Yasin Malik is a former militant commander and now chairman Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a political organization that advocates independence for the state of Jammu and Kashmir from both India and Pakistan. In 1988, Yasin Malik picked up gun against the Indian state and later announced indefinite ceasefire in 1994 calling for peaceful methods to solve the dispute. Malik has spent several years in different Indian jails and has been incarcerated more than 200 times. In conversation with Hanan Zaffar, Malik talks about the current situation in the valley, validity of Article 35 A , Kashmiri Pandits and the hartal politics in Jammu and Kashmir.
Here are the few excerpts:
Recently the case of constitutional validity of Article 35A raked up in SC and the whole state was up in arms. But don’t you find it ironical that you are fighting to protect a certain element of constitution of the same state from which you want succession?
See there is an aim and ambition in challenging of Article 35A. India has used various conspiracies to weaken State subject law in Jammu Kashmir, change its demography and alter its Muslim Majority character. These are not only my words but the words of many famous and veteran writers and thinkers of India who have time and again said that Article 370 has been reduced to a hollow sphere by respective Indian regimes. 1947 Jammu Massacre in which thousands of Muslims were butchered by Hindu Mahasaba people with the active help of erstwhile Maharaja of the state was also part of this ethnic cleansing and demographic change. So, it has been a long pursuit of successive Indian governments to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir but after the installation of Modi government in Delhi and its recently broken alliance with PDP in Jammu Kashmir, the long standing RSS agenda started to roll along fast.
It is started in the name of giving permanent residency rights to West Pakistan refugees of 1947. Then came the issue of separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits, Separate colonies for Ex-Indian soldiers. Granting land to Amarnath shrine board in 2008 was also part of this pursuit. Railways granting land on lease to Indian companies, implementation of GST in Jammu Kashmir and hence reducing its own tax and financial structure to ashes and so on.
Latest of theses conspiracies is the tinkering with article 35A which is actually safeguarding the 1927 state subject law of Jammu Kashmir.
Even renowned representatives of Dogra Samaj like Oam Prakash Saraf supported the said struggle and persuaded Maharaja to implement the law. For us 35A is not new and we are not fighting for its safeguard because it is in the Indian constitution, but for us it is protecting our hereditary state subject law promulgated by Dogra Ruler Hari Singh in 1927 following a strong campaign by Kashmiri Pandit Community who were opposing the hiring of civil servants from Punjab.
So you want to say you have backing of all diverse groups including Kashmiri Pandits on the issue?
Let it be clear to all, state subject law is not a new law. This law is old law…as old as the formation of Jammu Kashmir state itself. History tells us that this law was initiated by Walter Lawrence in during his stay in Kashmir from 1889 to 1894 after Kashmir became a part of British Empire and was sold to Dogras for 75 lakhs Nanek Shahi….This law is actually an outcome of the struggle of Pandit Leaders like Jia Lal Kalim, Professor Jia Lal Koul, Shanker Lal Koul, Jia Lal Jalali and others who in 1880, when Partab Singh was ruling this land, started agitation for securing the rights of state subjects of Jammu Kashmir.
For us, like my fellow Kashmiri Pandit and Dogra brothers, state subject law is a matter of life and death and fighting for it as sacred as anything. I wonder why this opposition to special status of Jammu and Kashmir only. Does Indian constitution have no such provisions for many other states of India too…..? Article 371 of India constitution clearly gives same kind of status and bars people from outside to buy land or property in many others hilly states like Mizoram, Naga land, Manipur etc. I wonder and I am surprised to see this 35A case being heard in Supreme Court because the same Supreme Court has in past rejected any tinkering to it. 1969 case titled Sampat Prakash V/S the state of Jammu Kashmir is a clear example and can be searched on internet by anyone.
