JKLF warns of violence if India remains adamant
19 February 2002
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: One of Kashmir''s top separatist leaders has condemned the world''s ''criminal negligence'' of Kashmir''s Muslim community and warned of an escalation in violence if India fails to start peace talks and promote a political solution. ''The silence of the international community is an encouragement to the Indian government'' to continue its ''suppression'' of Kashmir''s muslim-majority population, Yasin Malik, the head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), told AFP in an interview. Malik, 35, slammed New Delhi for doing nothing to promote a negotiated solution in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and where a Muslim insurgency in the Indian-controlled zone has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1989. ''If the government does not provide a space (for dialogue), then violence will automatically take place,'' said Malik, who laid down his arms - along with the rest of the JKLF - in 1994 after several years in Indian prisons, during which he underwent open heart surgery. For Malik, the ''despicable'' attacks of September 11 in the United States had simply underlined the importance of working towards a ''violence-free world.'' ''For that, there are certain pending disputes which need to be resolved through peaceful means. It is up to India to respond to the new situation. Until now, they have not moved.'' In fact, Malik insists that Indian security forces have stepped up their operations, making it all but impossible for political separatist leaders like himself to call on the armed militant groups to enter into a ceasefire. ''The atrocities have increased and the suffering of the people is still going unnoticed,'' he said in his spartan apartment in the Kashmiri summer capital Srinagar, currently covered in a blanket of snow. The nationalist leader had been among the first group of young militants who took up arms against Indian rule in 1989. He was seriously injured after jumping from the fifth floor of a building surrounded by Indian troops. On the current crisis between India and Pakistan, which has seen both sides mass hundreds of thousands of troops on their border, Malik said he had been impressed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf''s denunciation of religious extremism in a landmark speech last month. ''Musharraf spoke the language of peace,'' he said, noting that the same night the Indian security forces had detained Kashmiri leaders and temporarily moved them out of Srinagar. ''Musharraf took a public stand and there is a visible change ... time will prove whether he is right or wrong,'' Malik said, adding the international community was a better judge than India of Pakistan''s sincerity. ''Each time, they (India) raise the finger of suspicion.'' He said public calls for peace in Kashmir last year by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had not been translated into action on the ground. ''If India really wants it, they have to prepare for a meaningful dialogue.'' Malik rejected the definition of the Kashmir dispute as a territorial row between India and Pakistan. ''How can they ignore the aspirations of the Kashmiri people?'' State elections are due to be held in Indian Kashmir in September, but they will be boycotted by the two dozen members - including the JKLF - of the region''s main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference. ''Kashmir is a disputed territory and we don''t accept the Indian Constitution,'' said Malik, who is a member of the Hurriyat''s seven-man executive. ''India is a party (to the conflict). How can they conduct polls? There will be no compromise. We will not participate in state elections.'' The JKLF leader seems to be the main catalyst behind an initiative launched last week to elect representatives of the Kashmiri people who could take part in negotiations with India and Pakistan. A special election commission, made up of six people not allied to the Hurriyat, has already been named to organise and monitor the proposed ballot. ''It was a consensus decision,'' Malik said, denying reports of differences within the Hurriyat leadership. ''If they want a violence-free South Asia, this is the best move, this is a non-violent move,'' he said. However, New Delhi has made it clear that it will not recognise such a body.