Protests Erupt in Srinagar as Kashmiri Separatist Sentenced to Life in Prison

Protests erupted in Srinagar, a city in the India-administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir, on Wednesday, May 25, after an Indian court sentenced Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik to life in prison over a 2017 terror funding case.

India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought the death penalty for Malik, who pleaded guilty to all charges including participating in and funding “terrorist” activities, according to Indian and international media reports.

As an NIA court in New Delhi made its decision, supporters of Malik began demonstrating in Srinagar, and parts of the city observed a shutdown. Protesters marching toward Lal Chowk at the center of the city and were stopped by security forces, leading to clashes during which police fired tear gas, according to the Times of India.

This footage from local photographer Junaid Bhat show clouds of gas on a Srinagar street.

Bhat told Storyful that internet connection was temporarily suspended in the area, and additional forces were deployed across the city to handle disruption.

Malikl headed the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a group that was declared an “unlawful association” in 2019 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federally controlled territories.

Malik had pleaded guilty to the charges but on Wednesday told the special court where his trial was held that he had been practising non-violent politics in Kashmir after giving up arms in the 1990s. India declared JKLF an “unlawful association” in 2019, the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federally controlled territories.

“It is high time that it is recognised that terror funding is one of the gravest offenses and has to be punished more severely,” Special Judge Parveen Singh said in the court in New Delhi, announcing Malik’s life imprisonment under a section of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Malik’s wife, Mushaal Hussein Mullick, called the decision illegitimate. “Court verdict in minutes by Indian kangaroo courts,” she tweeted.

The government of Pakistan, which administers part of Kashmir and lays claim to the portion controlled by India, said it had issued its “strongest condemnation and rejection” of the decision, and claimed Malik had been convicted on “fabricated charges,” had been denied a fair trial, and had been maltreated while incarcerated. “India has again misused the judiciary in the outrageous execution of political vendetta against the Kashmiri leadership,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement. Credit: Junaid Bhat via Storyful