On August 18th the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) organised its founding convention at Hill Top hall in Rawlakot, Kashmir. More than 450 students participated and the revolutionary spirit ran high. More than 100 students had come from cities across Pakistan to attend this historic beginning, while other participants were students from various educational institutes of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir.
The convention was named "Azaadi" so as to express solidarity with the ongoing mass movement of youth in Indian-occupied Kashmir. This movement has been going on since July 8th 2016 and it is continuing despite growing repression by the Indian State. So far more than 200 people have been killed, while nearly 20,000 have been injured. Thousands have been arrested and are facing torture in jails. Nearly 2000 people have lost their eyesight to pellet guns. But the movement is moving forward relentlessly, demanding freedom from the Indian State.
Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri youth have taken up the demand of freedom. The presence of more than 600,000 Indian troops has failed to suppress the revolutionary mood of the youth. They throw stones at soldiers armed to the teeth with advanced weapons. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Previously, it was said that the city boys in Kashmir Valley are fond of pelting stones while everyone else has no qualms about this oppression. But this time this movement has drawn people from all layers. Thousands of female students have participated and so have people from the most remote villages and towns of the Valley, including South Kashmir. Female students with their school bags on their shoulders can be seen throwing stones at the soldiers of the Indian Army with advanced weapons who stand only a few meters away. Such sights have sent shock waves throughout the imperialist powers of the region. Islamic Fundamentalist organisations have tried to penetrate these protests, but have so far failed to hijack the leadership of the movement.
The movement has also rejected all the established leaderships and organisations of the Valley. This has made it impossible for the Indian State to derail the movement by staging a farce of negotiations with these puppets, in order to offer some crumbs in the form of any special package. No political party or group genuinely represents this spontaneous movement, and still this movement is moving forward every day.
All pro-Indian political parties, including the ruling PDP, the former ruling NC, Congress, and others, have been discredited and failed to offer any programme for this movement. Pro-Pakistan parties, including various factions of the Hurriyat Conference, JKLF, and others, have also failed miserably. The revolutionary youth of the Valley have rejected their dubious and reactionary politics.
In the past the Pakistani ruling class has intervened in movements in the Valley, using the Islamic Fundamentalists to serve its own imperialist interests in Kashmir. The terrorist activities of these Fundamentalists helped the Indian State to increase its repression on the movement, while isolating it from the Indian working class through malicious propaganda. But this time the mass movement has rejected these vicious methods. According to some reports less than 250 youth have so far joined any fundamentalist organisation whereas hundreds of thousands are protesting on the streets and pelting stones at the Army.
Under the pressure of the movement the Police department has almost collapsed with hundreds having deserted their posts, while many more still terrified to face the youth. This movement has also found an echo among the revolutionary students and workers of India who are now supporting the movement. Many have also raised their voice in the Indian media, calling for it to rethink its strategy in Kashmir and move forward to grant it independence.
In this situation the Progressive Youth Alliance planned to organise its Azaadi convention in Rawlakot, the city of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir. One of the main motives was to extend solidarity with the movement in Indian-occupied Kashmir, while the other was to highlight the struggles faced by students and youth in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir and launch a movement on these issues.
The questions discussed by the convention included ‘Azaadi’, or freedom from national opression, unemployment, expensive education, and hunger and misery caused by capitalism. A leaflet was printed in big numbers to spread the message. The demands on the leaflet included free education for all, an end to the ban on the student union and immediate elections for unions in all educational institutes, an end to the class-based educational system, nationalisation of all private educational institutes, employment or unemployment allowance for all. The leaflet also put forwarded the programme of socialist revolution to end capitalism. During the preparations convention camps were organised outside educational institutes in many cities and towns. This programme received a huge response from the students and they participated in huge numbers to support these demands and protest against the policies of the ruling class.
