WHILE Kashmir continues to reel under a serious humanitarian crisis in the wake of the Aug 5 abrogation of Article 370, it seems another sinister potion is brewing in the Hindutva cauldron of India, to be served at an appropriate time to the collective conscience of the bloodthirsty electorate.
As part of the forceful annexation of Jammu and Kashmir by India, New Delhi’s BJP regime set in motion a 30-year-old case against Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik which accuses him of leading a group of militants who killed four Indian Air force officials. Yasin is currently lodged in New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail.
I met Yasin on March 6 this year, a day before he was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and taken to Kot Balwal Jail, Jammu, from Srinagar’s Kothibagh police station where he had been detained under ‘preventive custody’. From Kot Balwal, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the central investigation agency that leads New Delhi’s crackdown on the resistance leadership of Kashmir, took him on remand and he was later lodged in Tihar Jail in a dingy cell in an allegedly bad state of health. Yasin is a chronic heart patient.
Yasin is a lively conversationalist and there isn’t a single boring moment when you’re in his company. He’s a treat to listen to, even if you disagree with him on many issues, as I do.
He’s a very good listener too and that’s why he can talk on an array of subjects despite his modest academic qualifications. He was barely out of his teens when he joined the JKLF and became a part of the legendary HAJY group that besides him comprised Ashfaq Majeed, the first active chief commander of the outfit who was killed in an encounter with the paramilitary CRPF; Hamid Sheikh who was killed along with his associates when paramilitary BSF fired at a boat that was ferrying them across Jhelum River; and Javed Mir, the last chief commander of the JKLF who is under house arrest like many other resistance leaders.
I had gone to see Yasin to seek an interview after his release, not knowing New Delhi had some other plans for him in mind. After exchanging pleasantries, Yasin started off with queries wanting to know my views on where India was headed under the BJP. And then the discussion veered towards his possible arrest under PSA.
I think he had started sensing that New Delhi was up to something, but he wasn’t sure. I shared my thoughts while Yasin kept smoking his Goldflake cigarette in that trademark nonchalant style of his.
People who know him know that he’s a romantic at heart. As a youngster, for some time, he harboured ambitions of becoming a model before the resistance bug bit him. With his back against the wall and legs stretched on the matting, he kept puffing his cigarette and listening to me with rapt attention, occasionally breaking my tempo by raising a quick query. I don’t know why but I took his photograph with my mobile phone, not knowing that the very next day I would post it with the news of his early morning shift to Kot Balwal under the PSA.
Yasin wasn’t informed in advance, as is done in such cases, that he had been booked and had to be shifted out of the state. One could clearly gauge the malicious intent and the sadistic pleasure of the New Delhi dispensation behind throwing it abruptly at him.
Not that others were treated with kid gloves, but there are a host of reasons why Yasin was singled out from the first rung of leadership for such stern and malicious treatment. After the formation of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), a loose alliance of the two Hurriyats and JKLF, it was predominantly Yasin who called the shots — from formulating protest strategies, announcing programmes and carrying out other resistance activities; all this in the face of a brutal NIA crackdown and the arrest of many leaders.
Yasin kept fighting and putting on a brave face, something that the BJP government in New Delhi was in no mood to tolerate. Highly reliable sources say that messages were sent to him to mellow down and cut down on his activities before New Delhi finally decided to teach him a lesson.
Of the three key players in the JRL, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq being the other two, Yasin was by far the most proactive and vociferous. For the last few years, New Delhi and its agencies had shown great aversion to Yasin’s fresh, invigorated stance and his alleged tilt toward Pakistan.
Hawks in the Union Home Ministry and its agencies felt he had ditched them after New Delhi gave him a long rope to grow into an internationally recognised resistance leader, after the JKLF’s indefinite ceasefire which subsequently led to an abdication of militancy by Yasin and his cadre. The momentous decision antagonised many in the resistance camp in Kashmir and Pakistan, putting Yasin’s reputation and life at stake.
Movers and shakers in New Delhi and the J&K state administration also hold it against the incarcerated leader that his articulate, LSE-educated Pakistani wife Mushaal Mullick is equally vociferous and proactive as far as the Kashmir dispute is concerned.
To top it all, a consistent smear campaign against him, especially by the rabid Kashmiri Pandit (KP) organisations foot-soldiering for the Hindu right, also played its part. Hindutva organisations exploited the KP exodus to the hilt for electoral purpose and keep doing so. Many KP zealots made their careers earlier by cosying up to Yasin — before turning on him and baying for his blood — because he was a widely accepted Kashmiri figure, not only in India and Pakistan but across the world.
Those who know Yasin closely, including many Indians and some Kashmiri Pandits, know that he is a devout pacifist, having given up militant means of pursuing his cause as a conscious effort. He put his life on the line a number of times in an effort to create an atmosphere for peace and political dialogue. Yet, today, all of that seems to have gone down the drain and New Delhi sees him as a villain who must be punished.
There is one more reason that makes the picture grimmer for Yasin. BJP’s posturing apart, Pakistan is no minnow. And if there ever were any doubts, Pakistan dispelled them on Feb 27 when it responded to the Balakot fiasco with a stunning aerial assault by the Pakistan Air Force that left many a mouth in India gaping because all these years they were fed stories of a Pakistan that India could gobble up at will. So, BJP’s sole answer to its anti-Pakistan frustrations is to take it out on the Kashmiris.
Also, BJP has to keep Kashmir constantly on the boil because that’s a tested foil for its failures on the domestic front and abroad. And Yasin could be just another victim of such designs.
After the resumption of the trial on Sept 11 against Yasin, Indian media and Hindutva organisations have upped the ante, demanding nothing short of death for him. This is a set template for the Indian state to build a tempo and then implement its decision.
In all likelihood, New Delhi has signed Yasin’s death warrant and it’s just a question of when it will enforce its decision.
The writer is the editor of Kashmir Newsline
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019