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Protests Erupt in Srinagar as Court Awards Life Sentence to Yasin Malik

Anees Zargar |
The PAGD termed the verdict as “unfortunate” and a setback to peace efforts. “The NIA court has delivered its verdict but not justice,” said its spokesperson.

Srinagar: Clashes broke out in Maisuma locality of Srinagar on Wednesday, where Yasin Malik’s residence is located, between the separatist leader’s supporters and security forces, ahead of him being produced in a Delhi court for the verdict on the quantum of sentence in a case related to alleged terror funding. Parts of the city also saw a spontaneous shutdown ahead of a court's verdict. 

Malik, 56, was awarded life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10 lakh. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader had pleaded guilty to all charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), on May 10.

Dozens of protesters, that included his relatives, gathered near Malik’s residence and raised slogans in support of the former ‘guerilla’, who was convicted by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in a 2017 case related to alleged terrorism and secessionist activities last week.

The charges against Malik included aiding and funding militancy and criminal conspiracy to orchestrate large-scale protests that resulted in violence and arson in the Valley.

Some protesters pelted stones at the police and paramilitary forces deployed in the area following which there was teargas shelling.

The clashes occurred amid a spontaneous shutdown in Srinagar as all shops and business establishments remained shut in major city markets and downtown areas, including Maisuma, Habba Kadal, Safa Kadal, Rajouri Kadal and Nowhatta localities. Markets at the commercial hub of Lal Chowk also observed a shutdown in view of Malik’s court hearing.

“We are protesting against the verdict on charges against Yasin Malik and believe that it is not a fair trial,” a protester from Srinagar said.

Authorities had heightened security measures throughout the Valley, especially in all Srinagar areas, to prevent a law and order situation. Additional police and CRPF personnel were also deployed around old city and Maisuma areas while the forces used drones for increased surveillance.

Malik was amongst the first batch of Kashmiri youth who crossed over to Pakistan for arms training in 1988 and later became the chief of pro-independence outfit JKLF. He was first arrested on August 8, 1990 along with his associates, by paramilitary forces at Srinagar’s Barzulla area.

The group under Malik, however, announced a unilateral ceasefire in 1994 and in later years claimed to follow the path of non-violence inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. He was arrested by the NIA in 2019 after JKLF was banned by the government in March that year. In 2009, Malik married Mushaal Hussien, a Pakistani national, who lives in Pakistan with their daughter, Razia Sultana.

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) termed the life imprisonment given to Malik as “unfortunate” and a setback to the efforts for peace. PAGD spokesperson Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said they were afraid that it would further compound uncertainties in the region and fuel more “alienation” and “separatist feelings.”

“The NIA court has delivered its verdict but not justice. The triumphalism being displayed by the BJP and the corporate media is bound to prove counterproductive. Meanwhile we suggest that Yasin Malik should avail all legal opportunities to contest this verdict,” Tarigami said.

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