From Kashmir students participated from Poonch University Rawlakot, Medical College Rawlakot, Degree College Rawlakot, Degree College Tarar Khal, Kotli University, Intermediate College Baloch, Higher Secondary School Khaigala, Degree College Palandri and Degree College Bagh. Many students from educational institutes across Pakistan also came to participate in this meeting, including students from the Federal Urdu University Karachi, Sindh University Jamshoro, Beeds Sukkur, Degree College Dadu, Islamia University Bahawalpur, BZ University Multan, Emerson College Multan, Peshawar University, Islamic International University Islamabad, Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, Agriculture University Faisalabad, GC University Faisalabad, Gujrat University, GC for Women Gujranwala, University of Lahore, among others.
This convention was held at a time when the traditional student politics in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir is falling into an abyss of careerism and personality cults. Here student politics has revolutionary traditions and many left-wing nationalist student organisations have put up fierce resistance against the state in last fifty years. But during the last few years these student organisations have degenerated quite quickly and factional fights over careerism have divided them into small groups, the leaders of which abandoning their ideologies and moving away from the real issues facing the youth. They now rely on their connections with veteran Nationalist leaders, MPs and members of the ruling elite to preserve their leadership. In their public meetings they invite such "personalities" to attract students, but who have now tire of listening to rhetoric about the sacrifices of the past.
These "chief guests" include nationalist and right-wing MPs and other members of the ruling class. In fact these "personalities" are responsible for the degeneration and ideological betrayal of the movement. Their past is dotted with treachery to the movement. The finances for these meetings are also linked to these people as a form of a fee for their endorsement. The media also promotes such meetings where the guest list is long and the real issues faced by students are ignored.
These student organisations have a history of fierce struggle and debate around revolutionary ideas, but have now become a part of this rotten political culture promoted by all the political parties of the region. Their leaders excuse themselves with the ‘difficult objective conditions’ and the ‘period of reaction’ to justify their betrayals. In such a period it seemed impossible for the PYA to launch a platform challenging this rotten atmosphere prevailing among the students and politics in general. In the beginning it seemed difficult to organise such a meeting in which the students themselves would come on stage and speak for themselves, highlighting issues faced by them such asfee hikes and unemployment. Along with that, arranging the meeting and raising the finances without any renowned guests or speakers appeared a daunting task. But with revolutionary enthusiasm and determination the youth of the PYA made it possible. For many senior journalists and political pundits it was a miracle, while for those with a Marxist understanding it was a victory of correct perspectives, methods and tactics.
The invitations, leaflets and posters for the convention were printed in large numbers and pasted and distributed in many districts throughout Kashmir. Seeing the response to the programme and slogans of the PYA and the enthusiasm the students therefore had in participating in this convention, the reactionary forces moved to sabotage it.
Just two days prior to the convention the Islamic fundamentalist party Jamat-i-Islami (sister organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood), with the complete support of state authorities, announced its public meeting just opposite the hall where the convention of PYA was being organised. This is an unusual place to organise a meeting where, for the first time, the district administration had permitted the organisation of a meeting at this venue.
These fundamentalists installed full-blown speakers facing the hall in order to to harass and terrorise the youth attending this convention and spread their venomous propaganda against the revolutionary slogans. But these reactionary tactics did little to stop the success of this convention, rather it helped to galvanise the revolutionary youth even more. The students raised revolutionary slogans at a high pitch to drown the reactionary speeches of the fundamentalists.
The convention continued for more than five hours. During this time the atmosphere was fully charged. During the speeches students would start raising slogans, electrifying the whole audience. The speeches also showed the will and determination of the students to carry forward this struggle. Despite their young age the contributions from all speakers expressed their political maturity and ideological depth. This clearly shows that the revolutionary youth is far superior in all aspects than the corrupt and rotten politicians prevailing on the horizon, and has the capacity to rid this society of all the ills of capitalism.
