Malik's Gaffe Exposes JKLF's Secular Pretensions
10 November 2003
Kolkata: Among separatist outfits in Jammu and Kashmir the JKLF's distinguishing mark was supposed to be that it stood for a secular Kashmiriyat rather than the religious-chauvinist agenda of the jihadi ultras. But JKLF leader Yasin Malik's stand that Kashmiri Pandits ought to be allowed back in the Valley provided they gave up any position on the secessionist movement, sounds exceedingly odd in that context. In a secular disposition anyone has the right to express his political views, and minorities cannot be silenced in exchange for the right to survival. Pandits are right to say that accepting Malik's 'precondition' would relegate them to the status of second class citizens. Malik may have been trying to address a fundamental flaw in the movement for 'self-determination' in the Valley, which can be attained, it appears, only at the cost of purging its minorities - known in today's parlance as ethnic cleansing. He can do so, however, only by sounding blatantly communal. If one were to switch Kashmiri Pandits for Gujarati Muslims, Malik would find Narendra Modi in hearty agreement with him. In reality Malik or Kashmiriyat wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance if Jammu and Kashmir's remote-controlled separatist movement were to be allowed to succeed. Guns and infrastructural support are channelled to those most willing to obey the dictates of the suppliers and Kashmiriyat doesn't feature high in their list of priorities. Terrorists intercepted while infiltrating into the state are turning out more and more to be Pakistani nationals rather than of Kashmiri origin; if they were to succeed the outcome would be outright annexation by Pakistan. But states based on ethnic origin are a 19th century project, which are looking more and more out-of- date in the 21st century. Gross mistakes aside history is on India's side, not Pakistan's, in the struggle over Kashmir. It is testimony to General Musharraf's misrule that Pakistan's worst political rivals - the PPP, the PML(N) and the MMA - are coming together on a common platform against his dictatorship. It cannot be long before someone utters what is now heresy in that country - what about self- determination inside Pakistan itself? It is a question Malik would do well to ponder.