‘Political space missing in Kashmir’

‘Political space missing in Kashmir’

Kashmir Magazine

Muhammad Yasin Malik is one of the prominent leaders of Resistance camp. He has been on forefront of political resistance and is reckoned as the initiator of present unity in resistance camp under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik himself. Yasin Malik’s life from armed struggle to political resistance has seen many crests and troughs but as a fact of matter he has never budged under any pressure and pursued his goal with utmost zeal.

The Kashmir Magazine correspondent had a long chat with Muhammad Yasin Malik during which he candidly replied to many of The Kashmir Magazine queries.

Here is the full text of the interview.


The Kashmir Magazine: Article 35A is part of Indian constitution and you are fighting against Indian rule but at the same time up in arms to protect this law. Isn’t it deviation from your stated position?


Yasin Malik: No, this is not ironical at all, in fact this notion is wrong and it is Indian media which is spreading this false notion to befool Kashmiri people. For us this fight is not for Indian Constitution but for protecting our hereditary state subject law. Let me elaborate on this so that confusions are removed. Jammu Kashmir is an internationally accepted dispute which is still pending at United Nations Forum and waiting for a final resolution. This dispute is not there as people of Jammu Kashmir want it to be like that. Kashmiris are and have suffered a lot because of this dispute and we have lost three generations and are at the verge of losing fourth because of this pending issue. Kashmiris are demanding their birth right of self-determination that has been pledged to them. India neither accepts it as a dispute nor is ready to accept any foreign intervention for its resolution. The fact is that it was India that took this issue to the United Nations forum in 1947. It is the leadership of India including its first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru who in Indian parliament and at Lal Chowk Srinagar pledged a plebiscite to the people of Jammu Kashmir, but as time passed, Indians forgot their own pledges and started consolidation of its occupation day by day. It instigated various plots to wane State subject law in Jammu Kashmir, change its demography and alter its Muslim Majority character. I am not alone saying this. In fact this is what many famous and veteran writers and thinkers of India are saying that the Article 370 has been reduced to a hollow sphere by Indian rulers. 1947, Jammu Massacre in which thousands of Muslims were butchered by Hindu Mahasaba people with the active help of former Maharaja of the state was also part of this demographic change. So, it has been a long quest of successive Indian governments to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir but after the installation of Modi government in Delhi and its alliance with PDP in Jammu Kashmir, the long standing RSS agenda started to take shape hastily. It started in the name of giving permanent resident rights to West Pakistan refugees of 1947. After this 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 hunt. Acquiring land for 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 of recent the privatization of electricity and other commodities are also part of this plot. Conspiracies to tinker with article 35A are the latest among these schemes. Let it be clear to all, state subject law is not a new law. This law is in fact a longstanding hereditary law, as old as the formation of Jammu Kashmir state itself. History tells us that this law was initiated by Walter Lawrence in 1884 when 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 sing was ruling this land, started agitation for securing the rights of state subjects 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 Sing in 1927 following a strong campaign by Kashmiri Pandit Community who was opposing the hiring of civil servants from Punjab. For us, like my fellow Pandit Kashmiris and Dogra brothers, state subject law is a matter of life and death and fighting for it as holy as anything. It is pertinent to mention that Indian constitution has such provisions for many other states of India too.....? Article 371 of India constitution 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.


TKM: Why has in your point of view Supreme Court admitted this petition as it is said to have been rejected in the past . Is it also motivated in your view?


YM: I like many top jurists and lawyers am surprised to see this 35A case being heard in Supreme Court. The same Supreme Court has in past rejected any tinkering to it. In 1969, a case titled Sampat Prakash V/S the state of Jammu Kashmir can be searched on internet by anyone. In its Judgment of that case a five member bench of the Supreme Court, clearly ordered and I quote.

“The word ‘modification’ as used in article 370(1) in the context of constitution includes as amendments as well. There are no reason to limit the word in Art 370 (1) only to such modification as do not make any radical transformation....”.........Same kind of judgment came before that in Puran Lal Lakhanpal V/S President of India...A Case where a five member bench of Supreme Court ordered and I quote. “Word modification as used in Art 370(1) in the context of constitution... we are therefore of the opinion that this word must be given widest effect to the meaning of the word modification word in Art 370(1) and in that sense it includes power to amend the constitution”. This is why in my view state subject law and defending it 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.


TKM: So in your view fighting for state subject law is legitimated for you?


YM: 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 National life. 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 does 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.


TKM: Some people say that Kashmiri are a divided lot .They do not know what to achieve and how, they even have no common ideology, what are your views on this notion?


