Muhammad Yasin Malik, Chairman JKLF is a very strange and intriguing character. In fact, I find him the most interesting to study and he epitomizes the character of Kashmiris – confused, guileful, opportunist, emotional, brave, cautious and full of tantrums.As a militant commander he rose above the ranks of others despite his shortcomings in formal education and disadvantaged family background.
He survived many splits within his party as well as militant threats and fully established himself and his JKLF – partly because of the tacit support of the Indian establishment and security agencies. He is the only Kashmiri separatist who has pockets of support within the intelligence agencies of both India and Pakistan and now he is courting Americans with the blessings from both India and Pakistan.
Yasin Malik is a great survivor. He surrendered in the early 1990s and gave hundreds of JKLF arms and ammunition to the Indian forces which raised the Special Operations Group (SOG) from that using the same arms to kill fellow militants, some from his own group. Yet he called it a cease-fire and got away with it at a time when surrender meant sure death from separatist militants.
Then he established a network of informers for the Indian security agencies to overcome the influence of Hizbul Mujahideen and Jamiatul Mujahideen, particularly in the Srinagar district. Despite the Hizb’s opposition to him, he not only survived but surged ahead. Later, he established direct contact with Indian Prime Ministers – Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh – both clandestinely and openly and when the news was out, he managed it very well. He had very good contacts with Indian leaders Rajesh Pilot and George Fernandes as well.
Last year, when the trans-Kashmir bus service was inaugurated and Pakistan’s then Information Minister Sheikh Rashid was planning to visit his ancestral family in Kashmir, Yasin Malik betrayed Sheikh Rashid and said publicly that he offered help and shelter to the Kashmiri militants. As a result, Rashid was refused visa. There are reports which suggest that Yasin Malik spilled the beans at the behest of Indian intelligence, as they were not happy for Sheikh Rashid to come being certain that he would have received an overwhelming public reception, undermining the Indian position in Kashmir.
More recently, Yasin Malik courted a bigger controversy in Washington when he and Ghulam Nabi Fai of Kashmiri American Council openly supported the Indian position on Kashmir by opposing the right of self-determination. This was so-far Yasin’s biggest shift and that too in public. Despite huge outcry, he seems to have survived it though Fai’s appeal for both Kashmiri separatists and the Pakistani establishment has eroded. Yasin Malik has ever since refused to comment on the Washington Conference, but Afzal Guru’s death sentence seems to have provided him with a new opportunity to divert public attention and use the occasion to his maximum advantage like other Kashmiri politicians from all persuasions.
Yasin Malik is intelligent as well. Despite not being much educated, he speaks good English and has studied immensely to develop a good understanding about the situation around him. After the return from his first visit to the US in 2001, he lied to the Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar to have met with Condolezza Rice, now Foreign Secretary to seek concessions.
He is a ‘drama queen’ too, throwing tantrums every now and then to seek sympathy and secure attention. Some people believe that he is an incarnation of the legendary Sheikh Abdullah though on a much smaller scale. Despite all this, Yasin Malik is still uncontrollable at times and loses his temper. On one occasion he assaulted his fellow Hurriyat leader Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat during a Hurriyat session. He also attacked popular weekly ‘Chattan’ for publishing an article against him and destroyed its office. He is known for his bad language – he swears and smokes regularly despite a heart condition.
He has tremendous support within the Indian establishment. Currently he is close to Ghulam Nabi Fai who is busy to sell ‘an American solution’ to Kashmiris that is without self-determination.
Yasin Malik comes from Maisuma in the heart of Srinagar’s Lal Chowk – a place that has seen umpteen upheavals and is witness to the tumultuous history of Kashmir.
This interview was conducted at his Maisuma residence in May this year.
How do you view the current situation in Kashmir? The situation is pretty bad. In fact, there is no improvement as claimed by both India and Pakistan. The Kashmiri people are suffering as usual.
If nothing has changed as you say, why are you supporting this ‘peace process’ between India and Pakistan? Well we have to move forward. If we do not work towards peace, Kashmir can slide into another Iraq and we could become the breeding ground for Al-Qaeda terrorists and other fundamentalist Islamic forces.
Who is a bigger threat to Kashmiris – India or what you call Islamic fundamentalist forces? I personally think Islamic fundamentalism is a bigger threat, though many may not agree with me.
And why is it so?
You can talk to India, negotiate with it, but not with the fundamentalism.
The Second Round Table Conference is a few days away and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited all the Kashmiris. Are you attending it?
No, I am not attending it as this is not going to solve any problems.
Isn’t it strange that you meet the Indian Prime Minister one to one in New Delhi, but not in the Round Table Conference which at least has some agenda. What kind of message does that give to Kashmiris?
Well as I said it is not the right time and therefore I don’t think I should go.
Does that mean you support the point of view of Syed Ali Geelani who says that all such exercises are useless?
I didn’t say that. All I say is that I don’t think this round table business will help anyway. When I feel something is helpful for the Kashmiris and our cause, I will certainly support it and participate in it.
Earlier you said that the present India – Pakistan Peace Process has not helped Kashmiris, but still you support it?
Listen! I said it has not helped, but I also said that such things are important to break the ice or we will further slide into chaos.
I have noticed something very strange about you. You have many cases of killings registered against you and yet India is very lenient with you allowing you to move freely within India and abroad all the time?
They realize that they can not put me behind bars all the time. They have tried it previously many a time, but failed.
Sorry am I missing anything here? You are free to go anywhere in the world you like, but Syed Ali Shah Geelani can’t even move within Kashmir. He is more influential than you and a more senior politician; why is India doing this?
I don’t know. May be they think Geelani sahib is a fundamentalist and they don’t like that.
So in other words you are saying that the Indian government likes you?
I don’t know, I didn’t say that.
I find it strange, because it was your organization JKLF that killed most of the innocent Kashmiri Pandits and yet the blame goes to the so-called fundamentalists.
What do you say about the brutal killings of the Pandits? They were all innocent.
What can I say…. that is a dark phase of our history when everybody was killing each other. It was never our policy to kill Pandits. But some of our boys thought they were legitimate targets because they were pro-Indian and perceived as conspiring against the majority community.
You are saying that you never killed any Pandits?
Of course not.
But I have heard that as JKLF Chief Commander you ordered such killings?
That is simply not true.
So who killed them?
I don’t know.
But you are responsible for such killings as Chief Commander?
No I am not… and I don’t want to talk about it further.
Okay let us talk about the killings of the Indian Air Force men. You have a case registered in this regard.
I said that I don’t want to talk about it. I am no more a militant. In fact I left the gun soon after and now I believe in non-violence. I am following Gandhi and he is my inspiration.
Does that mean you are against the militant struggle in Kashmir?
Well I don’t believe in it and that is all I want to say. What other people want to do is their business.
Recently another faction of JKLF was launched by Javaid Mir; how many factions has JKLF now got?
You should ask that to Kashmiris as to how many JKLFs do they recognize. You will get the answer.
There is a lot of dissatisfaction among Kashmiris against the so-called separatist leadership. What is your opinion?
Well I think people are angry against them for not being able to do anything. In addition, they believe that these leaders have amassed wealth which is partly true as well. The people are not happy about that.
Many people have the same opinion about you as well. When you went to Pakistan after the earthquake last year, you claimed to have taken one crore rupees with you for the relief work. Where did that money come from?
People donated it to me for the relief operations.
Who are those people? I heard reports that the money came from Indian agencies.
That is not true. This is propaganda launched by these fundamentalists and Jamaatis.
Interview Source : Kashmir Affiars