Yasin Malik and Civil Society


I’m sure that not many would agree with JKLF chairman Yasin Malik’s view that “Our movement (for the right to self determination) internally has been harmed by our literati, who should have instead strengthened it.” The JKLF chairman has maintained that the literati are guilty of the “worst form of hypocrisy” because he feels that “These people attend global conferences, talk about human rights, even go to Pakistan and tell them how to run the movement and then land in Delhi to tell the Indian government how to manage the conflict.” However, Malik isn’t the only one who holds such an uncharitable view about members of civil society. His sentiments are shared by most of our leaders and even though they may not have expressed it in so many words, their disdain for civil society and the literati is clearly palpable.

The views expressed by Malik reveals how little the separatist camp knows what civil society is all about. From his statement it appears that the JKLF chairman thinks that the sole role of civil society and the literati is to ‘strengthen’ the ongoing movement by enlisting en masse as unquestioning foot soldiers of the separatist camp. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that if this does happen then both civil society and the literati would no longer be looked upon with respect they deserve as jumping onto the separatist bandwagon would  require them to abandon intellectual debate and rational discourse. Readers would agree that it is the moral duty of civil society and the literati to help resolve disputes and settle issues by exploring all practically viable avenues. Thus engaging with all involved parties and offering a variety of suggestions and options is very much in order and something that cannot be avoided.  

Had Malik looked inwards before besmirching civil society and the literati by going back a quarter century in time then he would have realised that he too is amongst those responsible for setting the very wrong precedent of singling out renowned members of civil society when militancy started in Kashmir! This was extremely unfortunate as most of the victims were as passionate about “azadi” as the gun wielding ‘freedom-fighters’ that dispatched them for having committed the ‘crime’ of denouncing use of violence for this purpose. This practice spawned the philosophy of ‘might is right’ and the situation today can best be explained by the chilling phrase, “You’re either with us or against us!” In such an intolerant environment, articulation of views that are at variance with those expressed by separatists is akin to sacrilege and positive suggestions for improvement are interpreted as acts of treason. This is why the voices of civil society and the literati in Kashmir largely have remained rather subdued.  

However, more than the fear of being branded a ‘traitor’ it is the refusal of our leaders to pay heed to positive suggestions and sincere advice offered by members of civil society and the literati that dissuades them from getting involved. Civil society and the literati need to be given the respect they deserve for their intellect. They can’t be expected to blindly endorse everything and anything that our leaders say or do. Therefore, to call them hypocrites just because they “attend global conferences, talk about human rights, even go to Pakistan and tell them how to run the movement and then land in Delhi to tell the Indian government how to manage the conflict,” is downright humiliating. The separatists should realise that resolution of the Kashmir issue is something much more than just giving hartal calls, addressing protest rallies and attending iftar parties at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. 

Let us also not forget that the negative fallout of many a serious blunders made by those leading the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ have been mitigated to a great extent by the sustained efforts of civil society and the literati. I’d rather not delve any further on this point as it would tantamount to washing dirty linen in public but I hope that those who consider members of civil society and the literati to be “hypocrites” will introspect and change their opinion. Lastly, irrespective of what the separatists feel, the public should not despair as members of civil society and the literati are a mature and responsible lot that would not be put off by aspersions cast on their ethical conduct by separatists. Even if Malik thinks that they are “collaborators,” members of civil society and the literati will sincerely and silently continue to do their duty by interacting with all concerned, making positive suggestions and offering sound advice even if some of the same annoy the separatists!

Niloofar Qureshi is a New Delhi based columnist. She can be reached at: niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com>

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