Yasin Malik’s dream
Yasin Malik deserves to be supported because the road he has taken will one day lead that distraught woman to the home from which she was expelled
Yasin Malik was the first man in Kashmir to pick up a gun. He was also the first man to lay it down. It is ironic that a country that never tires of proclaiming Gandhi’s name, appears least inclined to follow his ways. India sees its future greatness in becoming a military power next only to China.
This is not the India Gandhi dreamt about. But there are still some who walk the same lonely path that he did. Yasin Malik, who is visiting America these days, is one such.
He is only 39 years old, 20 of which have been spent in his struggle to win a place on the table, on which only India and Pakistan sup, for his people. Whether he succeeds or fails, one thing is certain: he is not going to give up.
The one Kashmiri leader he admires is KH Khurshid, who was the first man to demand international recognition for Azad Kashmir in 1958. This was seen as treason and he was duly punished for demanding a place on the table for the Kashmiris. It is therefore understandable that Yasin Malik should admire Khurshid.
Yasin Malik has been arrested by the Indian government as many as 100 times. He has suffered torture and solitary confinement in some of India’s most notorious jails. And yet he is not bitter. He does not look back: he looks ahead. He went around 5,000 Kashmiri villages in two years on a signature campaign that demands a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute, but not without the direct involvement of Kashmiris. Yasin Malik’s mission has a direct spiritual linkage to Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave’s approach.
Where does he think things stand today? He supports the current peace process between India and Pakistan but considers it incomplete because it has excluded those who should have come first: the Kashmiris. He says the peace process has left the people of Kashmir out in the cold. Consequently, there is no joy or sense of optimism in Kashmir.
When the first bus left Srinagar for Muzaffarabad, seen off by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, there were only 3,000 people present, 2,000 of them government servants. The Kashmiris feel alienated, once again. It is time that the sad history was changed.
He also wants India and Pakistan to stop “playing favourites”. They should go down to the grassroots. Leadership cannot be conferred from above. It has never worked and it will never work. It is like the two countries have placed three jokers from the pack on the table and declared that they (the jokers) speak for the people of Kashmir. This has no credibility.
And who are those three “jokers”? Omar Abdullah, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Mehbooba Mufti. Yasin Malik fervently believes that it is not in India or Pakistan’s national interest to play favourites. “Let the Kashmiris decide who their leaders are. Don’t thrust them on the people through the media.” He maintains that if the political will exists, then it should not be difficult to identify and involve the true representatives of the people of Kashmir in the peace process. But so far there is no such indication.
Yasin Malik is also convinced that without bringing in the leaders of the militancy in Kashmir, India and Pakistan will never be able to come to a settlement. He says since 1988, the movement in Kashmir has been militant-oriented. The government of India has been negotiating with the militants elsewhere and things are moving forward. Why can’t New Delhi do that in Kashmir, he asks?
He points out that despite the peace process, there has been no let-up in violence in Kashmir. Why? Because the militants have been left out, as if they did not exist, when they do exist and they do matter. “Violence and peace process cannot go together,” he says.
On his last visit to Pakistan, he spent six hours with Syed Salahuddin whom he found responsive to his ideas, unlike on an earlier meeting when the chief of the Jihad Council was cynical about the peace process. Yasin Malik’s argument with those who maintain that the peace process is a sham is simple. He urges them not to sit it out but to join it; if the process is a fake, they would soon find out. However, it would be wrong to denounce it without testing it themselves, he stresses.
Have the governments in Islamabad and New Delhi begun to recognise that? Not so far, he thinks, but he is determined to keep hammering home this point. “If you don’t involve the militants, the peace process has no future,” he declares. He abhors violence. He says such barbaric acts as the Diwali bombings in Delhi have no place in human society.
Yasin Malik has sensible advice for our leaders. “Stop announcing Kashmir solutions publicly. Get down on the table with your stated positions and surely there would be found a meeting point. But it can’t be done through media declarations.”
Yasin Malik is a man of wide sympathies and he is completely free of religious prejudice. At some risk to his life, he walked into a Kashmiri Pandit camp in Udhampur, a stronghold of Shiv Sena and the RSS. He recalls the moment.
An old woman walked up to him and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she asked, “Ramchander Ji’s banbas lasted 14 years. We have been in exile for the same period. When will our banbas end?” Yasin Malik deserves to be supported because the road he has taken will one day lead that distraught woman to the home from which she was expelled.
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent