Kashmir crisis: Attack on democratic rights must be opposed

Joint statement from New Socialist Alternative (Indian section of CWI) and CWI supporters in Pakistan.

The ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) regime in India has once again displayed its contempt and aversion to basic values of democracy. During the past week this regime had been increasing its armed forces to the tune of 35,000 in the already militarised Kashmir valley, (which is estimated to have half a million Indian Army forces) citing bogus threats. This regime wilfully created a terror panic to clear tourists and students in the valley. This blatant abuse of power was only the tip of what had been in store.

The regime cut off all internet and communication facilities, imposed a curfew and put the democratically elected leaders in the valley under house arrest.  Monday morning when the Rajya Sabha(Upper house of Indian parliament) convened, it proved true what many news outlets had been speculating as the cause for the sudden build-up of armed forces in Kashmir. Home minister Amit Shah announced from the floor that their regime had decided to scrap Article 370 and 35A. These articles gave special status to the region of Jammu and Kashmir. It was initially enacted to bring Kashmir under Indian military control and some positive aspects of it were never fully implemented.

This week, the Indian state also went on to propose splitting the Kashmir state into twoUnion Territories (UTs) – Kashmir and Jammu as UTs, with legislatures, and Ladakh as a UT without a legislature. This decision by the BJP regime comes at a time when the democratically elected government has recently been scrapped and President’s rule imposed.

This regressive move was also supported by other regional parties like the Uttar Pradesh-based BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party, which claims to be a party of the oppressed and supposedly follows in the idological path of Dr. Baba saheb Ambedkar)), Andhra Pradesh’s TDP (Telugu Desam Party) etc. However this action has also faced mounting opposition from various other regional parties and the main opposition party – the Indian National Congress. The opposition, led by Congress with the left parties – PDP (People’s Democratic Party) in Kerala, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) in Tamil Nadu, the MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) also in Tamil Nadu and various other parties all protested against this blatant disregard for the democratic values of the constitution. They were jeered on the floor of the national parliament. PDP MPs even tore up their copies of the amendment as a sign of protest. The CPI (Communist Party of India) announced immediate protests in Delhi and burned effigies of BJP leaders.

These right wing regional parties and Congress do not stand for the rights of Kashmiri workers and poor. None of these parties, including the Communist Party of India, has stood for the national rights of Kashmiris. Some of these parties are now using the situation to oppose BJP rule since nationalist tensions in many states, particularly in the south, have been mounting over recent years. The attempt of the newly elected government of the BJP under Narendra Modi to create one country – introducing one universal form of citizen registration, one taxation system and one language has faced huge opposition.

The attempt to make the Hindi language compulsory for all has met with colossal opposition in the southern states where there is a history of “anti-Hindi” struggle. This has seen forces including even right wing regional parties to come out vehemently against the BJP government.  A national register of citizens with the view of “checking genuine Indian citizenship” has also added to the burning national tensions. The BJP’s attempt to “integrate India” is destined to fail as India has never been one nation state.

In his speech, Home Minister Shah blamed special status as a hindrance to the development and integration of the state. Like most of his statements, this has no truth in it. Comparatively, Kashmir has better levels of developmental than the BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh) which have been undisputed integral parts of India since independence. Amit Shah also quipped that article 370 has prevented Kashmiris from getting reservation benefits. This is the same regime that has diluted the reservation policy in favour of EWS hardly a month ago. Incidentally BJP has proposed the controversial 10% reservation for EWS (Economically Weaker Section) as the first policy in Kashmir post article 370 removal.

When examined, all the lame excuses by the BJP regime fall flat. At a time when even the capitalist economists and industrialists have been raising their concerns over the dire state of India’s economy and the stagnation of the automotive sector, the rulers have managed to distract the media and the public by dragging the Kashmir issue to the fore. Through this they are also trying to reinforce their idea of Hindu rashtra. The BJP has accelerated their push to further their ‘One India, One culture’ agenda since their re-election.

A section of the liberal media and the population cheer on this aggression as a bold move. Some social media users cheered on this action because it means they may now be able to buy properties in the Kashmir Valley. One mining industry billionaire-baron, Gautam Adani, wrote that this move would open up great mining opportunities and hoped to be establishing his business there. Even so-called progressive leaders like Aravind Kejriwal of the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party- Common Man’s Party) welcomed this decision. It should be noted that Kejriwal complained for the major part of his tenure of office as leader of the local administration in Delhi about the intrusion by central government in his affairs and had been constantly campaigning for more local rights for Delhi. This exposes the deluded stance of Indian liberals who believe Kashmir “belongs” to India. This lays bare the fact that even after seventy years of independence, Indian politicians have only replaced the British rulers with local rulers who have utter disregard for the people. They have made no effort to really safeguard the rights of the people that constitute this country.

