NEW DELHI: Kashmir’s resistance leader Yasin Malik was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednes­day following his conviction last week by a special court on terror-related charges.

The National Investiga­tion Agency (NIA) prosecuting the case was seeking death sentence for the 56-year-old leader, who has refused to contest the bevy of terror-related charges pressed against him.

Protests broke out in the Maisuma district of Srinagar’s old quarter, where Malik lived in a spartan home with modest furniture. Parts of Srinagar saw a shutdown before the court verdict came.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference condemned the verdict, saying that Yasin Malik since 1994 pursued peaceful and democratic means of conflict resolution.

“A strong votary of dialogue and negotiations between the concerned parties to the Kashmir conflict i.e. people of J&K , India and Pakistan, he has been relentlessly and selflessly seeking its resolution.”

Malik actively participated in all negotiations held on Kashmir after 2000 under various leaders in New Delhi and Islamabad. “Yet he was arrested, shifted to Tihar and has now been convicted in invented cases under draconian laws, when actually he is being punished for his political beliefs on the J&K dispute and for representing the sentiments of its people.”

The court said Malik set up an elaborate structure across the world to raise funds for carrying out terrorist and other unlawful activities in Jammu and Kashmir in the name of freedom struggle. Malik says he formed the militant arm of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in 1988, but had become a pacifist in1994, seeking a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute.

Describing himself as a Gandhian convert to peaceful resistance after a stint with armed struggle at the head of JKLF, he was among the popular leaders from Kashmir’s Hurriyat resistance alliance to be courted by the media and politicians alike. In Kashmir he became a cult figure when he took up arms in1988 and retained the popularity when he embarked on a peaceful path to resolve the dispute.

“There must be a reason that all the Indian prime ministers before Mr Modi liked to meet us, why all the Indian officials and foreign diplomats wanted to talk to me,” he said in a TV interview after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration in May 2014.

“If Mr Modi feels today that he can isolate us, or that he can end the Kashmir dispute with military means, he is swimming against the currents of history.” Indian officials say the situation has worsened, not improved, since the crackdown was ordered three years ago.

Malik was referring to Mr Modi’s opposition to involving the Hurriyat in any future talks, a contention that led to stalled peace talks with Pakistan soon after the 2014 swearing in at which then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was an invitee.

Prone to misquoting his favourite Urdu poets, including Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz, Malik would readily switch on Hindi movies while waiting for his appointments with senior officials. His room was usually reserved at the Rajdoot Hotel in Delhi’s Nizamuddin East district where he would hold court with media and Kashmiri associates. Malik is stricken in one eye and suffered loss of hearing in one ear from torture. He would often tell the media that it was pointless to argue for one’s defence in a court against the machinations of mighty Indian state.

Instead, he said, he would rather take his cue from his favourite actor Dilip Kumar’s character in Ganga Jamuna. In that movie the hero, a small farmer, was wrongly implicated in a case of petty theft. “You are the all powerful ones,” Ganga would tell the court before being jailed. “I am a bad person who brawls with the police. Hari Babu, the man accusing me of theft is a noble businessman. So give me the punishment you deem fit.” Media reports said Malik had accepted the terror charges, though it is likelier that he was silently quoting his inspirational lines. In one interview he typically mangled a verse from a Majrooh Sultanpuri song in a nondescript movie, but made the point nevertheless.

“Idhar aa sitamgar nazar aazmayein
Tu teer aazma, hum jigar aazmaain

(Come hither my tormenter and have your chance. You have a packed quiver, I have a bared heart.”

The admonition was directed at Mr Modi years before the prime minster would dismantle the structure of Jammu and Kashmir amid a brutal security clampdown in August 2019.

“Mr Modi can give good governance, may be, but he cannot end our movement with any hardline approach,” Mr Malik said in the popular TV show, Aap ki Adalat.

Yasin Malik would be kept in a high security cell in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, reports said.

Maryam condemns decision

Meanwhile, PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz has condemned life term sentence to Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik.

“Passion for freedom cannot be given life or death sentence,” Ms Nawaz told a press conference here on Wednesday. She said voices would be raised from Pakistan for Yasin Malik that would awaken the conscience of the world. “Mr Malik’s wife Mashal Malik had asked Imran Khan to delay his long march for a few days as our focus should be on Yasin Malik case but the PTI chairman did not pay any attention,” she lambasted and added the long march overshadowed this issue which was unfortunate.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022

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