After Jammat-e- Islami GOI slapped a ban on Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front. An organisation that has publically renounced violence in 1994 and is the same organisation that has time and again urged for peaceful means for settlement of Kashmir dispute. New Delhi must not shrink the political space of dissidents by banning them altogether. These groups should be fought ideologically not by force. This forced silence and mass arrests might gain some into political capital but, for someone, who cares about Kashmir and its integration, this is disastrous, to say the least.
Yasin Malik has come a long way. Once a dreaded militant, the fulcrum of core ‘HAJY’ group, he announced unilateral ceasefire in mid nineties. For this, he had to face the wrath of his parent organisation based in PoK. He didn’t mind that, as well. He preached Gandhian style of politics, and for that he was removed from the chairmanship by Amanullah Khan, the co-founder of JKLF. It didn’t bother him. He, against all odds, denounced militancy despite death of hundreds of his close associates and cadre. He faced harsh criticism and was labelled as an Indian agent but he was firm in his resolve to tread the path of non violence.
In 2007 summer, I heard Malik for the very first time in my village. He, not for once, preached violent means. I remember, how he reiterated umpteenth times that Kashmir has lost hundreds of youth, now it’s time to pursue struggle peacefully. You may have thousand reasons to disagree with someone, but if one talks, preaches and practices peace, you ought to respect them.
In 2009, I heard newly-wed Malik, again in a public function which was also attended by a politician of the then ruling party. As a norm politicians don’t share dais with separatists here. Only , Malik had the audacity to allow one on his stage. Among the separatist factions, only JKLF was the most secular. It didn’t speak of Islamist agenda. Historically, if there was an organisation that New Delhi was comfortable to engage with in Kashmir, it was this JKLF. Malik, lost some of his senior colleagues in 2005 just for the reason he was willing to talk to Indian PM. Former PM, Vajpayee has, reportedly, displayed willingness to engage with Yasin Malik. Perhaps, Malik was the most moderate voice in Kashmir to talk to, regarding Kashmir dispute. Today, he stands lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail, Jammu.
When Malik announced ceasefire in 1994, hundreds of JKLF militants were killed by pro-Pakistan militant group Hizbul-Mujahideen. Despite losing men to violence and having chosen the path of armed struggle following the rigged elections of 1987, Malik maintained how peace was the only way forward. By banning his organisation and booking him under Public Safety Act now, New Delhi has perhaps lost an able interlocutor in Kashmir. Instead of patronising him, they are pushing Malik to the wall. Today, when his organisation stands banned, New Delhi has raised more questions than answering few. For the short term electoral gains, that this may potentially result into, Centre shouldn’t lose the longer goal in Kashmir.