Another remarkable feature of this convention was the participation of female students from Poonch University and Rawlakot Medical College. Despite the heroic struggles and resistance of student organisations in the past, the female students have mostly been ignored in all left-wing student organisations. In this convention female students not only came on stage to express their point of view on issues such as fee hikes, but were also elected to the executive body of the PYA. This is a huge step forward for the student movement of Kashmir.
Waheed Arif opened the convention and welcomed all the students, including those who had travelled from the different cities of Pakistan, underlining the fact that these students had travelled long distances in difficult economic conditions just to extend their solidarity with the students of Kashmir. The first speaker was Arbaz, who explained the situation faced by the youth around the world. He said that the financial crisis of 2008 has changed the situation throughout the whole world. The burden of this crisis has been shifted to the shoulders of the workers and youth in all countries, while the profits of the capitalists continue to rise. There are movements against this in all corners of the world. In most countries the old rotten political parties have been swept away with the events emanating from the crisis, and new parties emerging. He said that students here are also facing difficulties with the government spending less and less on education while at the same time being looted and plundered by private mafias. Due to the fee hike, youth from working class families cannot afford education. And those who do graduate after paying high fees are unable to find any jobs. All existing political parties have failed to address these issues and are part and parcel of this corrupt system. This is why we are founding the PYA in Kashmir, to not only fight for the rights of students, but also to unite the struggles of students in various universities across Kashmir and also with the students of Pakistan and the whole world.
After that Amna from the PYA came on stage to express her views. She talked about the recent movement of students against fee hikes in Poonch University and how to strengthen this movement. She also talked about the problems faced by female students and how to fight these issues. She said that the repression by both fundamentalists and liberals create hurdles for the female students to pursue their education. But the recent struggle shows that when there is a movement, female students are in the forefront and are ready to fight for their rights.
A large number of students from Poonch University participated in this convention. Shoaib, Waqas, Nishwa and Aqib from different departments of this university came on stage to express their views. They said that this university doesn’t have its own campus and classes are being held in make-shift places including the shops in a market. Above all this, the management has raised the fee manifold times, adding to the misery of students. These students thanked the PYA for supporting them in their recent movement against fee hikes and said that this is the only platform which is organising students on real issues.
From Karachi, Attaullah, a student of Federal Urdu University, expressed his views and congratulated the PYA in Kashmir for holding such a marvelous meeting. He said that in Karachi all student organisations have become puppets of university management and are involved in criminal activities. In this situation the role of the PYA is commendable for bringing new life to the student movement across the country with its revolutionary ideas. Ali Barkat Baloch from Sindh University, Rawal Asad from Emerson College Multan, Asfandyar Shinwari from Peshawar University ,Rai Asad from Royal College Lahore and Salma from Gujranwala also spoke and highlighted the issues faced by students.
Shinwari from Peshawar University discussed the movement of students after the assassination of Mashal Khan in April this year. He said that all student organisations affiliated with various political parties are responsible for this crime and have become rotten and obsolete. He said that only the PYA is fighting for the rights of students and that it was at forefront in this struggle against the brutal killing of Mashal Khan.
Adil Badshah from Degree College Palandri spoke about the problems faced by students in his college. He said that the problems are so acute that even though they only received the invitation a few days prior to the event, nevertheless fifty students attended after travelling a long distance. He said that the programme of the PYA is getting a tremendous response from students. Abdul Rehman from Degree College Bagh and Attaullah and Zeeshan from Kotli University also spoke, announcing the affiliation of the recently formed student organisation of Kotli University with the PYA.
The students of Poonch University from Gilgit Baltistan presented their cultural dance on the stage, which was enthusiastically appreciated by the audience. Mujahid Pasha from Faisalabad recited a revolutionary poem by renowned poet Idris Babar, specially written for the PYA, which received a huge applause. Hamraz Sarwani from Gujrat University also presented his poetry.