So in my view defending state subject law is a matter of life and death for the people of Jammu Kashmir and no Kashmiri will sit silent on its abrogation. People of Jammu Kashmir are all one on this matter because its abrogation will affect each one of us. Yes people of Jammu Kashmir are striving for their right of self-determination and state subject law is directly linked with this right. State subject law is in all respects linked to our right of self-determination and any attack on it has grave consequences on our struggle. Under the garb of removing 35A, RSS backed BJP and its allies want to abrogate hereditary state subject law enacted in 1927 and hence settle non-Kashmiris on this land. This is what Israeli Zionists did in Palestine and grabbed land of Palestinian people and made the real inhabitants of that land as slaves and subjugated people. Pro-India stooges who are upset with the peoples support to JRL from Kargil to Poonch and Doda to Srinagar on this matter of life and death should know that Kashmiris will spill their blood to save their identity and uniqueness.
Don’t you think this whole strategy of reactionary strikes and protests is having no bearing on Indian state ? Hurriyat seems to be without a plan B. A few decades back JKLF announced a government in exile, where apparently people from all shades of opinion were nominated. Why didn’t that take off?
The uproar over hartals is always coming from the ruling regime as it hits them hard. If it is harmless to them, why are they always up against this mode of peaceful resistance? For an ugly occupation and oppression you cannot have a beautiful and delicate kind of a resistance. Let me remind you of Great Nelson Medela. US president Bill Clinton has mentioned in foreward of a book on Mendela that when he (Nelson Mendela) was asked why he and his African national congress started Armed struggle against apartheid his reply was, “A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a point, one can only fight fire with fire”.
So let me put a counter question on this. Give me one instance when Indian democracy, its authorities have allowed any one among the resistance camp (Joint Resistance leadership) to hold peaceful programs. Give me one instance when Indian authorities allowed young Kashmiris to vent out their anger, express their views, stage peaceful protests without smoke shelling, arbitrary arrests, pellet and bullet firings, restrictions and curfews. Any instance? From 2014, I myself have been arrested hundreds of times. In fact this is the oppression unleashed by Indian authorities on peaceful political activities and activists which is motivating many young men to go towards armed struggle. When you do not allow any peaceful political dissent what are young boys in their teens supposed to do but to go for an ultimate sacrifice.
In given circumstances, when the so-called biggest democracy is not ready to allow political peaceful resistance and dissent any space, Hartal is the only effective and peaceful way to express our protest. Hartal is our only weapon of resistance and it is a way to send a message to international community of our sufferings. It is non-violent mode of resistance and has been used throughout world for resistance. We always welcome intellectuals, people to come with alternative’s to Hartal, but as I said before, let occupation and oppression get a bit fairer, you will see more peaceful modes of resistance being employed by us.
There has been a visible change in how youth now see this conflict. Often you now see waving of ISIS flags and calls for establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Don’t you think ‘independence struggle’ as you call it is now turning into a movement with humongous religious connotations? And how does a party like JKLF which considers itself based on nationalistic and secular endeavors react to it?
This perception is not true and even Indian ministers and Kashmir authorities have time and again denied it. Though it is equally true that same people rake up these issues to malign our political movement. The issue of Jammu Kashmir is pending before the international community from more than seventy years now long before the emergence of so-called radicalization, fundamentalism and various phobias created by today’s media. Kashmir has been a land of peace, brotherhood, religious tolerance, equality and tranquility. Never throughout our history have we the people of Jammu Kashmir overlooked or ignored these high grounds.
Despite heavy negative propaganda by India and its media, we the people of Jammu Kashmir have considered communal harmony as supreme. Thousands of Pandits (Kashmiri Hindus), Sikhs, Christians, Buddahs live peacefully in Srinagar today. Srinagar the capital city of Jammu Kashmir has Hindus and Sikhs running big businesses in Lal Chowk. We have at least four Hindu Ashrams, equal number of Sikh Gurdawars and Churches located within Lal Chowk and we all can lay down our lives to protect these places of esteem and pride. We love and cherish the presence of big Christian Missionary Schools like Tyndale Biscoe School, Mallinson Girls School, Burn hall school and Presentation convent Girls’ school in the heart of city and having its branches in entire Kashmir Valley.