YM: This is again a false propaganda by India trying to confuse masses. As I have told earlier the dispute on Jammu Kashmir is one internationally recognized and accepted. This issue is about the right to choose our future. No one in Jammu Kashmir can even think about this land as not being an issue or dispute. No resident of Jammu Kashmir is of the opinion that Kashmir has been resolved. Everyone is sure about its disputed nature and that it is yet to be resolved. So status quo is nobody’s option. 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.


TKM: What is the cause behind Kashmiri youth taking up Gun, have they lost faith in political system?


YM: Recently in one of my articles I wrote “credit for Ghandian 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 Ghandi 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 Ghandi’s Land and try to find his soul somewhere but could not find it anywhere. A state that glorifies Ghandi 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 want 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 on 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”.

In 1988, I along with many other Brave heart’s 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 Ghandian 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 anger 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 considered 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. Hopefully international community as in past will not 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 one of my previous articles “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. It will have chosen interest and power but history will have settled on freedom. The international community will have, however, disregarded the ideals of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the USA who said, “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a stake, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity”.


TKM: So do you think that youth going towards Gun are being pushed to the wall and hence have no choice but to do what they are doing?


YM: Yes! State repression is pushing them to the wall. Let me give you some examples of recent times. There is no genuine space for peaceful political resistance and this lack of political space forced a whole generation to arms in 1988 and as they say history repeats itself exactly after 20 years same was being done to new generation of Kashmiris. Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the hero of present youth also faced same apathy. He along with many others in their adolescence joined peaceful resistance in 2008 and 2010. Police as usual smothered space on them, tortured and humiliated these young boys and pushed them to armed resistance. The story does not stop here. 2016 saw repetition of the same process. Torture and humiliation kept pushing Kashmiri youth to the path of ultimate sacrifice and now world is debating on its causes. Sometimes I wonder on the nature and need of this debate. I wonder how young educated and in some cases well-settled young men choose a path where tunnel of life has no headway for them. In words of one such young scholar Azhar Nazir Khan’s father when a man is tortured and barred from running a Darasgah in local Masjid and humiliated on daily basis, what will he opt for? Burhan Muzafar Wani and his elder brother Khalid Muzafar wani along with hundreds of others in their areas joined peaceful protests in 2008 and 2010. Young Burhan who had not even completed 15 years of his life, saw police, STF, army and CRPF raiding their house on regular basis, looking for his elder brother, arresting him, torturing him in police cells. His grandfather recalls an occasion when Khalid was arrested because American president was visiting Delhi; hundreds of kilometers away from Kashmir. One day as a custom in Kashmiri villages, his family was duty bound to prepare meals for one of their neighbors’ as someone had died. Father asked both his sons, Khalid and Burhan to go to a nearby village Dadsara and bring some grocery for the purpose. Both boarded a scooter and were stopped by SOG and army on return. After taking them for a forced labor, both were ruthlessly beaten and managed to return back home with fractured bones and raptured ego. This changed a shy boy into Burhan the commander. Another bright star, Mufti Hilal from Palhalan, an Islamic scholar and jurist who had completed his degree from Gujrat and was not in favor of armed struggle, joined peaceful resistance under the banner of Hurriyat Conference and in 2010, was seen active on political front in his area. This boy was delivering speeches, asking people to adhere to peaceful movement. Soon Indian democracy came into action. His house was raided by every section of Indian occupation. One day SOG raided his residence, and almost vandalized and broke all his house hold. He was arrested and tortured by police to the extent that his mother, father and uncle could not hug him at a local court because whole his body was bruised and bone broken. After his arrest this peace loving person was dragged for kilometers and his beard was pulled by police men. He was tied to a tree and police for hours threw stones on him. Slapped with PSA he was sent to Kuthua, released on court orders after two years but again arrested and slapped with another PSA. Now what way was left for this boy except to hold a gun and sacrifice his life which he does. Another classic case of this state oppression forcing young Kashmiris to pick gun is of a young boy Zubair Turray from Shupian. I met with this boy often in Srinagar central jail during last three years as I have been a frequent visitor to the place as a prisoner. A humble soul tortured and tormented by police holding different political view. Zubair was a political activist of Hurriyat but was being treated like any dreaded terrorist .He often questioned me about his fault for he was being panelized. I personally issued many statements on his plight which fell to dumb years of the rulers. Born in 1999, this kid was first arrested by BSF in 2004, when he was only five. He was tortured to the extent that for two months he was not able to take meals by his own hands. In 2009, he was again arrested, slapped with PSA and shifted to Udhampor Jail. After court quashed his PSA, he was kept illegally in a police station for months. In 2013, he was again arrested and slapped with another PSA. On 7th of November 2014, as his elderly resilient father recalls, he was in police custody, Indian Prime minster Modi had arrived in Kashmir. Police charged Zubair who was in police custody of organizing million March and slapped another PSA on him. He was shifted to Udhampor jail again. In own words of Zubair, he was slapped with eight PSA’s during four years of incarceration. Imagine an adolescent who according to human rights commission was under aged and wrongly detained under PSA by the nexus of police and civil administration and jailed for four long years for being in political movement. What should have he done, what way was left for him to choose except what he did on 1st may 2017. He ran away from police station Shupian and joined armed struggle and sacrificed his life. In fact this is not the end of the story, from Altaf Baba to Sameer Tiger, from Shakir Showkat who was being forced to work as an informer of army and was ruthlessly beaten up by a police DSP in front of his father to Sabzaar Ahmad Tral, the story of state repression remains the same. And one more thing to note here is that among these new generation armed resistance lovers, no one has crossed LOC (ceasefire line), no one has got any training, and no one brought a gun from the other side of the divide. The reasons that had pushed my generation to adopt armed resistance in 1988 and the ones behind the new wave of armed resistance were nearly the same. I saw that repression was worse now and last year, after my release from jail, I said in a press conference that non-availability of weapons was discouraging thousands from taking up arms and India should thank its neighbors for not exploiting the situation. As I have previously said that prior to 1988, choking of political space, torturing political dissent , humiliating fathers, mothers, sisters and other relatives of those in political struggle in police stations, third degree torture which in my case was as fatal as it damaged my heart valve was common. A friend of legendry Muhammad Maqbool Butt is on record saying that same was done in decades of 60’s and 70’s. He recalls an occasion when in infamous Bagh I Mehtab interrogation center, Maqbool the legend was stripped naked and paraded before other inmates with only purpose to humiliate him. All this Indian torture and apathy in the words of great Mendela taught Kashmiri freedom fighters the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle. This was true then and this is true now. Kashmiris have no history of violence, no history of being a marshal race, but no history of being cowards too.


