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J&K Politics: With Yasin Malik’s Hearing, Will Centre Touch a Raw Nerve in UT?

Ahead of polls, the outcome of the separatist leader's double trial is sure to impact valley's political stability.

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Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman and Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik will be heard on 22 December at a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court in Jammu in a case pertaining to the killing of four Indian Air Force personnel on 25 January 1990 when the militancy had begun to acquire momentum in Kashmir.

The issue of Malik’s physical appearance at the TADA court while he is serving a life term in Tihar jail in a different case related to terror funding, had become the latest flashpoint between the Union government and the 56-year-old separatist leader.
Snapshot
  • (JKLF) Chairman and Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik will be heard on 22 December at a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court in Jammu.

  • Malik’s physical appearance at TADA court while serving a life term in Tihar jail in a different case related to terror funding, had become the latest flashpoint between him and the Union Govt.

  • The NIA arrested Malik in a terror funding case in 2019 shortly after the Ministry of Home Affairs banned his JKLF group.

  • The Superintendent of Tihar jail informed the court that Malik was serving life imprisonment and there was a pending request by the NIA to convert his life term into a death sentence.

  • Whatever the outcome of Malik’s trial in these two cases, it can deepen political crises in the Kashmir valley where the situation is becoming increasingly fragile ahead of the proposed 2023 polls.

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Yasin Malick Case Gains Fresh Momentum

In July earlier this year, Malik started a hunger strike alleging that he was being denied a fair trial. “Yasin Malik has decided to undergo a hunger strike from 22 July in Tihar Jail with demands such as a fair hearing and his physical presence in the court,” JKLF spokesperson Muhammad Rafiq Dar said in the statement.

Malik informed the Indian government about it through a letter sent via the jail authorities, the statement added.

He later called off his strike on 2 August after the prison officials promised him that his demands would be forwarded to the concerned authorities. The entreaty to be physically present inside the court came after Malik refused to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses through the virtual medium.

The first such direction from the TADA court came on 20 September earlier this year when the court issued a production warrant for Malik who was being held in Tihar jail in Delhi. As per several media reports quoting Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Counsel Monika Kohli, Malik was not allowed to depose before the Jammu court on the instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

What Unfolded In The Yasin Malik Case

CBI is the agency probing the murder of Indian Air Force (IAF) officer Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna and three others. It has already charge-sheeted Malik before the TADA court in Jammu on 31 August 1990 in connection with the case.

The Superintendent of Tihar jail informed the court that Malik was serving life imprisonment and there was a pending request by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to convert his life term into a death sentence which is why he wasn’t being permitted to move to the Jammu court.

The NIA arrested Malik in a terror funding case in 2019 shortly after the MHA banned his JKLF group. Last month, the TADA court issued a second production warrant in favour of Malik. The case was adjourned until today.
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Murder, Terror-Funding, Abduction Among Charges

In March 2020, the court had framed charges against Malik and four other accused who figured in the killing of four IAF officers. The court observed that there are “sufficient grounds for drawing presumption that the accused Yasin Malik” and others “prima facie have committed the offence."

Then in January 2021, the court ordered charges to be pressed against Malik and nine other accused in a second case related to the abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of veteran Kashmiri leader Mufti Muhammad Sayeed who was then the country’s Union Home Minister.

Rubaiya, then a 23-year-old, was kidnapped on 8 December 1989 when she was en route to Lal Ded Memorial Women’s Hospital in Srinagar where she was working as an intern. 

The abductors held her to ransom and demanded the release of five imprisoned militants including JKLF commander Hamid Sheikh. All of them were freed on 13 December that year. On 15 July this year, Rubaiya Sayeed identified Malik before a Special Court in Jammu in connection with the abduction case.

Malik continues to be lodged in Tihar jail. In May this year, Malik was sentenced to two life imprisonments along with five 10-year imprisonments and a fine to the tune of Rs 10 lakh on the charges of financing terrorism.
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How This Case Impacts Kashmir's Political Crisis 

Whatever the outcome of Malik’s trial in these two cases, it is expected to deepen the political crises in the Kashmir valley where the political situation is becoming increasingly fragile ahead of the proposed Assembly Elections scheduled for 2023.

Over the past three years, the local government has been accused of dismantling the local institutions and implementing sweeping changes that are likely to have far-reaching effects pertaining to issues such as land ownership, demographic composition, and political autonomy.

Over the past several weeks, mainstream leaders have been canvassing political support and organising huge rallies across Kashmir. Their political idiom this time is unlike what has been the norm in the past. 

Previously, mainstream leaders would pivot their political campaigns on the issues such as unemployment, electricity shortages, and economic development. Now it’s the defence of regional identity and protection of local institutions and culture that have become the hallmarks of present political discourse in Kashmir.

In the past few weeks, several steps taken by the administration of the Lt Governor have already stirred murmurs of protest. Recently, the government unveiled a proposal to assign each family in Kashmir a unique alpha-numeric family ID allegedly to streamline the social welfare schemes. But the move has become mired in controversy after local parties accused the government of trying to shore up the surveillance architecture..
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Another Move Is as Part of BJP’s Series of Changes

Last week, the J&K government notified Land Rules, 2022 that have caught hundreds of hoteliers in a bind because the new notification asks owners to hand over the possession of the leased land immediately. 

The administration has refused to renew the leases and now prepares to auction them to new applications online. The majority of tourist facilities in Kashmir are constructed on leased land. The provisions for acquiring the leases were enshrined under Land Grant Rules, 1960 which the government has abolished.

The rules also debar the outgoing lessees from participating in the auction in case they are defaulting on the payments. The concerns being voiced are that the land will be auctioned to outsider businessmen who are invariably wealthier and thus, able to skew the competition in their favour. 
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Two days ago, the BJP-led J&K Wakf Board took control of the shrines and other properties in J&K and dissolved all the local Aukaf and Wakf committees.

The move is being seen as an attempt to entrench the control over religious institutions of the erstwhile state and choke the finances and the authority of influential religious leaders like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who have been spearheading the ‘pro-independence’ political programs.

(Shakir Mir is an independent journalist. He has also written for The Wire.inArticle 14CaravanFirstpostThe Times of India, and more. He tweets at @shakirmir. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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