On Friday, India’s top anti-terrorism investigation agency once again sought the death sentence for Muhammad Yasin Malik, the chief of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Considering that the court has in the past turned down the plea for capital punishment, the Indian establishment seems determined to send the veteran Kashmiri leader to the gallows.
Yasin Malik was convicted under the dreaded Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sentenced by a trial court last year for allegedly raising funds to finance terrorism, and waging war against India. These were trumped up charges to get rid of the leader, but the court thankfully disagreed and argued that the charges did not merit capital punishment. However, not satisfied with Mr Malik serving a life term, the National Investigation Agency is approaching the Delhi High Court again seeking the death penalty.
Mr Malik’s conviction reeks of political vengeance, and the calls for his hanging reflect a desire by India’s rulers to send a chilling message to all those raising a voice for occupied Kashmir. The charges being brought forth are laughable as they include pelting stones at security forces, burning of schools, and damage to public property. It must be pointed out that Mr Malik gave up the armed struggle in the mid-1990s, and since then has been leading a non-violent struggle for the liberation of his homeland.
Leading human rights groups have termed UAPA a “draconian” law, with Amnesty International pointing out that parts of the legislation “do not meet international human rights standards”. Sentencing someone to death over such farcical charges, under a problematic law, would be a travesty of justice. In fact, even Kashmir politicians with proximity to the state have opposed the death sentence for Mr Malik. One can only hope that better sense prevails and that the judiciary throws out this questionable case.