By Mir Basit Hussain for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Known as one of the first Kashmiri boys to fire a bullet against the Indian administration, Yasin Malik, currently the Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, believes that peaceful protests didn’t succeed because there is no space for them in Kashmir. Malik also feels that the phenomenon of educated youth picking arms is not a new thing in Kashmir.
“There is no difference between what it was in 1984, ‘85, ‘86. We are the products of the non-violent democratic movement of ’84, ‘85, ‘86, and ‘87. What happened to us during that movement? We saw Red-16 type of interrogation centres. We faced beating, unhygienic food, contaminated water, and psychological and physical torture. Our parents used to face the worst kind of abuse from police at that time. Those were the reasons for that generation to start an armed struggle,” Malik told me as we sat conversing at his Abi Guzar office in Central Srinagar.
Malik added that the ‘5000-year-old’ history of Kashmir had been ‘non-violent’.
“But you have to see, what forced the young people to take such a step? When you have no space for a non-violent democratic movement, what will one do?” asked the Separatist leader, counted by some commentators as one of the top four new generation leaders in Kashmir, along with former C.M. Omar Abdullah and leader of People’s Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti.
Malik believes that the British rule in India, despite being an imperialist force, provided space for the non-violent movement of Gandhi as the English rulers were ‘wise’.
“In that way, the imperialist British were a ‘wise’ force. During that time, Gandhian non-violent movement was going on. Gandhi gave the concept of non-violence and people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and others took inspiration from him. So you should appreciate the British for giving space to Gandhi’s non-violent movement. Gandhi or his colleagues were never sent to any interrogation centre by the British. Their family members were never abused or taken to police stations and tortured,” he explained.
According to Malik, the Gandhian way was not the only one open for the people to follow and it had to compete with other methods.
“At that time in the Indian sub-continent, there were two schools of thought: one was Gandhian and the other was represented by Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ashfaqullah, Rajguru, Ram Prasad Bismil and others who believed in liberation through an armed struggle. They were against Gandhi. But the Gandhian movement sustained itself because of the genuine space provided by the British empire,” Malik contended.
He pointed out that when Kashmiris tried their hands at non-violence during the protests of 2008, ‘09, and ‘10 following the row over a grant of land made to the Amarnath shrine, the Indian Government used the same brute force which they used on the likes of him in the 80’s.
“What happened with us in the late 80’s, same thing is being repeated for the last 4-5 years. In 2008, when we saw the collective transformation of the Kashmiris from violent to non-violent, the Indian state again used the brute military force and shot down 72 people that year. They shot down 44 in 2009 and 135 in 2010. After that, they arrested more than 7000 boys, which was a record. That was not the end. Then we saw how their parents were abused and tortured by the forces,” Malik alleged.
Malik also accused the security forces of breaking their own law by detaining and abusing the parents of boys who are either militants or wanted in instances of stone-pelting. He called them ‘kidnappers’.
“We have seen many boys who participated in that non-violent movement joining militant ranks. So what forced them to resort to violence when they were a part of a non-violent struggle? That means there is no space for non-violence. Why would your father and mother be called to a police station, if you are wanted in stone-pelting? What is their crime? Recently I was in Pulwama, where two fathers whose sons were wanted in stone-pelting were detained. I went to the police station and told them this is purely an instance of kidnapping. Does your own Indian law allow you to detain the father of an accused? Can you detain some other person in place of the accused?” asked Malik.
He recalled the time when he undertook Safar-e-Azadi (a signature campaign in favour of independence). Malik alleged a couple of boys who were with him during that ‘democratic process’ were tortured and they joined militant ranks.
“Today’s youth is getting convinced that there are no takers for a non-violent movement. There is no such space. Two or three boys who were with me during the Safar-e-Azadi joined militant ranks. The reason was the same. They were abused and tortured by the police. There is no accountability for the state and its forces,” alleged the JKLF chief.
Malik also alleged that the members of the security forces are set free after killing boys in cold blood. “Now see what they did when Modi arrived here. Gowhar Dar, an engineering student from HMT area was killed by the security forces. SSP police said on record that they fired tear gas shells. Then they constituted a magisterial probe and they said we did not find any bullets missing with the CRPF members so they exonerated them!” he told me.
Gowhar Ahmed Dar, a 22-year-old was killed when protests took place in Kashmir after PM Modi left the state following a visit. Dar died as a teargas shell hit him in the head.
Malik questioned that when youngsters saw how CRPF members walked free after ‘killing’ protesters, why shouldn’t they die as militants? “When the boys see how they exonerated the CRPF, don’t you think the impact would be directly on them? When they see how a young boy was killed in the streets during a non-violent protest, they think why should we not get killed with a gun in our hands?” reasoned Malik.
He also recalled how after a unilateral ceasefire in 1996, his colleagues were allegedly killed.
“When we gave up arms and agreed on a unilateral ceasefire in 1996, 600 colleagues of mine were killed after that. The Indian state still called us a terrorist movement but we proved them wrong. The 116-day Safar-e-Azadi march is the only democratic process regarding Independence that has taken place in Kashmir. We have 1.5 million signatures in favour of independence. Then we saw how the Indian government dealt with us again. There have been I don’t know how many attempts on my life. I have been arrested hundreds of times. In 2002, I was tortured in Jammu. I lost the ability to hear in my right ear. I was sent to Jodhpur jail in 1999 and tortured there also,” said Malik.
Malik feels it’s déjàvu all over again. “The boys are facing the same things again. Otherwise, what happened in 2008?The same youth came out on the streets to protest non-violently, not with guns. Who crushed them? Who packed them in body bags? Who sent them to torture centres?” asked an angry Malik.
He also totally rubbished the fact that ‘educated boys’ were picking arms now which was not the case in the ‘80s.
“Were boys in the ‘80s uneducated? Shaheed Ashfaq Majeed Wani was a topper. Not just in studies but (he was very good) in sports also. Did he belong to any poor family? Nadim Khateeb, who was a commercial pilot in the USA, joined the armed rebellion, for what? Fame? And please note, all those boys were for many years a part of the non-violent movement. That is the reason that they were able to bring the biggest revolution in the 5000-year-old history of Kashmir,” said Malik.
He also mentioned that in any movement anywhere, it’s the students who are the torch bearers.
“Be it the Indian freedom movement, Palestinian movement, or any other, it’s the educated students who are at the forefront. Wherever you go in the world to a conflict zone, it’s the students who are leading the dissent. In the ‘80s, the students protested in Kashmir too. It was only after jail, torture, Red-16 type of interrogation centres that they picked up the gun,” explained Malik.