Kashmir: A Valley in Revolt

Indian-occupied Kashmir has been in revolt since the killing of Burhani Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, by Indian troops on 8 July. The killing sparked a massive protest movement across the whole of the Kashmir Valley. The Indian state has responded brutally, imposing a draconian curfew, killing over 80 people and injuring thousands. We publish here a comment on the present situation by Yasir Irshad, a Marxist of the IMT in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Once again war drums are beating in India and Pakistan. The ruling classes in both countries are trying to divert the attention of the masses away from protests and strikes and want to create war hysteria to whip up patriotism. The nuclear arsenals and huge armies built up with the millions paid as taxes by the people living in poverty and misery on both sides will get a big boost in the coming days.

The main reason behind this war-mongering is the revolutionary mass movement in Indian-occupied Kashmir. This mass movement has been going on for the last two and half months, and despite all the oppressive measures it is growing in intensity with every passing day. More than eighty-six people have been killed so far, while hundreds have been injured by the shooting and torture carried out by the Indian armed forces.

A terrorist attack tried to sabotage this marvellous revolutionary movement for freedom in Uri on 18 September near the Line of Control. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and thirty were injured in the attack. India blames Pakistan for this terrorist attack and has provided evidence for their claims, while Pakistan denies these accusations. In fact, the ruling classes on both sides are trying to use this situation to further their imperialist interests and clamp down on internal dissent of the impoverished masses.

Meanwhile, the streets in Indian-occupied Kashmir have been turned into a battleground between the barbaric state forces of the Indian army, armed to the teeth with lethal weapons, and unarmed but resolute Kashmiri youth. This new phase of intense mass struggle was triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani on July 8 of this year. This incident transformed the accumulated anger and hatred against poverty, unemployment, lack of basic facilities and, above all, the Indian occupation of Kashmir into a mass movement.

[See video of clashes here]

As the news of the killing of Wani spread, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets protesting against the brutality of the state forces. The authorities imposed a curfew to curb the protests, but more than forty thousand people attended the funeral defying the curfew.

In spite of the curfew, the daily street protests and clashes with the security forces have continued. This is the longest curfew in the history of Kashmir, which is now entering its eightieth day. The unarmed stone pelters are met with live ammunition and pellet gun firing. On top of the eighty six people already killed, more than five hundred have suffered pellet injuries in one or both eyes and have lost their eyesight. More than five thousand have been injured so far and thousands more have arrested and are facing torture. And yet the  situation is becoming worse with each passing day as every new killing adds more fuel to the fire.

More than two and half months of curfew and strict restrictions, along with brutal repression and mass arrests, have failed to suppress the movement. Such is the intensity of the movement that for the first time in the history of Kashmir the Indian army was forced to stop the Eid prayers, a religious ceremony scheduled for 13 September in which thousands take part every year. The Indian forces feared that this gathering would turn into a political event and would lead to mass protests. During this movement every gathering of the youth and the masses turns into a political agitation. In some areas where Eid prayers did take place they virtually turned into a protest against state brutalities. The present unrest is not an accident. On the contrary, it is an inevitable outcome of the process of accumulated anger and rage against the occupying force.

Although the movement erupted suddenly on 8 July, there had been a gradual and quantitative development over a period of several years. During this period the anger against the rulers and the occupying forces was accumulating along with the rising economic and social problems which flow from the global decline and crisis of capitalism. As Badrul Duja writes in his 31 July article posted on the youth ki awaz website:

“The floods of 2014 are the biggest example where no proper package for financial assistance was provided by the Centre to the Valley. (...) Besides, out of the amount given by Centre to the State, 500 crores were taken by the Defence Ministry for the Army’s work during the floods from the State Disaster Relief Fund. Did the Army demand such a bill for the floods in Tamil Nadu or Uttarakhand? (...) The most anticipated scheme of the Central government was the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme for Kashmiri students which was introduced during UPA’s second tenure. It is now in shambles. Thousands of Kashmiri students were forced to leave their colleges and universities outside Kashmir as the Central government has not paid for their expenses.”

Since 1989 there have been wave after wave of protests, armed rebellions and political movements against Indian occupation, with mass eruptions followed by relative ebbs in the struggle to be followed by renewed and more powerful uprisings. The determination of the Kashmiri masses, especially of the youth, in the struggle for freedom of their homeland has attained such astonishingly high levels that it is hard to find any other such example apart from the struggle of the Palestinians. It shows time and again that no matter how big the repression is,  it cannot keep the masses and youth of Kashmir down. The Kashmiri youth is defiant in spite of the fact that, ‘‘As per the research conducted by Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society entitled ‘Structures of Violence’, Kashmir is the world’s highest militarised zone with the strength of the armed forces within the state, between 6.5 lakh (656,638) to 7.5 lakh (750,981)’’. [source]

There are dozens of social and economic reasons behind these periodical eruptions of mass protest movements in Kashmir, but above all it is the occupation by Indian imperialist forces.

