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Malik's Mahatma way - JKLF chief preaches 'power of non-violence'

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BHARAT BHUSHAN   |   Srinagar   |   Published 04.02.07, 12:00 AM

Only if you preserve the property of the Kashmiri Pandits can you call yourself true followers of the Prophet
Yasin Malik to Kashmiris

Srinagar, Feb. 4: “Mahatma Gandhi used to live in Bhangi Colony — a slum of scavengers — in Delhi. Yasin Malik is like him. He insists on living in Maisuma, a poor locality of Srinagar,” someone had once said. But that is not the only similarity between the Mahatma and Malik.

The president of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), one of the first to wield the gun in Kashmir, is today training youngsters in non-violent politics. He uses a curious mixture of religion — Sufism — and non-violence in an attempt to build a constituency for peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

A separatist leader who still argues for independence, Malik is a secularist who believes in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic Kashmir.

In Khankai Mohalla, he tells people to follow the Sufi spirit of “co-existence and tolerance”.

In Habba Kadal where Kashmiri Pandits have fled, he asks people to recall that the “non-believers” had given the title “Ameen” — protector of their worldly goods — to Prophet Mohammed. “Only if you preserve the property of the Kashmiri Pandits can you call yourself true followers of the Prophet,” he tells them.

wish list

What Malik wants Manmohan and Musharraf to do:
• Take Opposition into confidence
• Engage militants
• Let Kashmiris choose their own leaders

In the Radial area of Srinagar, which has a significant Shia population, his JKLF volunteers provide security to Muharram processions.

“I have organised five rallies in Srinagar on the issue of peace and tolerance and I plan to hold over 60,” he says as we drive towards his newly-opened office.

With Malik driving his own car and with no security accompanying him, we go to the historic Bore Kadal Chow, where the first bullet was fired by the militants in 1988 and which housed the office of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mujahid Manzil, as also Mirwaiz Manzil, the home of Moulvi Yusuf Shah, the grandfather of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. When he opened his office here, it was attacked by his political opponents.

Why did he choose a provocative site for his office?

“Because all major political events in Kashmir’s history have taken place here. It is only right that we have an office here to impart political training to youngsters about the power of non-violence,” Malik says.

As he prepares to go on a three-day fast to seek “safety and security” for ordinary Kashmiris, beginning Tuesday, Malik recalls, “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured us on May 22 last year of zero tolerance of human rights violations. His promise should have had some meaning. Yet we have bodies being exhumed of innocent Kashmiris killed even though they had no connection with politics or militancy.”

The ordinary Kashmiris, he argues, will support the peace efforts between India and Pakistan only if confidence can be generated among them. “When innocents are getting killed and even those released from jail are being harassed, how will they support a process of which they are not even a part?” he asks.

As we enter his mud-house in Maisuma — the Gaza Strip of Kashmir — his father, a quiet man and a former bus-driver, sits with his daughters in the kitchen near the fire. We sit on the floor in a room nearby with two paintings of Mother Teresa by M.F. Husain on the plastered wall. Gifts from a friend, he says.

“There are three things Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf should do — institutionalise the peace process in their respective countries by taking the Opposition into confidence; engage the militants, instead of driving them away; and let the Kashmiris choose their own leaders,” he says.

As his sister serves us food on the floor, he says: “Now, forget politics and try this yakhni, it is delicious.”

Leaving his house one recalls another conversation about Malik with one of New Delhi’s former interlocutors on Kashmir. He had said: “There was a battle we lost in 1947 — the battle for Hindus and Muslims to prosper together. We lost Gandhi to that cause. Today Yasin Malik is leading that battle.” But even Gandhians perhaps do not recognise that.

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