Kashmir crisis: Stop the attack on democratic rights

The scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s ‘special status’ and imposing brutal direct rule by Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu-nationalist BJP government, has significantly increased repression in Kashmir and ratcheted up tension between the Indian and Pakistan governments. As recently as March this year both governments (which possess nuclear arsenals) clashed militarily over the disputed territory.
New Socialist Alternative, CWI section in India, and CWI supporters in Pakistan have issued a joint statement condemning the BJP government’s latest repressive move and calling on the working class to defend democratic rights, including self-determination for the people of Kashmir – a right that cannot be realised under capitalism but requires a socialist transformation of the sub-continent. A shortened version of the statement is carried below.
Hundreds of Kashmiri people living in Britain protested outside the Indian High Commission on 10 August.  Kashmir is divided, with different areas controlled by the Indian and Pakistani militaries. The Indian government has provocatively taken direct cont

Hundreds of Kashmiri people living in Britain protested outside the Indian High Commission on 10 August. Kashmir is divided, with different areas controlled by the Indian and Pakistani militaries. The Indian government has provocatively taken direct cont   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) regime in India has once again displayed its contempt and aversion to democracy. This regime had been increasing its armed forces to the tune of 35,000 in the Kashmir valley (which is already one of the most militarised regions in the world), citing bogus ‘terrorist’ threats.

When the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Indian parliament) convened, Home Minister Amit Shah announced from the floor that their regime had decided to scrap Articles 370 and 35A.

These articles gave ‘special status’ to the region of Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP government also went on to propose splitting the Kashmir state into two Union Territories (UTs) – Kashmir and Jammu as UTs, with legislatures, and Ladakh as a UT without a legislature.

This decision comes at a time when the democratically elected government of Jammu and Kashmir has recently been scrapped and Indian Presidential rule imposed.

This regressive move was also supported by other regional parties like the Uttar Pradesh-based Bahujan Samaj Party (which claims to be a party of the oppressed), Andhra Pradesh’s Telugu Desam Party, etc.

The opposition, led by the Indian National Congress with the left parties – People’s Democratic Party in Kerala, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also in Tamil Nadu, and various other parties, all protested against this blatant attack on the constitution. The Communist Party of India announced immediate protests in Delhi and burned effigies of BJP leaders.

However, none of these parties, including the Communist Party, has stood for the national rights of Kashmiris. Some of these parties are now using the situation to oppose BJP rule as nationalist tensions in many states, particularly in the south, have been mounting over recent years.

These tensions flow from the attempt of the BJP government to create ‘one country’ – introducing a sectarian national citizen registration for ‘checking genuine Indian citizenship’, one taxation system and one language – which has faced huge opposition.

But the BJP’s attempt to ‘integrate India’ is destined to fail as India has never been one nation state.

The support for the government’s move by a section of the liberal media also exposes the deluded stance of Indian liberals who believe Kashmir ‘belongs’ to India. This lays bare the fact that even after 70 years of independence, Indian politicians have only replaced the British rulers with local rulers who have utter disregard for the people.

While the present crisis has been created by the ruling BJP, 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. The BJP-led Indian state is now preparing for the brutal suppression of any opposition that may emerge in Kashmir.

Renewed war

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 International Monetary Fund demanded privatisations that they are carrying out.

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, became the main culprit in the recent past behind the brutality that exists in Kashmir.

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 self-determination despite that right being included in the initial pact of 1947.

As socialists, we stand for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. Of course this demand cannot 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 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 following demands:

  • End the occupation! Withdraw all army and paramilitary forces from this region
  • Repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act immediately both in Kashmir and North East region
  • Stop repression, release all the political activists and protesters
  • The immediate reinstatement of Kashmir’s special status
  • For full democratic rights – free speech, free assembly and organisation, media freedom, free elections – including a referendum on Kashmir’s status
  • Stop all action which plunders the natural wealth of Kashmir
  • For the right of self-determination for Kashmir!
  • For a socialist Kashmir and a socialist confederation of the sub-continent