During the last one and a half decades militancy in Kashmir was at a low ebb and the support for militants among the ordinary masses had also declined. However, the Kashmiri youth can give up arms but never their struggle for freedom. Peaceful protests against military check-posts were met with brutal repression. The demands for any basic right, such as employment, better healthcare and education facilities or freedom of speech, were considered as crimes against the state and therefore handled with an iron fist.

Kashmiri students across India have been facing discrimination at the hands of right-wing nationalists and extremists. They are humiliated and accused of being traitors and Pakistani agents, simply because they are fighting for their freedom. The majority of the Indian “intelligentsia” not only strongly believe this scandalous narrative of the oppressive ruling class against the freedom struggle of Kashmir, but they always surpass them at all critical moments. Together with this, the Pakistani state has been sponsoring Jihad (holy war) in Indian-occupied Kashmir and hundreds of youth from Pakistan were trained and sent to organize armed struggle in the 1990s. This armed struggle on the one side divided the freedom struggle along religious lines, and on the other provided the Indian state with an excuse for more repression, torture and killings. This method failed in the end, and Kashmiris remained under both Pakistani and Indian occupation while most of the Kashmir leadership became pawns in the hands of one or other state. The attack in Uri and its aftermath clearly shows that the ruling classes on both sides want to repeat this method used in the 1990s to derail the real movement of the masses.

It is a well-known fact that the freedom struggle is mostly limited to the Muslim population of the Valley, as the Hindu majority area of Jammu and the Buddhist area of Ladakh remain peaceful. Some religious slogans chanted by the Kashmiri protesters are common to Muslims of all lands, therefore neither these slogans nor a few flags of Pakistan in a rally of thousands can prove that all Kashmiris are “traitors” or that their heroic struggle against Indian occupation is Pakistani sponsored. In fact, it is in the interest of the Indian imperialist state that there should be some elements which can be blamed as being Pakistani sponsored, so as to unleash vicious repression and gain the sympathy of the Indian masses. Therefore if there are no such elements they have to be created deliberately, either by itself or with the covert help of someone else, the stakeholder in this conflict.

However, this raising of Pakistani flags has another significant feature. The Kashmiri youth are facing severe repression at the hands of the Indian state and want revenge, even at the cost of their own lives. The only symbol they can use to show their extreme hatred and revulsion towards the Indian armed forces is by raising the Pakistani flag. This doesn’t mean that they are sponsored by Pakistan or wish to join another barbaric state.

Apparently, and hypocritically, the Pakistani rulers support the freedom struggle of Kashmir, but only in the Indian-occupied area, but through this support they actually help India to crush the movement by many different ways. First of all, Pakistan portrays each protest in a distorted way to prove its own state version of diplomatic lies about the issue. In a protest of 40 or 50 thousand people in the streets of Srinagar, if five or ten people wave Pakistani flags, the Pakistani media portrays all the protesters as pro-Pakistan and that is precisely what India needs to crush the movement and that is what the Pakistan ruling class is providing its so called rival in a moment of difficulty.

The Pakistani rulers are suppressing each and every voice of dissent  raised against them in their own controlled part of Kashmir as brutally as India does. There is no basic difference in the aggressive role of both occupying forces. It is only the time and space that makes some difference. Both imperialist countries are pointing the finger at each other, but the masses of all parts of Kashmir are suffering extreme poverty, backwardness, unemployment and state brutalities. Although the masses of Indian-occupied Kashmir, especially of the Valley, are forced to live this miserable life under imperialist bayonets. That is precisely what explains their resilience, as living permanently under the shadow of death ends the very fear of it. The Indian state is facing this dilemma which it is incapable of understanding, nor is it able to reassert this fear within the youth who have lost it altogether. Nazir Masoodi of the Indian NDTV news channel  writes:

‘‘Government is hoping that the situation will improve because fatigue is bound to set in among the protesters with the passage of time. They believe people cannot afford to live in such a situation for too long. They act as if the onus is on the people to bring normalcy. After all, who is suffering, losing lives, getting blinded and maimed? Whose schools and business are closed?  And who is losing the luxury of living without curbs and humiliation? This sadistic optimism is presumably based on the perceived outcome of the 2008 and 2010 civilian unrest in Kashmir. What the government is not realizing is that the boys out on the streets today have been schooled in street protests since 2008. They have restarted from where they left off in 2010. They are operating independently, driven by raw emotion, and death doesn't scare them. After every death and injury, these boys are challenging security forces with stones in their hands. The everyday images of young men tearing their shirts open in front of armed soldiers and challenging them to shoot tells us how things are going in Kashmir.

