Wednesday, September 28, 2022

After Yasin Malik, will it be the Hurriyat’s turn?

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Kashmiri separatists are in the spotlight after the life imprisonment awarded to Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik this week. While this is a significant order by Patiala House Additional Sessions Judge 3 Parveen Singh, the same judge has issued an order on charge against Jamat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on March 16 which could lead to action against Kashmiri separatist groups.

The All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the “moderate” faction of which is led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, the hardline faction led by the late Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising the above two leaders and Yasin Malik, are the three separatist groups that have been at the forefront of the secessionist demand.

ASJ Singh in his order of charge has found prima facie evidence that the three can be prosecuted under Section 20 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). The section reads: “ 20. Punishment for being member of terrorist gang or organisation.—Any person who is a member of a terrorist gang or a terrorist organisation, which is involved in terrorist act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Additional Sessions Judge Parveen Singh

This is a landmark decision since it can lead to the life imprisonment of any or all of the avowed members of the three groups.  The Hurriyat and the Geelani faction have not been tagged as terrorists until now by a court. They have been treated as a parallel political formation by both journalists and think-tanks alike.

The Court said it has prima facie found that APHC/Hurriyat/JRL to have been conspiring against India with terrorist organisations as well as that with the foreign hand (read Pakistan) to establish for secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India. The terrorist organisations mentioned here are linked to Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

ASJ Parveen Singh, after discussion of evidence, said prima facie, it is established that the acts are all covered within the definition of terrorism as provided in Section 15 of UAPA.

“I find that there is sufficient evidence to prima facie hold, at this stage, that Hurriyat/APHC, Tehrike-e-Hurriyat/JRL are terrorist gangs,” the judge said.

The court had also framed charges against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, Kashmiri separatist leaders Shabbir Shah, Masarat Alam and others, under various sections of the stringent UAPA and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including criminal conspiracy, waging war against the country, and unlawful activities and terrorism, in a case pertaining to secessionist activities that disturbed Jammu and Kashmir.

The charges have also been framed against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Md Yusuf Shah, Aftab Ahmad Shah, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Md Akbar Khanday, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Masarat Alam, Abdul Rashid Sheikh and Naval Kishore Kapoor.

ASJ Parveen Singh in his order has clearly mentioned that it was Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Rashid Engineer, Altaf Fantoosh, Masrat and Hurriyat/Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) who were the direct recipients of terror funds and should be penalized to start with.

As per the statements of witnesses, there seems an emerging pattern that the agencies from Pakistan and these accused along with their parties have been sharing a common goal. It is also worthy to notice that there seems to be an agreement on the means to be used for achieving the end. The evidence also prove that “the terror funding is also being provided from Pakistan,” the judge says in the order.

The court found that, in the conspiracy, “The baton was held by conductors sitting across the border in the form of Pakistani agencies such as ISI and each of the conspirators, knowing every other conspirator, was playing his own role as per the directions of the conductor in order to create a symphony of bloodshed, violence, mayhem and destruction with the ultimate object of secession of J&K.”

The order said that the money for terror funding was sent from and by Pakistan and its agencies and even the diplomatic mission was used to fulfil the evil design.

The order speaks in detail about the role of terror funding. The money that was sent by proclaimed international terrorists and accused Hafiz Saeed, it said.

The court noted that if one reads  joint press statement which was issued by Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik and others, one will see that the terrorist organisations and JRL/All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) not only share a common goal but work in unison towards their goal.

The court also noted that the above accused have orchestrated large scale protests and created problems. Systematic planning has been exercised to achieve the goal by getting into sub-conspiracies that lead to a channel of violence like stone pelting, spreading unrest, arson, vandalism, loss to life and property, the court said.

While talking about the major players, the court said Yasin Malik was raising funds from different part of the world to carry terrorist activities calling them as “freedom struggle”.

Calling Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali as one of the channels to help create mechanism for terror funding, and Naval Kishore Kapoor playing an active part in facilitating it, the order nails the trail of terror financing.

The order says: “From the analysis of his bank accounts, it has been ascertained that foreign remittances to the tune of Rs 2,26,87,639.31 were received by the accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in different accounts from the year 2011 to 2016.

An amount of Rs 93,87,639.31 came in Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali’s A/c No. NRE-0252040200000505 J&K Bank from 2011 to 2013. All these foreign remittances were from unknown sources.”

While looking at video evidence, the court said Rashid Engineer has been issuing subtle messages to police personnel for not following orders by their superiors in J&K as that will amount to wrong for Kashmiri brothers. He is also accused of inciting disaffection towards India and its armed forces.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its report has clearly mentioned that various terrorist organisations such as the LeT, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), JKLF, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) among others with the support of the ISI of Pakistan, perpetrated violence in the Valley by attacking civilians and security forces.

The report also made it a point to bring forth APHC was formed in 1993 to give a political front to secessionist activities.

The court has taken due record of the NIA chargesheets that have been submitted which talk of credible information about Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the secessionists and  members of Hurriyat Conference, the separatist leaders who have long been acting in connivance with the LeT, HM and also with other agencies across the border for collecting funds through illegal hawala channels.

By Chayanika Joshi

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