Yasin Malik case: Where are champions of human rights?
May 25, 2022 will be written as a Black Day in the history of the international human rights and justice system, when a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in the Indian capital New Delhi announced a verdict on an iconic Kashmiri pro-independence leader Yasin Malik to life imprisonment in a ‘terror’ funding case.
Though the Hindutva supporters pressurized the court to hang him till death since he was not guilty they couldn’t do it. The charges against him included sections 16 (terrorist act), 17 (raising funds for the terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy to commit terrorist act) and 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang or organization) of the UAPA and sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 124-A (sedition) of the IPC.
But how long Hindutva can sit on the existing verdict. Yasin Malik told the court that he was not contesting the charges leveled against him because he never accepted his crime and still stands on his words such as “Atal Bihari Vajpayee allotted me a passport and allowed me to make a statement because I was not a criminal”. Yasin further stated that if seeking Azadi [freedom] is a crime, then I am ready to accept this crime and its consequences.
His wife Mushaal tweeted: “They can give all the verdicts they want. It won’t stop us from fighting for our Azadi, our freedom. I’ll continue this struggle till my last breath and then my daughter will continue this fight. And we will fight for generations till we are given our rights”.
But here the question is what happened that Yasin Malik ended up in the Indian jail and how he was held accountable for something he never was involved in.
In 2017, National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case of terror funding against various separatist leaders including Yasin Malik and in April 2019, NIA arrested Yasin.
In March 2020, he was charged under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), the Arms Act 1959 and Ranbir Penal Code for the attack on 40 Indian Air Force personnel in Rawalpora, Srinagar on January 25, 1990.
In March 2022, a Delhi court reviewed the evidence and ordered the framing of charges against him under the stringent UAPA and Indian Penal Code.
But this is not the first time India is arresting and detaining innocent Kashmiris that have been demanding its right to self-determination since 1947, mandated by a number of UN Security Council resolutions.
According to credible media as well as human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and People’s Unions for Civil Liberties reports, an estimated 4,000 – 13,000 people have been detained since 5 August 2019 in addition to those who have been languishing in jail for years for expressing their dissent to India’s occupation.
The recent amendments on 5 August 2019 when India de-operationalized the “special status” of Jammu and Kashmir that was enshrined in Article 370 of the Indian constitution, provided a futile ground to the Modi regime to harass and punish Kashmiris openly and legally with zero pressure from the international community and UN.
Kashmiris have termed this ‘unilateral action’ as an attempt by the Hindu-nationalist government of PM Narendra Modi to change the legal status of a territory that remains disputed in the international arena and to bring about demographic changes in the region.
This demographic change would involve making the Muslim-majority region into a Hindu-majority, to render any possible solution of the dispute obsolete.
This decision of the Indian government violates various regional and international treaties and constitutional agreements.
With this India is in violation of its obligations under the Geneva Convention. The detention of Yasin Malik violates India’s international legal obligations, customary international law and jus cogens norms.
During detention, his wife and child are not allowed to meet him – this is again against the set judicial norms and fundamental rights.
But, here the question arises why India is airing his case at this stage where Pakistan is going through political turmoil and busy in sorting out its internal affairs.
To me it looks like India is preparing to swap Kulbhushan for Yasin Malik when Pakistan is busy with its internal issues.
But there is no comparison in both cases where Kulbhushan Jadhav is a declared terrorist while Yasin Malik is a political activist.
What sort of arrangement will be this? If India is aiming for Kulbhushan’s release by swapping Yasin that will set an ugly precedent for the future.
Where India will detain innocent Kashmiri people and demand for the release of its terrorists detained in Pakistan.
There are several innocent Kashmiris in the Indian detention centers along with Yasin Malik such as politicians, activists, students, business leaders, lawyers, human rights defenders, teachers and children.
The international community, civil society and Pakistan have to play a pivotal role in the release of these detainees.
A review of the 5 August 2019 decision is not only required but an obligation to be fulfilled by the human rights organizations.
Otherwise, they need to spell out that their laws are defined per international preferences in global politics.
India no longer recognizes the special status of Kashmir through international law which allows to certain degrees to hold armed struggle against foreign occupation. India feels pressureless as there is no stronger Kashmir diplomacy happening around. Pakistan should firmly take the case to the International Court of Justice and ask for reviewing Malik’s case.
This will help both Yasin Malik and the general masses of Kashmir to achieve their basic rights per International Law.
A simple demarche along with strong condemnation by the Foreign Office of Pakistan such as demanding “the Government of India for acquittal of Malik from all “baseless” charges and immediate release from prison so that he can be reunited with his family, recuperate his health and return to normal life” is not sufficient.
Pakistan has to take strong measures and take the case to the UN and International Court of Justice – bring it into the limelight of the Muslim World forum and appeal for Yasin Malik’s release and other innocent Kashmiris without any exchange for Indian terrorists in Pakistani jails.
The special status of Kashmir needs to be restored to control the atrocities of the Modi regime otherwise the consequences can be alarming!
But here the question arises: where are the champions of human rights in the world? Where neither the life of Palestinians nor Kashmiris matters.
Are they children of lesser gods? Why is blatant human rights violation in Palestine and Kashmir acceptable to the champions of human rights? Their inaction highlights that human rights organizations are also infected with racial discrimination.
When poor Palestinians and Kashmiris are looking towards the champions of human rights but where are they looking?
The world has turned merciless under the umbrella of human rights champions to decide whose life is important or whose not. Very unfortunate!
[The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Public Policy, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Sciences and Technology.]