We Kashmiris proved our non-communal attitude and religious tolerance in worst times like 2008, when Hindu fanatics in Jammu blocked roads to Kashmir valley and deprived our infants of baby food, milk and diapers and our ailing people of life saving drugs but in contrast we organized shelter camps to Amarnath Yatrees, provided them food and roof and escorted them to their homes and places outside the valley. We proved this in 2014 floods too when we placed our minorities above us and displayed brotherhood of highest order. These are hard facts which can be verified by anyone. This is no propaganda like India is doing to club and paint our sacred struggle for freedom to religious fanatics and fundamentalism. Every now and then Indian media cooks up the stories portraying Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as a communal one. Photos of few youth with different flags are circulated to prove this lie. The credibility of these photos has also been exposed now and recently policemen in civvies displaying these flags has come to forth with one Indian policeman involved accepting the fact that he was ordered to do this by higher officials.
Not only this police man, even Indian ministers like Hans Raj Aahir as recently as on August 10th 2018, and police chief Doctor Vaid as recently as on February 27th 2018, have denied the presence of ISIS or any other international groups like these in Jammu Kashmir. I must reiterate that Jammu Kashmir is a political and human issue. This issue is related to the right of self-determination of millions of Kashmiris and we are striving for the cause of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Dogras, Buddhas, Christians and all others living in all divided parts of Jammu Kashmir.
The people of Kashmir seem to be divided on what they actually want? Broadly you find three shades of opinion among people who abhor status quo- with some vouching for Azadi, some for merger with Pakistan and others demanding greater autonomy within India. With such a divided house, how can you cruise the ship or come to a bargaining position with New Delhi?
As I have told earlier the dispute on Jammu Kashmir is one internationally recognized and accepted and it is about the ‘right to choose future’. There may be some who may want to stay with India. In Resistance camp yes there are two shades of opinion about Azadi and accession with Pakistan but everyone here agrees on one thing that Jammu Kashmir is a disputed land and India has occupied this land by military might, illegally and that people of Jammu Kashmir should be given their right of self-determination. So what is bad in holding a divergent view? If we all believe in Democracy then we should accept everyone’s right and choice. We accept and respect everybody’s view and choice and keep our belief in democracy and people’s choice. So let people of Jammu Kashmir decide their future democratically and let the verdict of majority prevail. We have no ambiguity on this issue …no confusion absolutely. We in resistance camp are one. We are united under the banner of Joint resistance leadership (JRL), resisting the oppression of India unleashed against us the people of Kashmir and demanding our right to self-determination. We are resisting with one voice without any confusion. Recent Protest on the state subject law across Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh at the call of JRL was an exemplary display of this unity. So where is the difference or any ambiguity? In fact this talk of differences is propagated by Indian authorities and media who have been frustrated by the exemplary unity under joint resistance leadership (JRL) and the continued struggle by the people of Jammu Kashmir. People of Jammu Kashmir are one and we all know and accept that our future is yet to be decided and that India is holding this land illegally by its military might.
Rajnath Singh during PDP- BJP coalition era had said center is ready for talks with Hurriyat. Interlocutor (Dineshwar Sharma) was also appointed. But there was no positive response from JRL. Don’t you think such an offer from Modi government–often accused of hard stance against Kashmiri separatists- deserved a more serious thought?
No, not at all. Appointment of interlocutors is not new. This gimmicks go around often. What happened to previous interlocutors? This is done to hoodwink international and domestic opinion. Interlocutors come and talk to people from a Rickshaw wala to a factory owner. Spend some good time in Kashmir and then go packing. This is done to dilute the issue. Used like firefighting. So giving this gimmick a serious thought is like befooling ourselves. Is it that Indian’s don’t know what we want even after more than seven decades? New Delhi knows what we want.
In your recent piece you wrote “A bitter reality of today’s reality is that human rights and civil liberties have been disdained. Now state policies no longer get formulated on moral stuff like human rights and ethics. Nowadays before framing policies benefits of economy and hugeness of markets are examined” Are you baffled with the dwindling international support for your cause because of India emerging as a huge potential market for US, EU or even Middle East?