“Even separatist Hurriyat conference leaders are struggling to gain control. They are as surprised over the dramatic change in the situation as the government in Srinagar. Their protest and strike calendars were openly defied’’. [source]

The present uprising is nothing but a continuation of the movements of 2008, 2010 and 2013, but with some very radical changes and on a higher level. In the summer of 2010 a powerful uprising shook the rule of Delhi, because it was the first political movement which had no connections with the militants. The other dangerous aspect of this movement, from the standpoint of the rulers, was that it was leaderless. All the old, established leaderships and political parties had been rejected by a rebellious youth and the whole movement was being organized by fresh youngsters almost collectively. Therefore it was almost impossible for the authorities to suppress it. The same is the case now: where no one is leading the movement nobody can talk on behalf of the protesters. The young protesters fighting the brutal state machine of Indian imperialism did not trust any political party or leader and in fact there is no one worthy of such trust.

The Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), which had ruled here for a long time, was ousted in the last elections, while the ruling PDP formed a coalition with the right-wing fundamentalist BJP and has thus lost its credibility among the masses, if it had any to begin with. With the announcement of resignation of one of the PDP's members of the Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) from Srinagar the crisis of the party has become more evident. The Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference [a local alliance of 26 political, social and religious organisations claiming to fight for Kashmiri independence] have jostled between India and Pakistan and retreated from their positions so many times that nobody believes them anymore. Now many are trying to fill the vacuum and the Establishment will support such efforts. This will help to contain the movement and betray it once again by imposing some kind of leadership on it.

The youth in Kashmir is also tired of the farce of peace talks between India and Pakistan. After a decade of this comic show of meaningless “talks about talks” (in which both countries try to convince each other that they must start serious talks) between the rulers of two countries, it is still to be decided whether they should start serious talks or not. On the other side the Indian military and paramilitary forces have been using the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) to brutalise the lives of the people in the Valley. In the mass uprising of 2010 one of the main demands of the protesters was to remove the army check posts from Srinagar city. These are the conditions which provide the impetus to the mass unrest of Kashmiri masses time and again.

Kashmir map - Public DomainPublic DomainAnother dilemma in this complex equation is the role of the Indian Stalinist parties. Their position on the question of self-determination has no resemblance to the Leninist, Marxist position on the National Question. They do not support the right to self-determination of Kashmir or any other oppressed nationality of India. The tragedy of these Stalinists is a strange one that they call themselves “communist” but do not believe in socialist revolution, and therefore they end up supporting the so-called “progressive bourgeoisie” and the Indian State. These so-called Communists are more patriotic than even the Indian State itself. That is why they never condemn the imperialist role of the Indian State. Instead, they are very vocal in defending its role. If they are not struggling to overthrow capitalism in India, then how can they support the right of any nation to self-determination against their allied bourgeois rulers? It is this criminal theory of revolution consisting of two stages - the first being the “democratic”, i.e. bourgeois phase - that is the main bulwark of all the Stalinist parties.

If any one major group of these Communist parties had adopted a correct Marxist position of proletarian revolution and had extended its hand of solidarity to the masses and youth of Kashmir and other oppressed nationalities of India, the whole situation could be turned upside down with unseen rapidity. The Indian proletariat showed once again its numerical strength, its unbroken unity and its willingness to fight against capitalism on 2 September in a one day general strike in which 180 million participated across the country. In fact, it was the biggest strike in human history. What more can one demand of the workers of India and what more do these Stalinists need to move to the struggle for socialist revolution in India? It is an irony of history that the workers of India had to fight many fierce struggles to reach across these barriers erected by the false ideas of the Stalinists.

Meanwhile, the masses and youth of Kashmir also have had to learn many bitter lessons at an unnecessary cost in terms of blood and suffering. Only the correct ideas of revolutionary Marxism, with the Leninist position on the National Question, can lead the Kashmiri masses towards final victory. Marxists support the right of self-determination not only for the Kashmiris but for every oppressed nation in the world. Along with that they strive for the class unity of workers of all the nations and clearly state that the only through socialist revolution will all exploitation, oppression and subjugation end.

With these ideas the students and youth affiliated to the IMT marched towards the Line of Control from Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir in September 2014. They were raising slogans such as "Our aim Freedom, Our goal Socialism". If this finds an echo among the youth in Indian-occupied Kashmir the freedom of Kashmir will not be so far away.

At this moment it is important not only for Marxists but also for every progressive to take a bold and clear stand against the imperialist state repression and brutalities of the Indian forces in Kashmir. We condemn every act of the Indian and Pakistani states against the Kashmiri masses and youth unconditionally. The imperialist occupation and presence of Indian and Pakistani forces in Kashmir is unjustified and illegal by its very nature, therefore all the actions flowing from this imperialist occupation are coercive and brutal. We demand an urgent end to the state of repression; a repeal of the AFSPA with all the other repressive laws; removal of all the army check-posts from cities and towns and the demilitarisation of the whole of Kashmir; together with all the basic democratic liberties and rights, including the right of assembly, free speech and to a free press immediately. To be able to decide on their own future with complete freedom is a basic right of the Kashmiri masses.