The last speaker was Umer Riaz from Islamic International University Islamabad. He explained the ongoing movement of the Indian youth in occupied Kashmir and how both Indian and Pakistani imperialist states are trying to crush the movement. He said that the Kashmiri youth raise the green flag just to irritate the Indian Army, but that they have no illusions in the corrupt and rotten Pakistani State. He said that these youth want freedom from unemployment, price hikes, poverty and misery, along with freedom from national oppression. He said that we are also facing the same problems and that our struggle is the same struggle as those of the youth in the Valley. We should not only support this movement, but also wage a struggle against the ruling class of both India and Pakistan. The only way to end the national oppression and exploitation of the working class in the whole region is to end capitalism through a socialist revolution. Only a voluntary socialist federation of South Asia can guarantee the rights of oppressed nationalities and the working masses. He said that today the ruling class of Pakistan is presenting Chinese investment in the region as the panacea for all problems. But this is just a new imperialist power which is coming to loot and plunder this region. After the imperialist masters of Britain and America the ruling class of Pakistan is preparing itself to serve new masters, presenting the Chinese ruling class with the working class of the region. He said that the youth should not pin any hopes on this or that imperialist power, but arm itself with Marxist ideas in order to to wage a struggle against all imperialist powers.
At the end Rao Adil presented resolutions for free education, an end of the ban on student unions and against the recent ban on public sector worker unions. All these resolutions were passed unanimously. A resolution was passed to support the movement in Indian-occupied Kashmir which was also passed unanimously and with huge applause.
An executive body for the PYA in Kashmir was also elected, including Waheed Arif as President, Ubaid Zulfiqar as Senior vice-President, Sohaib Hanif as vice-President, Ubaid Zubair as General Secretary, Nishwa as Women Secretary, Adil as Chief Organiser, Zeeshan as Finance Secretary, Abul Rehman as Information Secretary and Aqib as Study Circle Secretary. An organising body for Poonch University and Medical College was also elected separately.
At the end Comrade Zain ul Abideen came on stage for the closing remarks of the convention. He congratulated the newly elected office bearers and said that they have huge responsibilities on their shoulders. He said that this is a historic day for Kashmir, when a new student organisation is being founded based on the revolutionary ideas of Marxism and linked with students and workers across the world. We support the movements of all oppressed nationalities across the world and are waging an irreconcilable struggle against all imperialist powers everywhere.
But to end imperialist plunder we need to end capitalism. Bhagat Singh explained many decades ago the real meaning of freedom. Bhagat Singh said we don't need freedom in which after the white ruling class we get a local brown ruling class. We need a freedom in which no human can exploit another and people can live free from all kind of oppression. Zain said that today, after seventy years of independence, these rulers have not solved a single basic issue faced by the masses. Poverty, misery, hunger and disease have made the lives of the people a living hell, and these miseries are only compounded by terrorism, corruption and the looting of the ruling class. Only a socialist revolution can end all this and lead the masses out of this burning inferno.
At the end of the convention a rally was held against state repression in Kashmir. The rally started from Hill Top Hall and after passing through the main roads of the city ended at Kutchery Chowk. The participants of the rally raised slogans against national oppression, imperialism, unemployment, fee hikes, poverty and price hikes including the slogan of Inqilab, Inqilab… socialist Inqilab.
At the end the President of the PYA, Kashmir Waheed Arif, addressed the rally and condemned the policies of the ruling class. He said that the struggle of the Kashmiri youth will continue on both sides of the Line of Control. He appealed to the working class of India and Pakistan and the whole world to support their movement.
Preparations for the Convention
The campaign for this convention was spread over more than one month. To organise this convention many camps were organised in various educational institutes in different cities.
There are many campuses of this University in Rawlakot, while the hostels for students are also spread across the city. Comrades of the PYA organised camps at all the campuses and discussed the programme of the PYA with students in various hostels. During the campaign the comrades of the PYA also participated in the movement of the students of this university against fee hikes. Just a few days after the first camp of the PYA outside this university a movement erupted against the unjust fee hikes of the management. Hundreds of students came out to protest this injustice.