Yes I wrote these lines in a context where I was discussing the causes of our younger generation losing faith in non-violent mode of resistance to an armed one. I also wrote in the same article and I quote “credit for Gandhian theory of Non-violence to succeed actually goes to British occupation which provided genuine political space to him and his cohorts. It was because the oppressor British provided genuine political space to Gandhi and his bandwagon; armed resistance of did not flourish at that time because the youth of that era had a space to vent out their anger and strive for their cause peacefully. Contrary to that today I see Gandhi’s Land and try to find his soul somewhere but could not find it anywhere. A state that glorifies Gandi as its father of nation has trampled his vision and mission of Ahimsa under military boots. A nation that named its nuclear tests after lord Buddah ,‘smiling Buddah’ , suppressed and is suppressing genuine peaceful political might with iron fist and leaving no space for young Kashmiris to vent out their anger and pursue a peaceful resistance.
Another twist in this tail is that Indian hawkish rulers, authorities and their bias media blame Islamic radicalization among Kashmiri Youth for upsurge in Militant activities. I want to ask them, ‘if today it is radicalization, what was then the cause for us to initiate armed struggle in 1988’. Kashmir is still the same, we see no change it the character of people despite all they have seen. We still long for humanity, religious tolerance, peaceful co-existence and non-violence. But we have been denied a space….a peaceful political space by the biggest democracy…space of our young ones has been and is being choked….You cannot push a young boy of 15 or 16 to the wall, humiliate his family in police stations, torture and torment him during political movement, abuse and accuse him on daily basis, blind him with pellets and kill him with bullets and still expect submission from him.
Yes today’s reality is that trade and commerce supersede humanity and values like freedom, but equally there is another reality too and that is a historical reality. Has ever in the entire history of mankind any big or small power succeeded in suppressing a weak nation’s ideology of freedom. Look Vietnam was too small as compared to mighty Americans but it was the Vietnamese who tasted victory at the end. If world opinion or sheer power would have been able to stop march of any nation to its freedom then from America to India and China to Africa more than half of the world would not have been on the map of the world as independent free nations.
Yes today international community is showing apathy towards the subjugated people but they will sooner or later come to realize their mistake because without resolving the long pending disputes like that of Jammu Kashmir , they will not be able to achieve politically or economically what they desire. Indeed irony of our saga has been of changing stances and colors which I am a witness to myself. India and the international community have never been consistent visa vise Kashmir. In 1988, I along with many other brave hearts started armed struggle prior to which no one in the world was ready to even look towards us. Soon this armed resistance transpired into a full- fledged people’s revolution in 1990. Indian political class, civil society and international diplomats sitting in Delhi were shaken to deep, soon they started their firefighting work. Appealing Kashmiris to give peace a chance, to go non-violent, use Gandhian way of Ahimsa. All came with pledges that if Kashmiris considered their appeal, they will stress upon or rather compel Delhi to start process of resolving Kashmir. And when Kashmiris heeded to their repeated implorations, and chose to give peace another chance, India claimed victory of defeating Kashmiri resistance and claimed normalcy and these civil societies, diplomats and dignitaries and their pledges all vanished in thin air.
This firefighting tactics of Indian civil society and the international community Aka Diplomatic community is also responsible for the desperateness of Kashmiri boys whose belief is traumatized and shaken and who are left with no other option but to sacrifice their lives for their dignity. But as I wrote earlier “This is my opinion that sooner or later India and the international community will realize their mistakes in Jammu Kashmir.” Recently United Nations secretary General and the heads of its human rights commission have issued some heartening statements regarding the trampling of human rights by India in Jammu Kashmir and regarding this dispute being yet to be resolved one. So hopefully international community as in past cannot evade or deviate from its stand visa vise Kashmir dispute and will try to persuade all concerned parties to take positive for the peaceful resolution of this long pending dispute. As I wrote earlier in my article “History is not determined by interests and power but by ideals and ideas. We are all tourists on this earth. We too will pass but ideas will remain. The most powerful ideas of our times are freedom, liberty and self-determination. Great powers rise and fall but ideas have a permanency that excels time and spans generations. The seeds of the idea of freedom and liberty have been sown in my land. It will surely sprout one day. But it may then be too late for the international community to be on the right side of history”
Any hopes of a positive change from Imran Khan. In his speeches after becoming PM he has raked up Kashmir issue. Do you think he can strike a chord with PM Modi and initiate a dialogue on Kashmir?
On hope they say is this universe going on. I have met Pakistan prime minister many a times. I know he has good understanding of this dispute and hope he will be able to strike the desired chord..