The elections for the AJK assembly of Pakistan controlled Kashmir being held recently are perhaps the most unrelated of issues plaguing the Kashmiri youth and the working people on this side of the Line of Control. The ruling elite neither have the resources nor the will to solve any of the burning problems the Kashmiri masses are inflicted with.
Powers, perks, plunder and of course corruption are the main incentives in present day politics that dominates Pakistan and Kashmir. The campaign is based on sham haranguing and hollow rhetoric. The Kashmir issue itself, a chauvinistic tool of the Pakistani ruling classes especially of the religious and the nationalist right, is also on the wane. The outcome of these elections will not deliver anything to the oppressed Kashmiris.
After sixty-four tumultuous years the conditions of the people of Azad Kashmir have not improved any more than their brethren in Indian occupied Kashmir. A solution to the Kashmir dispute is farther away today than it was in 1948. Even one of the wiliest politicians of the religious right, Maulana Fazal ur Rehman admitted in his latest interview with Newsweek, “Now the concept of winning Kashmir has taken a back seat... My own experience suggests that neither country is serious about Kashmir”.
Maulana is evading the fact that they cannot solve this issue under the present geopolitical set-up and socio-economic system. However, they want to keep the issue alive as it suits the imperialists and the military and political elites in India and Pakistan. This is not only used as an excuse for massive armaments build-up with the huge profits for the imperialist military industrial complexes and the lucrative kickbacks the generals and the politicians get out of it. It is also an issue deliberately left by the British imperialists after bloody partition to keep their stranglehold over the region through the instability that it continues to generate on the subcontinent. Their local stooges who came to power have also used it as a bone of contention to whip up national chauvinism employed as a battering ram to suppress internal dissent and mass upheavals on a class basis. Hence, they cannot let go of this vital weapon of class rule in their arsenal.
They have been putting it on the front or back burners according to the momentary needs of their class rule. It has been the Kashmiri youth and workers who have been suffering under these varying temperatures. This issue has been used to impose suffering upon more than one and a half billion inhabitants of the South Asian subcontinent by subjecting them to the exploitation and brutality of this rotting capitalist system. The ruling elites have made Kashmir a paradise in peril. The harrowing atrocities of the Indian army have few parallels in modern history. According to an Amnesty International report, “the brutality of torture in Jammu and Kashmir defies belief”.
Religion was deliberately brought into politics during the struggle for national liberation against the British Raj by the local politicians, especially Gandhi, at the behest of imperialism. Alex Von Tunzelmann writes in her brilliant work, “Indian Summer”: “the emergence of Gandhi gave confidence to religious chauvinists. While Gandhi welcomed those from all faiths, the very fact that the spiritual sensibilities to the centre of politics stirred up extreme and divisive passions... Jinnah, who began his career as a leading light of Hindu-Muslim unity, and ended it by forcing the creation of a separate Islamic-majority state”. Religion is still being used in both India and Pakistan and more so in relation to Kashmir.
If national oppression and state brutalities have been inflicted on Kashmir’s inhabitants by the Indian ruling classes, those under Pakistani state control have not enjoyed much freedom either. In 1991 Benazir Bhutto said: “Pakistan had arrested the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, rigged the state elections, and alienated the Kashmiris to such an extent that they want an independent Kashmir”. The conditions of the social and physical infrastructure are terrible. Poverty, misery and deprivation are worsening. The colonial mentality of the elite in Islamabad towards the Kashmiris stinks of contempt.
Under these conditions even if a plebiscite were held, the chances of a vote for accession to Pakistan would be bleak. The United Nations resolutions have not suddenly become redundant now. The UN has always been impotent to implement any plebiscite against the interests of the big powers. Hence all talk of a solution through a UN resolution is a farce. It is clear that accession to India would be rejected by the Kashmiri masses who have suffered for generations the agony of occupation by the Indian army. The trifurcation solutions advocated by the Hindu right would further complicate the issue and lead to more bloodshed.
In spite of the regional and linguistic differences, the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris is their democratic right. But would an independent Kashmir be a viable option? In the last period two important developments have taken place in the struggle of the Kashmiri masses. Islamic fundamentalism that surfaced in the 1990’s has suffered a rapid decline. The issue of social liberation has come to the fore within the nationalist movement. In a recent poll conducted on both sides of the Line of Control, 87 percent of participants considered poverty and unemployment as the main issues facing Kashmir. The mass protests of the unarmed youth in the recent period have shaken the Indian state and the intelligentsia. The revolutionary currents developing amongst the youth through the JKNSF in Pakistan controlled Kashmir are worrying the rulers in Islamabad. Even if an independent Kashmir were achieved on a capitalist basis, how could the burning social issues of the masses be seriously addressed with the oppressive Indian and Pakistani capitalist states with their imperialist designs controlling its economy? The oppression would continue to get worse. And US imperialism would continue to use it for its own economic and strategic interests.
Hence, the liberation of Kashmir is linked to the fate of the oppressed classes and nationalities throughout the subcontinent. The movement of the Kashmiri youth and workers linked to a wider class struggle can pose a serious challenge and overthrow this system that is responsible for class exploitation and nationalist oppression throughout the region. Lenin wrote in 1920, “The aim of socialism is not only to end the division of mankind; it is not only to bring nations together but to integrate them”. The ultimate way out of Kashmir’s ordeal is the creation of a voluntary socialist federation of South Asia.