The participation of female students was remarkable, outnumbering the male students. The comrades of the PYA participated in this movement and supported the demands of the students. They also organised many meeting of the leading students in their office in Rawlakot to discuss the plans for this movement. In these meetings discussions on World and Pakistan Perspectives were held, and student expressed keen interest in the movements of students across the world. In response to this interest a separate meeting was organised in the PYA office to discuss World Perspectives. More than forty students participated in this meeting and expressed a keen interest in the ideas of Marxism. Comrade Umer Riaz gave a lead off on World Perspectives, while many students also participated in the discussion and expressed their views about politics in Pakistan.
Eighty students registered themselves at the camp outside Supply Campus, while more than ninety registered themselves at camps outside City and Main Campuses of this university. Students of the Pharmacy department also visited the camp and said that their degree had still not been accredited by the government despite paying heavy fees. The PYA organisers sagreed to join their protest for this demand.
Meetings in Ghazi Millat Hostel and others were also organised by the PYA in which students enthusiastically participated. Door-to-door campaigns were also held in many hostels to spread the message of the PYA, which received an overwhelming response from the students. Female comrades of the PYA also visited female hostels to discuss the programme of the PYA, again receiving huge support.
During the campaign discussions were also held around August 14th which is the Independence Day of Pakistan. On this day the PYA hold protests every year across Kashmir and Pakistan on the slogan of "till the people are hungry, this Independence is fake". This year protests were held in many cities which were reported to the students in Kashmir. Students discussed the crimes of the British imperialists and the ruling classes of the region at the time of partition, and how Kashmir has become a festering wound due to this, still bleeding even after seven decades.
Camps were also organised outside the Medical College and Degree Colleges of Rawlakot.
A camp was also organised in Ali Sojal in which a large number of students participated to show their interest in the programme of the PYA. Many unemployed youth also registered themselves with the PYA to join the struggle against the exploitation of the ruling class. Here twenty two youngsters registered themselves with the PYA.
A delegation of comrades of the PYA visited Kolti university and organised a meeting with the students. Students expressed their anger against the management of the university, which is using all means at their disposal to suppress the students while banning any kind of political activity. They said that fee has been hiked many times in the last years, while the infrastructure and quality of education is deteriorating. They also supported the programme of the PYA and agreed to attend the founding convention in Ralwakot. Thirty three students signed the signature form to join the campaign of the PYA.
Comrades of the PYA organised a camp outside Post Graduate College Palandri and other educational institutes which received a huge response by students. Students told the organisers of the camps that they are facing difficulties due to lack of transport for the students and they have to sit on the roof-tops or hang on the back of shabby vehicles to reach the college every day. Also, the management has raised the fee making it difficult for them to continue their studies. Due to the ban on student unions they cannot raise their voice against this injustice. Forty students signed up to join the campaign of the PYA.
A few days later a meeting was organised to discuss the issues faced by students in which more than fifty participated. In this meeting an organising body of the PYA Palandri was elected to organise the students in this district.
Camps were also organised in Trar Khal, Qilan, Baloch and other towns of this district which were greeted by a huge response from the students.
During the campaign many meetings and camps were organized in this district to spread the message of PYA. Various student and youth groups of up to 200 members came in contact with the organizers of PYA. All of them appreciated the programme and supported the demands raised in the leaflet. Meetings with the leaderships of these groups were also organized in which World and Pakistan perspectives were discussed in detail. In the end more than 40 students and youth from this district participated in the convention including students from the degree college Bagh.
The newly elected executive body of PYA Kahsmir has vowed to continue this struggle and will organize public meetings in different towns and cities in the coming months. Camps will also be organized in the universities and colleges of Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and other cities in Kashmir. The struggle will continue till the overthrow of Capitalism through a Socialist revolution.