While the present crisis has been created by the ruling BJP, the Congress Party, which previously ruled this country for 5 decades, is very much at fault. Congress created the mechanisms that the BJP is using now to suppress the national rights of the people of Kashmir. The confused stance of the various left parties and their failure to address the national question of this country has also to an extent contributed the current crisis.

The people of Kashmir have lost thousands of lives in this long drawn out conflict. Any so-called fragile peace has never brought any real improvements. After the recent threat of war, artificially whipped up by the BJP before the general election, there emerged some hope for a relatively calm period. This is now ruined.

This latest action is likely to provoke violent outbursts in Kashmir with the Indian state itself is predicting. They have moved tens of thousands of army personnel to this state which already has the largest presence of military per civilian population in the world. This can also feed into the geo political tension that exists already. US president Donald Trump in the past had offered to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan on the request of Pakistan Prime minister Imran Khan. Already Imran khan had issued a forceful challenge to Modi and stated that he would challenge the decision at UN Security Council.

The BJP-led Indian state is now preparing for the brutal suppression of any opposition that may emerge in Kashmir. Of course they will also blame this on Pakistan. The Pakistani state in turn will use this opportunity to whip up patriotic support to cut across the opposition to the ruthless privatisations that they are carrying out as dictated by the International Monetary Fund as a condition of its loans to the country. Existing tension at the border is likely to escalate further even into an outright war between the two nuclear-armed powers. This could cause the loss of lives of tens of thousands.

India is a prison house of nationalities. Various regions that were brought together under British rule by force have never established a real union. The Congress party, that gave lip-service to being opposed, became the main culprit in the recent past behind the brutality that exists in Kashmir.

Congress must not be let off the hook from the historically abysmal role they have played in Kashmir. The BJP, acting in the interests of a small layer of a super-rich class, wanted to make sure that the whole of India’s territory is available for plundering without any intervention from the regional powers. The Congress party has no disagreement with the recent action of the Modi government. In fact it has to be noted that as for as the draconian and archaic rules are concerned such as ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act-1968 (AFSPA) the entire Indian political establishment takes a united stand to oppress the people of Kasmir and the North Eastern states.

Congress, which is facing near decimation now aims to win back the support of the section of capitalists they have lost and re-establish their vote base. But given the history of corruption and the total lack of ability of its leadership, this historically important party is now shrinking in size and support.

It is significant that various regional parties and the so-called left parties have come forward to oppose the attack on Kashmir. However, their opposition is also very limited. Historically, both ‘Communist’ parties – the CPI and CPI (M) – have opposed the nationality rights of the Kashmiri people. Article 370 was what they defended as it is part of the Indian constitution. They never stood for the right of the Kashmiri people to decide despite that right being included in the initial pact of 1947.

Narendra Modi has campaigned to get rid of this for a long time and it featured as one of the core issues in his 2014 election campaign. None of the left parties has organised any opposition to this reactionary policy. So far they have not brought together their strength in the unions to support the democratic rights of the Kashmiris.

We, as socialists, stand for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. Of course this demand is not mechanical nor can it be applied mechanically to the whole region. Due to past history and the policy of divide and rule – Kashmir is now divided into many regions with varying interests. The ruling BJP government is trying to use the same approach and further divide the region to control it and plunder the wealth.

The fate of this region should be determined by the people living in it. This can only be realised by linking up the struggle of the workers, peasants and poor in Kashmir, India, Pakistan and other countries in the region to end the grip of capitalism and landlordism once and for all.

The socialist transformation of society will also emancipate the masses from all sorts of national oppression. Defending the national rights of all oppressed peoples in the region – whether it be in Kashmir, other parts of India and Pakistan or in Sri Lanka – means struggling for a voluntary confederation of socialist states on the basis of public ownership and democratic control to be able to plan and share the resources in the region to the benefit of all.

We fight for:

  • The immediate reinstatement of the special status of Indian occupied Kashmir.
  • Stop all action which plunders the natural wealth of Kashmir.
  • End the occupation! Withdraw all army and paramilitary forces from this region.
    Repeal AFSPA immediately both in Kashmir and North East.
  • Stop repression, release all the political activists and protesters.
  • All democratic rights – to free speech, free assembly and organisation, freedom of the media, free elections – including a referendum on the situation of the Kashmiri people.
  • For the right of self-determination for Kashmir!
  • For a socialist Kashmir and a socialist confederation of the sub-continent.