India seeks death sentence for jailed Kashmir pro-independence leader

JKLF chairman Yasin Malik (C) and Kashmiri Pandits lead a protest rally against the separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits on April 10, 2015 in Srinagar city. (Photo/AA Archive)

India's top anti-terrorism investigation agency has again sought death sentence for a leading Kashmiri pro-independence figure and former rebel leader after he was given life in prison, official sources said.

Last year, Mohammed Yasin Malik, 57, chief of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front [or JKLF], refused to accept a government-appointed lawyer or to defend himself against the charges.

During the trial, he protested the charges and said he was a freedom fighter.

"Terrorism-related charges levelled against me are concocted, fabricated and politically motivated," his organisation, the JKLF, cited him as telling the court in May last year.

"If seeking Azadi [independence] is a crime, then I am ready to accept this crime and its consequences," he told the judge.

The court had turned down a plea by the National Investigation Agency [NIA] for a death sentence, saying capital punishment was for a crime that "shocks the collective consciousness" of society.

On Friday, the NIA petitioned the High Court in New Delhi again, seeking a death sentence for Malik, a senior security official in India-administered Kashmir told the AFP news agency.

The petition is due for hearing on Monday, legal news website Bar and Bench reported.

Military conflict

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since British colonialists granted them independence in 1947. Both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir.

Malik's JKLF spearheaded an armed revolt in 1989 in the India-administered portion of Kashmir, seeking independence for the entire former Muslim-majority kingdom from both countries.

More rebel groups joined the fighting as India responded with a massive military campaign, with the conflict leaving tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels dead. India has deployed more than 500,000 troops in the region since 1989, tuning Kashmir into one of planet's most militarised regions.

Kashmiris deeply resent Indian rule and support the rebels' call that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Malik renounced armed struggle in 1994 to campaign peacefully for independence, meeting with Indian leaders, including two prime ministers, over the following years.

He was repeatedly jailed, spending 14 years in prison where he claimed he was tortured, and was finally arrested in 2018, months before New Delhi cancelled the restive region's semi-autonomy, annexing it and imposing an unprecedented lockdown and communications blockade lasting months.

Tension has simmered in the Himalayan region since, with many accusing Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi of seeking to change its demographic balance. New Delhi has cancelled provisions that previously barred Indians from buying properties in Kashmir.

Both nuclear-armed India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, but each controls only part of it with both sides divided by a highly-militarised border called Line of Control.

Pakistan says the Kashmir dispute should be solved in line with the aspirations of the Kashmiris and United Nations Security Council resolutions that call for plebiscite in Kashmir. India continues to stick to its old stand, saying Kashmir is its integral part and Islamabad must vacate from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

A UN peacekeeping mission remains engaged on both sides of the divided Kashmir since 1949, to supervise the ceasefire between the two countries.


Source: TRT