TKM: We have a new Governor in J&K. first political Governor. What you have to say on this?


YM: India has used every technology to subjugate the Kashmiri nation. Its use of bullets, pellets, tear smoke and pepper shells, torture centers, intelligence agencies like NIA and jails like Tihar have failed to suppress the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination. Recently governor’s rule was imposed and for the first time in 50 years; Kashmir now has a political governor, Satya Pal Malik. By this appointment Modi government’s objectives are obvious. Ram Madhav, the BJP’s general secretary and in charge of Kashmir affairs, wrote in an article headlined “A suitable governor” on Aug 27: “As governor, his agenda is cut out — accelerating development activity, resolving the governance deficit, and continuing with strong counter-terror measures.

“But what is most important is to kick-start political activity in the state. Elections to local bodies, announced by the outgoing Governor Vohra, are an important step in that direction. But they are not enough. The legislators have to be encouraged to actively undertake political and developmental activities in the state. “It is not the gun of the security forces or the pen of the bureaucrats that should be the permanent feature of governance; it must be returned to the political leadership sooner than later.” Ram Madahv’s assertions make it clear that the lesson has not been learnt. The Modi government wants a coconspirator not administrator and recent orders by Present Governor are proving this point. Everyone knows the situation in Jammu Kashmir, even pro-India parties are staying away from election boggy but Governor Sahib is adamant to impose Delhi’s wishes like Panchayat and municipal elections. Arresting political activists, putting them in jails by using black law PSA has been enhanced under the supervision of new political Governor. “Operation All Out” is being camouflaged in peace attire. But then a question arises. Will this one-trick pony work for India and the obvious answer is a big NO.


TKM: There are news reports about trifurcation of state of Jammu and Kashmir. How will resistance camp react to these reported plans?


YM: A section of the Indian media is circulating stories about Indian Prime Minister Nerander Modi’s plan to trifurcate Jammu and Kashmir. Some people argue that local bodies elections which even pro-India parties like the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, the Communist Party and many others intend to boycott are part of a strategy to split the region into three zones. One wonders what India can achieve by doing this. How it can defy international covenants vis-à-vis the Kashmir dispute and how the international community can silently watch these violations. This new trifurcation slogan is seen by the people of Jammu and Kashmir as another attempt to communalize politics and to confuse the world. However, as a responsible Kashmiri, I must say that Kashmiris will never accept this communal division of their state.