Released from jail on 4 May, Mohammed Yaseen Malik is the charismatic and straight-talking leader of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), and chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). He talked to Himal over phone from Srinagar. Excerpts:
Do you see Article 370 as contributing in any way to a resolution of the Kashmir problem?
The question does not arise. Article 370 came into being after the Instrument of Accession was signed, which had guaranteed the people of Kashmir the right to choose their own future through a plebiscite. That was not held, so the Article is redundant. Moreover, it was supposed to be a temporary measure and is quite invalid now, especially when the Indian government has abrogated its provisions. The Kashmir issue is a human issue and has to be resolved taking the aspirations of the people of Kashmir into consideration.
But the Indian government seems to be holding out an olive branch by releasing the APHC leadership, and the chief minister is citing the Puri Commission report as a model.
The Indian government has put a precondition that the APHC leadership abandon their agenda and talk within the framework of the Indian Constitution. That is not acceptable to us because we do not see ourselves as an integral part of India.
What do you think of Pakistan´s proposed solution to the problem? Is it acceptable to the APHC?
Pakistan wants Kashmir for themselves, just like India wants Kashmir for themselves. The JKLF stands for total independence for Kashmir but there is an important proviso. A democratic decision is acceptable to all. If the people of Kashmir are allowed to decide their future in a free and fair manner, and they opt for union with either India or Pakistan, we will go along with that.
What is your response to the argument of some in India that if Kashmir is allowed to go, it will have a domino effect on other constituent units?
We feel that is not a sound argument. Kashmir was never legally a part of India, so there is no question of comparing it with the other units. Real integration is not a question of keeping someone with you by force. Besides the integrity of the Indian nation-state is surely not so fragile that it will fall apart just like that.
What implications will a resolution to Kashmir have on the rest of South Asia?
If Kashmir is resolved, it will make for permanent peace and stability in the whole region and allow it to develop. But as of now, we cannot talk of any form of resolution because there appears to be no scope for tripartite talks to discuss the future of Kashmir. The Indian government refuses to provide a forum for talks because of its precondition of holding talks only within the Indian Constitution. As for implications for other parts of South Asia, the problems of Kashmir cannot be compared with the domestic problems of Pakistan or India. Kashmir is a separate entity and a special case. It is an internationally recognised disputed territory so the question of it being compared to other states within nations does not arise.