Yasin Malik | The poster child of separatism in Kashmir

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The JKLF leader has a complex past of both fighting and engaging India, but he has remained a hardliner when it comes to his ideology

The JKLF leader has a complex past of both fighting and engaging India, but he has remained a hardliner when it comes to his ideology

The Jammu-Kashmir Plebiscite Front (JKPF), the umbrella organization of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was founded by Maqbool Bhat, a Kashmiri schoolteacher, in 1966, the same year Yasin Malik was born. Last week, Malik, the current chairman of the JKLF, was sentenced to life in prison in a case of illegal cross-border funding.

Amanullah Khan from the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK) was the first chairman of the JKLF, which was formed in 1977 to “liberate” J&K from both India and Pakistan. Khan died in Pakistan in 2016. The JKLF as an armed group came into the limelight in 1984 when their UK-based men kidnapped Ravindra Hareshwar Mhatre, a 48-year-old Indian diplomat, from a bus stop. The first-ever kidnapping by the JKLF was a desperate attempt to release their imprisoned patron, Bhat. But things didn’t go as planned. Mhatre’s body was found in Birmingham three days later. The incident spurred the trial of Bhat, who was hanged in Tihar in 1984 for the 1968 murder of a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer.

After that incident, the JKLF disappeared from the scene until December 8, 1989, when the group, with just 40 members in its ranks, kidnapped the daughter of then Union Home Secretary Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as she was walking home from her medical school Srinagar, around 3:45 p.m

Moosa Raza, who was chief secretary of J&K in 1989, described the impact of the kidnapping on the security situation in the state in his book Kashmir: Land of Regrets: “The head of the intelligence bureau was as groping in the dark as the local police. The JKLF took responsibility and demanded the release of its members from custody in exchange for Ms Sayeed. The JKLF decided to kidnap so they could become a celebre.”

ground support

Locally, the incident proved célèbre for the JKLF and their aim was to mobilize ground support for their ideology in Kashmir as their five men were released in exchange for Ms Sayeed. It further strengthened the JKLF. Later, the group’s well-known HAJY group – Hamid Sheikh, Ashfaq Majeed Wani, Javed Ahmad Mir and Yasin Malik – who had come to PoK for weapons training in 1988, became the poster child of militancy in Kashmir.

The group’s popularity even prompted Pakistan to reconsider its Kashmir policy, leaving many in the Deep State on edge. This was reflected in the release of the militant Hizbul mujahideen, who demanded J&K’s accession to Pakistan, contrary to the JKLF’s goal of “full independence”.

Frail-looking but agile and angry, Malik became the face of the JKLF after his two assistants, Hamid Sheikh and Ashfaq Wani, died in two separate encounters in Srinagar in 1992. Prior to his JKLF role Malik, who hails from a modest apartment in Srinagar’s Maisuma, Mohammad Yusuf Shah, an election worker in the Batamaloo area of ​​the Muslim United Front (MUF) candidate, who died after his defeat in the rigged 1987 election Syed Salahuddin of the United Jehad Council became.

In his book, Mr. Raza described the indelible marks left on the psyche of the MUF and its supporters by the rigged 1987 election that unleashed a new wave of violence at J&K. “I told Abdul Majid Wani (father of Ashfaq Wani). They claim to fight for justice. But you yourself are wrong by kidnapping an innocent girl and holding her against her will. I know your son and other JKLF leaders may be downstairs. Please explain the point to them and get an answer,” Mr. Raza wrote.

Senior Wani returned to the room with a message from the kidnappers. “Sir, these are good boys. They consider Rubaiya to be their own sister. They would not harm her in any way. But they say they were arrested, beaten and jailed for acting as poll clerks for the MUF candidates in the last election. Isn’t that an injustice?”

Malik was arrested in August 1990 at the height of militancy. By this time he had shown early signs of being interested in initiating a political process on Kashmir. In addition to the official envoys, he repeatedly met diplomats from the West and left-wing intellectuals from the country, including heads of the secret service. Malik once said that reading Mahatma Gandhi’s Resistance in a Delhi prison motivated him to change course on the Kashmir issue.

Malik made an unpopular decision in 1994 to declare a truce that split the JKLF into two factions: Amanullah Khan’s faction in PoK and Malik’s faction in Kashmir. This earned him hatred in parts of Pakistan, but also won the trust of many in India, particularly the ruling political class, who wanted to put an end to the growing and unchecked armed rebellion in the valley.

No written record

Interestingly, there is no written record of the ceasefire agreement and the terms agreed to by Malik and the government at the time. However, the previous governments’ decision not to pursue proceedings against him was a signal in this direction. In 2009, the Srinagar wing of the TADA Court stayed the proceedings and ordered the proceedings “to remain in abeyance” in two key cases Malik faced – the killing of Indian Air Force men in Srinagar’s Rawalpora territory and the kidnapping of Ms. Sayeed. However, the policy was turned on its head by the BJP government after it came to power in 2014. This ended New Delhi’s policy of including Kashmiri separatists as stakeholders.

Over the years, Malik had been the go-to person for Delhi in Kashmir, providing a platform for talks whenever the valley experienced eruptions. In 2006 he supported India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir and was sent to Pakistan by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s emissaries to rally militant groups there to support the negotiated four-point formula.

In response to an offer of talks from LK Advani, who was Union Minister in the NDA government, Malik told CNN in 2000: “Previous governments also offered talks – the governments of VP Singh, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and IK Gujral – but They all had the same conditions. I do not think so [this government] showed every flexibility.”

For both Pakistan and India, Malik has always proved a tough nut to crack when it comes to his ideological core. In 2000, Malik threw a shoe at Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who was negotiating at US behest between India, Pakistan and separatists after a verbal brawl over understanding of the Kashmir issue. In 2016, Malik wrote a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif warning against changing the status of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Malik directed political agitation in Kashmir between 2008 and 2016, much to the chagrin of New Delhi. He traveled through Kashmir in 2007 during the campaign “Safar-i-Aazadi (Journey of Freedom)” and collected 70,000 signatures from local people to emphasize the need to involve the people of J&K in the dialogue process.

Separatist Politics

Now Malik’s JKLF is banned. He was arrested and the JKLF office in Srinagar sealed after the Union Home Office issued the ban order in March 2019, just a month after the Jaish-e-Mohammed attack in Pulwama.

Malik’s sentencing is fraught with implications. In the short term, the separatist policy safety valve that Delhi has used in the past will come to an end. This will give room for new militant faces to dominate the scene in the Valley. On the other hand, Delhi would hope that Malik’s conviction would act as a deterrent to rebellion among future generations. But the hanging of Maqbool Bhat did not act as a long-term deterrent. So it remains to be seen how Malik’s conviction would affect militancy in Kashmir.

In focus

Yasin Malik was one of the four members of the infamous HAJY group. They became the figureheads of the JKLF in the 1980s

In 1994, Malik announced a truce, an unpopular decision at the JKLF’s grassroots level that led to a split in the organization

In 2006, Malik facilitated India-Pakistan talks and was sent to Pakistan by Manmohan Singh’s government. to persuade militants to support dialogue

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