of foreign powers and designated terrorists”, an NIA court in Delhi on Wednesday handed life term to Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik in a case related to terrorism and secessionist activities in 2016-17.
Additional Sessions Judge Parveen Singh awarded two life sentences and varying jail terms, which will all run concurrently, and a fine of Rs 10,65,000 for offences under the stringent anti-terror law — Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) — and the IPC.
Rejecting the National Investigation Agency’s plea for death penalty, the court said the case did not fall in the rarest of rare category. The NIA has accused Malik, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), of orchestrating violent protests in 2016, when 89 cases of stone-pelting were reported.
On Malik’s plea that he had given up violence and would “follow the peaceful path of Mahatma Gandhi”, the court said he could not claim to be a follower of Gandhi as he did not condemn the violence in the Valley.
On May 10, Malik had pleaded guilty to all charges, including those under the UAPA.
The judge said the crimes for which Malik was convicted were serious in nature and “intended to strike at the heart of the idea of India and to forcefully secede J&K from Union of India.”
“The crime becomes more serious as it was committed with the assistance of foreign powers and designated terrorists. The seriousness of the crime is further increased by the fact that it was committed behind the smokescreen of an alleged peaceful political movement,” the court said.
During the hearing, Malik told the court that he had given up violence in 1994 and declared that he “would follow the peaceful path of Mahatma Gandhi and engage in non-violent political struggle”.
The court observed that in its opinion there was no reformation in him. It said Malik may have given up the gun in 1994, but he “never expressed any regret for the violence committed prior to the year 1994”.
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 entire non-cooperation movement, but the convict, despite largescale violence engulfing the Valley, neither condemned the violence nor withdrew his calendar of protest which has led to the said violence.”
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 many 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 said.
Malik said that while the NIA had accused him of engaging in terrorist activities after the killing of Burhan Wani, he was arrested immediately after Wani’s death and “could not have engaged in violent protests”.
Senior Public Prosecutor Neel Kamal, appearing for the NIA, told the court that Malik’s acts “had led to severe chaos and unrest in the Valley and resulted in the loss of numerous lives and damage to property”.
The prosecutor argued that since Malik chose to wage war against India, a message had to be sent to society and no leniency should be shown. He said death penalty should be awarded since the convict was responsible for “genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits” and was a hardcore criminal with no chance of reformation.
The NIA had told the court that when Malik’s house was raided, they found a copy of a note, on a Hizbul Mujahideen letterhead, signed by various terror organisations, warning people to disengage themselves from organisers of football tournaments in the Valley and show loyalty to the freedom struggle.
Amicus curiae Akhand Pratap Singh contended that since Malik had pleaded guilty, it showed his inclination to reform. After the order was pronounced, Malik hugged Singh and thanked him for his assistance.
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 terrorist act) of the UAPA.
The court also awarded Malik 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 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.
In March, while framing charges in the matter, the court had said that prima facie, it has been established that Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Rashid Engineer, Altaf Fantoosh, Masrat, and Hurriyat/Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) were the direct recipients of terror funds.
The court had also noted that prima facie there was a criminal conspiracy pursuant to which largescale protests, resulting in violence and arson, were orchestrated in the Valley.
It had said Malik had set up an elaborate structure and mechanism across the world to raise funds for carrying out terrorist and other unlawful activities in J&K in the name of “freedom struggle”.
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