Demonstration for Kashmir at the Indian High Commission, London 10th August 2019. Credit: Steve Eason

Solidarity with the struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir!

10 August 2019

Statement from our Pakistan Section – Revolutionary Socialist Movement

On August 5 Amit Shah, India’s minister for home affairs who is also the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), presented a presidential order in the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of India’s Parliament to revoke Article 370, a constitutional provision that granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. After a brief debate, the resolution was adopted in the upper house with a majority of 125 votes against 61.

In the lower house (the Lok Sabha), the resolution was passed with a majority of 367 votes against 67. Article 370 gave Jammu and Kashmir’s legislative assembly the authority to make its own laws on everything apart from matters of foreign affairs, defence and communications, which remained with Delhi.

Besides this, the state of Jammu and Kashmir had the right to have its own constitution as well as its own flag. These constitutional provisions bound the Indian state not to amend these provisions without the full consent of both parties.

However, revoking Article 370 ended all of that. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been stripped of its status of limited autonomy within India. The BJP- drafted resolution further proposes dividing the state into two union territories: firstly Jammu and Kashmir, and secondly Ladakh.

This means that the former will retain its own legislative assembly and the Indian central government will appoint a lieutenant governor, while Ladakh will be directly ruled from Delhi; i.e. it will not have a legislative assembly of its own.

Furthermore, under the presidential order, Article 35-A has also been revoked. This constitutional provision allowed legislature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to define who are the state’s permanent residents, i.e. its citizens. This was a law from the pre-1947 era of the Maharaja’s rule, according to which a non-Kashmiris could not enjoy the provisions of purchasing land in Kashmir and entering state service.

Now that Kashmir will no longer have a separate constitution, it will have to abide by the Indian constitution much like any other state. This also means that all Indian laws will be automatically applicable to Kashmiris, and people from outside the state will be able to buy property there. In short, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been made part of India by stripping it of its special status.

A situation akin to a state of emergency had already been created many days before Article 370 was revoked in which all non-residents; tourists, students and migrant workers present in Kashmir were compelled to leave. In what was already the most highly militarised zone in the world, the deployment of troops was increased.

The local police were stripped of all authority and disarmed while all educational institutions were shut down and hostel residents evicted. Furthermore, internet, mobile phone and even landline telephone services were suspended.

Besides this, even the Kashmiri leadership serving the Indian state interests were placed under house arrest while leadership of the freedom fighters were put behind bars. More than 500 people have been arrested and there were reports coming that 50 protesters have been injured as they tried to mobilize and defy the curfew.

In this situation all kinds of rumours are circulating, creating an atmosphere of fear and chaos.

Clearly, all of this is happening under Narendra Modi’s Hindutva policy. Hindutva is the new face of Indian capital trying to match China as an economic and military power. The Modi government wants to promote war hysteria so that on the one hand, all resistance and dissent can be crushed in the name of ‘enmity to India’. On the other hand, such policies are aimed at providing Indian capital opportunities to loot and plunder Kashmir.

Immediately Kashmir was stripped of its special status, the capitalist class on both sides of the border have been airing sentiments of hatred and war hysteria. On one side of the border, the current development is being perceived as a victory for the Modi government. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the capitalist class that is faced with a severe economic crisis sees its only way out in the form of promoting war hysteria

The current development has placed the two nuclear powers at odds with each other. Nevertheless, if a war were to actually take place, the biggest price for it would be borne by the common people, especially Kashmiris who have been bearing the brunt of the policies of the two countries for the past 70 years.

Nonetheless, the current situation has also created the chances of a new struggle. This new struggle would on the one hand stand in opposition to India’s barbaric occupation of Kashmiri lands and the massacres, and on the other, would also be able to see the role of the Pakistani state that wants its own hegemony in the region coupled with the Pakistani state’s policies in its occupied areas, the so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, that has torn the region in two.

It is quite likely that at the current juncture, a new movement will be born that has self-determination of Kashmir as its aim and brings all the nations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir together in an independence movement.

A few things need to be considered in this regard should such a movement erupt. The basis of this movement urgently needs to be secular in order to overcome the divisions fomented by Hindu-versus-Muslim political ideologies and secondly, the movement should have no illusions in any of the surrounding states or the imperialist powers such as the US or China. All such powers have their own selfish interests and any collaboration with them in the name of resolving the conflict in Kashmir may have disastrous consequences for the people of Kashmir.

The United Nations is also in reality an institution which, via its Security Council, always protects imperialist interests, wherever these thieves can agree. Otherwise it is paralysed and does nothing.

The Kashmiri people are well aware of how for the past 72 years, the UN has lent credence to the occupation and division of Kashmiri land by India and Pakistan instead of resolving the conflict and holding a referendum as was promised in 1948. Instead, the movement and its leadership must appeal directly to the working class masses in India and Pakistan for class solidarity.

Contrary to what is presented in Pakistani mainstream media, Hindutva ideology does not enjoy acceptance in all sections of Indian society. Instead, organisations of students, women and workers have been opposing these policies of the BJP-led government. Sadly, instead of calling for the right to self-determination for Kashmir and withdrawal of Indian troops from the state, the mainstream Indian Left has largely been opposing the revocation of Article 370 because they see the development as threatening the Indian constitution and secularism.

Instead of opposing Indian occupation and colonisation of the region as a violation of the principle of the right to self-determination, the Left has been de facto defending this colonisation by referring to Kashmir an integral part of the Indian state. This despite the fact that the Indian forces have for decades been carrying out the worst atrocities against the Kashmiri people, long before Article 370 was revoked.

In Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as a result of Narendra Modi’s imposition of rule by the governor, protests by young people have broken out despite the media blackout and curfew. Some protesters have been killed and any sort of democratic activity is being suppressed through the use of naked force and fear. The number of protests wills likely increase in the coming days and the Indian state will use every possible method to crush the movement.

We have witnessed in the past how Delhi has resorted to mass arrests, torture, massacres and rapes to crush many kinds of struggles. The Kashmiri movement will need to be prepared for such repression and will need to arm itself to defend the movement against military barbarism and oppression.

All really democratic and working class forces must demand:

Forming neighbourhood and workplace committees is a vital task, both to mobilise resistance and, as soon as conditions allow, to conduct elections to a sovereign Constituent Assembly, tasked with deciding the future of the state of Jammu and Kashmir according to the wishes of the region’s population.

In addition to this the struggle for a socialist Kashmir must become part of a struggle for a socialist South Asia. On the road to this goal it is the duty and in the interests of all oppressed nations and the working class to stand in total solidarity with the struggle for Kashmir’s freedom. Here the role of the Indian working class, that carried out a 150 million strong one-day general strike in January, is critical.

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