Yasin Malik's long history of struggle

ByMir Ehsan
Jun 10, 2023 04:38 PM IST

The NIA wants the death penalty for Yasin Malik. From picking up the gun at a young age to adopting non-violence, the jailed JKLF chief is back in the news

On May 26, 2023, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) approached the Delhi high court recently seeking the death penalty for separatist leader and chief of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Yasin Malik, who was awarded a life term by a trial court in a terror funding case last year.

Malik (58), who is currently lodged in Tihar jail is one of the first senior separatist leaders from Kashmir to be convicted in a case related to terror financing that was registered against him and other separatist leaders in 2017(HT File) PREMIUM
Malik (58), who is currently lodged in Tihar jail is one of the first senior separatist leaders from Kashmir to be convicted in a case related to terror financing that was registered against him and other separatist leaders in 2017(HT File)

During the hearing on May 29, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the NIA, went on to compare Malik with slain al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. “If Osama Bin Laden was before this court, he would also get the same treatment,” Mehta said. To this, Justice Siddharth Mridul, one of the two judges hearing the plea, said there can be no comparison between the two because Osama did not face a trial in any court of law across the globe. Mehta then said, “Possibly, USA was right.” Justice Mridul refused to comment on that.

Why Malik turned to non-violence

Malik (58), who is currently lodged in Tihar jail is one of the first senior separatist leaders from Kashmir to be convicted in a case related to terror financing that was registered against him and other separatist leaders in 2017. He was awarded a life sentence as he didn't contest his conviction. Malik, an ideologue of independent Kashmir, was among the first generation of Kashmiri youth to pick up a gun when he crossed the Line of Control (LoC) for arms training in 1988 to join JKLF.

In 1994, after spending four years in prison in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh jails, he not only announced a unilateral ceasefire for the JKLF but also gave up arms, which led to a split in the organisation that had hundreds of armed cadres on the ground in Kashmir.

Malik later started pursuing non-violence and used to hold hunger strikes as he said he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. He also developed communications with civil society members across the country and outside.

In 1992 -1993, while he was incarcerated, Malik came in touch with some civil society members in New Delhi including former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Kuldeep Nayar, ex-Rajya Sabha member Rajmohan Gandhi, ex-Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar and former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah when they visited him in hospital in New Delhi where he operated for heart ailment.

His is the first conviction against any separatist leader after the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019 and the region’s bifurcation into two Union Territories. A staunch advocate of freedom on both sides of the LoC, he pleaded guilty to all charges, including those under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) at the trial court.

Malik's wife, Mashaal Malik and daughter Razia Sultana who are based in Pakistan held a press conference in Islamabad last May, soon after his conviction and terming all the charges against him as baseless. They asked the Pakistani leadership to prevent the Indian government from taking any extreme steps against Malik.

The NIA's case

In 2017, NIA registered cases and arrested several separatist leaders in a militant funding case including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's aide Shahidul Islam, hardline leader and former Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar, Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Peer Saifullah, businessman Zahoor Ahmed Watali and Nayeem Khan.

In its charge sheet, the NIA said Watali was the main hawala conduit (the informal money transfer passed on through a broker's network), which received funds from Pakistan via the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries through shell companies, which he later distributed to separatist leaders including Malik.

The charge sheet said in 2016 Yasin Malik along with Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq formed a self-styled group called Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) and they started issuing directions to the masses to hold protests, demonstrations, hartals, shutdowns, roadblocks and other disruptive activities to push the entire society into chaos and lawlessness. Malik had played a key role in orchestrating the protests and demonstrations. Apart from a protest calendar for the period from August 8, 2016, to August 16, 2016, which was signed by the chairman of AHPC, a yearly calendar was also recovered from the house of accused Yasin Malik. During the period from August 6, 2016, to August 16, 2016, the protests were very violent and 89 cases of stone pelting and other unlawful activities were registered during this period.

The charge sheet said the strategy adopted by Yasin Malik in conspiracy with other accused was unearthed during the investigation.

It is further said that from the premises of accused Yasin Malik, a copy of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s letterhead was seized. On that letterhead, the terrorist organizations such as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed jointly warned the people who supported the football tournament in the valley to disengage themselves from the organizers of this game and to show loyalty to the freedom

The charge sheet said Malik had a close association with the banned terrorist organization LeT.

In January 2018, the NIA filed another charge sheet against Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin and 10 other separatist leaders for alleged terror funding and secessionist activities in the Valley. JKLF’s Yasin Malik and Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi were arrested and the NIA filed a supplementary charge sheet against Malik, who was kept in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA), as well as four others including Shabir Shah, Masarat Alam, Engineer Rashid and Asiya Andrabi on October 4, 2019 before a Delhi court.

The offences include sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the government of India), 121A (conspiracy to wage war) and 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. In March 2019, the ministry of home affairs also declared JKLF a banned organisation.

The Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of several separatist political, social and religious organisations, said that the leaders were framed in fake cases. Even the family members of these leaders refute the charges and termed them "fabricated and motivated."

