Dialogue on the Future of Jammu & Kashmir organized by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies gained enormously by your presence on November 7, 2009. We recognize that the overlap in timing meant you had to rush to Delhi after registering your attendance at a TADA court hearing in Jammu. I also appreciate the fact that despite provocative slogans against you by a group of Kashmiri Pandits opposed to your presence in the Dialogue, you sat through the meeting to the end and not only explained your politics but also made a public commitment to consider some of the solutions proposed at the meeting as a starting point for a wide spectrum dialogue for the resolution of the Kashmir problem.
However, your outbursts of anger, disappointment and your cynical comments directed at the civil society organizations of India seem to me so misplaced and misleading that they demand a public response; a lot of them were directed at Manushi and at me. Since they have been widely reported in the Kashmiri and Pakistani newspapers, hence my response is also through the media.
For those who do not know the background, let me summarize your grievances as stated in your presentation at the Dialogue. You said that you had given up the gun at the urging of civil society organizations in India, that you took to “Gandhian methods of struggle” due to our persuasion. However, despite your move to non-violent means of struggle, you feel “betrayed” by the human rights community in India for ostensibly failing to help you achieve your political ends. You also claimed that subsequent events and your failure in achieving “azadi” have convinced you that Gandhian methods do not work in today’s India. In your view, they worked only while the British ruled India because the British provided a supportive environment for non- violent struggles.
What proof do you offer for that conclusion? That Gandhi was not subjected to third degree torture by the British, nor was Gandhi killed in an encounter with the police! No responsible leader would provide this form of naive praise of the British. You cannot dismiss the brutalities of the British colonial regime so easily. You don’t have to go too far—just read the life story of Badshah Khan—Gandhi’s most valued colleague and the most inspiring satyagrahi of that period. The brutalities inflicted on the army of satyagrahis mobilized by Badshah Khan—popularly known as the Frontier Gandhi— would put to shame even the apartheid regime of South Africa. Lakhs and lakhs of non violent satyagrahis were tortured in British jails. Many innocents were murdered in cold blood. The manner in which unarmed women and children were massacred in Jallianwala Bagh by General Dyer was not an isolated example of British brutality. Hundreds of thousands of satyagrahis took deadly beatings without raising their hand even in self-defence during the Salt Satyagraha. The cruel treatment routinely meted out to the Indian peasantry in extracting unprecedented high revenue and confiscating their lands arbitrarily for failure to pay ruinous usurious revenue, not sparing them even during crop failures, led to millions dying in unprecedented man made famines and left many more millions destitute, malnourished and terrorized.
You claim to have taken to Gandhian methods and claim that the movement for “azadi” in Kashmir is non violent —all on the grounds that some years ago you gave up the gun. Dear friend Yasin, you gave up the gun after you were arrested and jailed, not while you were on the outside, fighting. You never gave up supporting and defending those who continued using the gun. In the November 7 meeting, you declared openly that you are proud of having been the first one to take up the gun for the cause of Kashmir. When a young Kashmiri Pandit commented: “You may have given up the gun but that does not mean Kashmiri Muslims gave up the gun. The Hizbul Mujahiddin is also comprised of Kashmiri youth.” Your response was: Since the Indian government did not hand over “azadi” to the “non-violent” JKLF, and since human rights organizations in India failed to persuade the Indian government to do so, Hizbul Mujahaddin are justified in taking up the gun. Yasin bhai, a true commitment to non-violence should not be so conditional and fragile. Gandhi did not say: “Give India independence or else I will unleash terrorist brigades on you.” That was Jinnah’s method, not Gandhi’s.
As one of many people committed to strengthening democracy and human rights in India, one of my mandates is to ensure that even those who take to terrorist means, are given fair treatment, due process, and a fair trial, and that innocents are not targeted by security forces while combating terrorism. Our primary task, however, is to try to prevail upon the Indian government that draconian laws should not be used to crush democratic dissent. I don’t think I have failed in being consistent about those issues. I have often done my best to intervene with the government of India to defend the Constitutional rights of you and your colleagues, even when I have strong differences with your political goals and means you make use of to achieve them.