However, in this struggle Marxists do not support acts of individual terrorism. And if this terrorism is sponsored by any imperialist state in the region it should be severely condemned and a relentless battle should be fought against it. Individual terrorism always reduces the role of collective mass action and creates illusions in external “saviours”, liberators and heroes. People start believing that some great militant commander, heroic freedom fighter or leader will win the freedom for the people. In such circumstances, the people are supposed to do only one thing: wait for such a hero. As a great revolutionary of the twentieth century Ernesto Che Guevara said, “I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.”

Every militant action of such armed groups provides on one hand the excuse for brutal state repression, a ban on all political activities and freedoms and on the other hand isolates these very same groups by isolating them from the working masses. The political action of the masses is rendered more difficult under such circumstances and therefore, in the last analysis, individual terrorism proves counterproductive. Every freedom struggle is a very serious matter which needs to be based on a seriously worked out theoretical foundation. Without the guidance of correct and scientific ideas, the tactics and methods employed in such struggles can be harmful for the movement as a whole.

As this marvellous movement of Kashmiri youth moves ahead, inspiring people throughout the whole region, Marxists should at the same time point out the difficulties the movement faces and how to overcome them. All the protesters are against religious hatred and this is the strongest point of the movement and we need to propagate it as far and as widely as possible. The ruling classes on both sides will do everything to derail this movement along religious lines and all efforts should be made to oppose any such effort. It is also necessary to take a clear class position, as we are all aware of the fact that the local rulers of Kashmir are stooges of the Indian state and collaborate in the repression and therefore they are our immediate enemies. At the same, time, the rulers of India and Pakistan are our class enemies. They ruthlessly exploit and brutally suppress the workers of their respective countries, and therefore neither of them can be the friends of the working masses of any land.

If the Pakistani rulers pose as the supporters of the Kashmiri masses, they do so only to defend their own imperialist interests, just as the Indian rulers sometimes become the champions of the human rights in Balochistan. As a matter of fact, the hypocritical support of these imperialist gangsters is an insult to those who are genuinely fighting and paying with their lives and blood for their freedom. In the same way, the rulers of any country or the so-called institutions such as the United Nations have no interest in the genuine emancipation of the masses of any country. Therefore we also condemn their hypocritical protests against the use of excessive force or their crocodile tears on the humanitarian crisis.

The present uprising is more intense than any other in decades. In many respects it is the biggest rebellion of the masses and youth of Kashmir in history. It has already gone beyond the limits of past events. Indian imperialist repression has failed to curb the movement and normalcy through coercion is unachievable. This uprising is affecting the whole of Indian society and the sub-continent, especially the ongoing student movement across India and is gaining sympathy. It is not an isolated event if we look across India and throughout the whole world. We see the dawn of a new epoch of mass struggles and revolutionary movements across the globe against capitalism, an epoch of revolutions and counter-revolutions in which more intense struggles will follow the current movements and the periods of inactivity will be much shorter before the next wave of uprisings.

This means that if it loses its intensity for a short period, it will merely prepare bigger uprisings on a much higher scale. The reasons for this inevitable resurgence are evident, because since 8 July every killing and injury or arrest of protesters has added a thousandfold to the hatred and the rage against the occupiers. The seeds of new uprisings have already been sown, but there is another important factor here. It is not simply the case of a cycle of ebbs and flows of the protest movement which always occurs. There is a genuine development forward, although at a slow pace, of the struggle which is becoming more intense, widespread, experienced and resolute.

The status quo of sub-continental politics is beginning to break. New cracks are opening under the hammer blow of mass movements. The struggle of the Kashmiri youth and masses will be followed across the subcontinent very soon in future. This is a struggle for the emancipation of more than one and a half billion souls living in the capitalist hell of the South-Asian subcontinent. During this period of fierce struggles, it is necessary for all conscious political workers to build a revolutionary alternative leadership based on a thoroughly worked out programme and the correct ideas of Marxism, capable of leading the masses and workers towards the final victory of proletarian revolution. The goal of the freedom of Kashmir can be achieved only through socialist revolution based on class struggle supported by the proletariat and youth of whole world. The socialist revolution in Kashmir can become the starting point of the revolution across the whole subcontinent.

Long live the struggle of Kashmiri youth and masses!     

Long live the socialist freedom of Kashmir!

Down with Imperialist occupation by India, Pakistan and China of all parts of Kashmir!

Long live the socialist revolution of the sub-continent and of the whole world!