In March 2020, a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court in Jammu also framed charges against Malik and six others allegedly involved in the death of four unarmed Indian Air Force (IAF) officials in 1990 in Srinagar. The Jammu and Kashmir high court had earlier transferred cases related to the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of then Union home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and the death of the four IAF personnel to its Jammu wing. The separatist Joint Resistance Leadership had termed cases against Malik as a conspiracy.

Chequered past: HAJY Group and Kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed

In the late 80s, Malik took to arms after allegations of mass rigging were made against the National Conference and the Congress during the assembly elections. Mohammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, contested on a Muslim United Front (MUF) ticket. Later, this organisation became one of the biggest militant active groups in Kashmir.

Malik, who was campaigning for Salahuddin, was jailed. After his release in 1989, he crossed LoC and became part of the prominent HAJY (Abdul Hameed Sheikh, Ashfaq Majeed Wani, Javaid Ahmad Mir and Yasin Malik) militant group after his return. The group was pivotal in introducing the JKLF in Kashmir in late 1989-90 which recruited youth of the valley in the armed struggle. The JKLF was founded by Maqbool Bhat and Amanullah Khan in the late 70s.

Yasin and others joined JKLF in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 1989 and a year later Yasin Malik became the commander-in-chief of the group.

In one of its most audacious and egregious acts, JKLF kidnapped Rubiya Sayeed, daughter of the then-home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed from Srinagar in early 1989, Sayeed, who was doing her internship at a government hospital in Srinagar, was abducted on December 8, 1989, at around 3.45 p.m. while she was returning home from medical college in a minibus.

Four armed men stopped the bus and Sayeed was moved to a car that took them to an undisclosed location.

While claiming responsibility for the abduction, JKLF demanded the release of Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Ghulam Nabi Bhat, Noor Mohammad Kalwal, Mohammad Altaf and Javed Ahmad Zargar in exchange for Ms Sayeed. The separatist organisation dropped the demand for the release of Zargar and replaced it with a demand to release Abdul Ahad Waza. The abduction led to widespread unrest in the Valley. The deal went through and Sayeed was released after being held captive by militants for five days.

Yasin Malik landed up in the crosshairs of the police and other agencies as the mastermind behind this kidnapping. More than three decades later, Rubaiya Sayeed identified Yasin Malik before a special CBI court in Jammu in July last year.

The release of militants was considered the first big victory of the HAJY group and afterwards, many youths joined the armed struggle. Abdul Hameed Sheikh was killed during an encounter in the old city's Alikadal area in November 1992, while Ashfaq Majeed Wani was killed in Hawal on March 30, 1990, in old city Srinagar in an encounter with the Border Security Force. Ashfaq was considered as the most active member of the HAJY group.

After the ceasefire in 1994, JKLF, which was seeking independence of both parts of J&K on both sides of LoC was one of the biggest active militant groups, with supporters in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir as well as in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

In August 1990, Yasin Malik was arrested as commander-in-chief of JKLF as he was heading a group fighting for separation of J&K from India.

During his four-year jail period, many officials, civil society members, and intellectuals were approached to shun violence. On his release in 1994, he announced a unilateral ceasefire. Last July, Malik wrote a letter after the TADA court framed charges against him saying that he was told that if he shunned violence he would be provided with a genuine political space in the backdrop of his shunning violence.

Malik said he had decided to give up militancy after being approached by top intelligence officers and several civil society members like Kuldeep Nayar, Rajmohan Gandhi, Rajinder Sachar and Wajahat Habibullah during his 1992 jail time.

“They wanted me to give peace a chance,” he said. Malik said he accepted the transformation “without surrendering his ideology”. “It was in fact a most dangerous and unpopular decision and I was declared a traitor by many. I miraculously escaped a bid on my life when I was kidnapped by some militants. Many of my colleagues lost their lives,” he said in the letter.

He said after the declaration, he and his JKLF colleagues remained firm on non-violent struggle and there was not a single piece of evidence that could link him or his JKLF colleagues to any armed struggle, overtly or covertly.

After his release from jail, he announced a ceasefire and disbanded the militant group. After that Malik and JKLF cadres started a peaceful struggle and held protests, hunger strikes and started holding regular press meets to highlight the Kashmir issue. Of the HAJY four, Javaid too shunned violence, now reported to be lying low in Srinagar.

In 2000, when PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee started the Ramzan ceasefire and dialogue process, Malik lent his support to the ceasefire and two years later he started a signature campaign Safar-e-Azadi (the freedom journey) for “peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue”. In 2006, Malik also met then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi and presented 1.5 million signatures of the people of Jammu Kashmir.

However, Malik has never strayed far from controversy. In February 2013, Malik shared a dais with Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafeez Sayeed — which was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack — in Pakistan Islamabad that became controversial.

"Exciting news! Hindustan Times is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!
Get Latest India News along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals