Yasin Malik, a Kashmiri separatist, and chief of the banned Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader were arrested on accusations of charges related to terror funding, spreading terrorism, and secessionist activities in Kashmir in 2017.
He had been charged with several other offenses including under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), mainly Section 121 (waging war against the government of India) of IPC and section 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act) of the UAPA of which he had been sentenced to life imprisonment by NIA on 26th May 2022. The Court has also imposed a fine of over Rs. 10 lakh on him.
The NIA arrested over a dozen separatists in the case, including Malik, Asiya Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, and Shabir Shah of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party. And In its FIR, the NIA said Kashmiri separatists were receiving funds from Pakistan, including from Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Syed Salahuddin of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, to foment trouble in the Valley through stone-pelting, burning down of schools, and organizing strikes and protests.
During the violent protests orchestrated by Malik, 89 cases of stone-pelting were reported, the NIA has reported. It has also said that during a raid on Malik’s home, a note signed by various terrorist organizations had been found, the note, on a letterhead of the Hizbul Mujahideen, told people to dis-engage from organizers of football tournaments in the Valley, and to instead show loyalty to the Kashmiri “freedom” struggle.
In March, while framing charges, the court said that it had been prima facie established that Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Rashid Engineer, Altaf Fantoosh, Masarrat Alam, and Hurriyat/Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) were direct recipients of terror funds. The court observed that prima facie there existed a criminal conspiracy pursuant to which large-scale protests, resulting in violence at a massive scale, were played in the Valley.
It also said that Malik had set up planned structures and mechanisms across the world to raise funds for carrying out terrorist and other unlawful activities in Jammu and Kashmir in the name of the “freedom struggle”.
During the investigation, searches were conducted at various places in J&K, Delhi, and Haryana, and crucial electronic and documentary evidence was recovered.
The evidence pointed to the pattern of raising, collecting, transferring, and using the funds for terrorist and separatist activities, the NIA claimed. On this information, the Ministry of Home Affairs directed the NIA to register a case. Accordingly, the present case was registered by NIA for offenses under sections 120B, 121, 121A of IPC and sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 38, 39, and 40 of UAPA.
The court had also ordered the framing of charges against Kashmiri politician and former MLA Rashid Engineer, Businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Bitta Karate, Aftab Ahmad Shah, Avatar Ahmad Shah, Naeem Khan, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, alias Peer Saifullah and several others under various sections of IPC and UAPA including criminal conspiracy, waging war against the country, unlawful activities, etc.
The Court noted that, during the course of arguments, none of the accused argued that individually they do not have a secessionist ideology or agenda or that they have not worked for secession or advocated for the secession of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir from Union of India.
However, the court also clarified that whatever has been expressed in the order is a prima facie opinion although, a detailed discussion of the evidence had to be done because the arguments were advanced by both sides in much detail.
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(MARCH – APRIL 2022)