August 7, 2019

Solidarity with Kashmir!

Solidarity with Kashmir!

On Monday, August 5, the BJP-led government of India repealed Article 370 of the Indian constitution, stripping the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. This was followed by a communications blackout, increased militarisation, and a widespread clampdown on dissent, as several high-ranking Kashmiri political leaders were placed under house arrest and 50,000 extra troops were deployed to Kashmir – already one of the most militarised areas of the world.

The removal of the region’s special status fundamentally alters its relationship to the Delhi government. Kashmir is an internationally disputed region – since 1947, Kashmir, formerly the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, has been partitioned between India and Pakistan, and it continues to be claimed by both nations. Alongside this, however, Kashmir has an active, lively independence movement. Kashmiris have been fighting for their independence from India for decades, especially as the accession to the new Indian state was a unilateral decision of the monarch. At the time, a referendum was promised, but the Nehru government failed to follow through. Various political groups, such as the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), are calling for an independent, secular Kashmiri state.

This military occupation has, of course, gravely affected Kashmir. In Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiris have faced severe repression under occupation; for example, under the effects of the AFSPA – Armed Forces Special Powers Act, that grants security forces the right to fire upon groups suspected of carrying weapons or to carry out arrests without warrant. Only in the last few years, the Indian security forces have blinded, wounded, and killed dozens, and this level of repression has escalated under the BJP.

It is this move for independence that is most significant here, as the increased intrusion onto Kashmiri autonomy is, in effect, a strengthening of Indian occupation. Under Article 370 and its extension, Article 35A, the state of Jammu and Kashmir benefitted from control over its constitution and internal laws, including those related to residency and the right of out-of-state Indians to purchase property. The repeal therefore amounts to a settler-colonial move towards population transfer, wealth transfer, and a strengthening of the occupation, as Indians can now gain access to Kashmiri land.

There is significant overlap between India and Israel here, not only in terms of tactics, goals, and ideology, but equally in terms of the military equipment used by Indian forces in Kashmir and Pakistan. Israel has been supplying India with missiles, radar systems, and other types of equipment, and Indian forces have received counter-insurgency training from the Mossad. Ultimately, even the framing of both these occupations as mere counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism efforts shows the striking similarities between them. It it a similar tactic to those used by Britain in the north of Ireland, where Republican prisoners were denied political status as Britain pushed for normalisation in order to delegitimise the political struggle and paint it as merely an issue of criminal disorder.

The role of India’s ruling party and its ideology cannot be overstated. This development is yet another effect of the Hindutva ideology promoted by President Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Hindutva is an openly fascist ideology, whose RSS paramilitaries seek to copy the tactics of the fascist militias of Mussolini and Hitler, the latter of which directly cited the caste system as influential to Nazism. Members of India’s Muslim minority have been repeatedly attacked at all levels, both legally and illegally, by supporters of the BJP’s fascist Hindu nationalism, which uses Hindu identity to justify ethnic, religious, and caste oppression across India. The BJP has invoked this ideology in its decision to strip Kashmir of its status, which was hailed as a “historic moment” for the Indian nation, that will be “written with golden words” in the country’s history, while the image of Hindu supremacy was endorsed by Modi, who announced this decision with a picture of him undertaking Dharma.

The history of Hindutva is that of an ideology focused on racial and cultural purity and on an original Hindu homeland that must be defended from invaders. Its formulator, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was an admirer of Nazism and called it “the saviour of Germany”. In practice, this cultural purity means upper caste supremacy and the brutal exploitation of Dalit (“untouchable”) and other oppressed caste labour. Casteism is therefore the safeguard of an unequal relationship to land and capital, where wealth is accumulated in upper-caste hands. While the BJP and RSS promise an end to casteism and its replacement by a monolithic Hindu identity, this is not much more than the politicisation of caste in order to gain support.

Of course, British colonialism played a part in the development of these ideological foundations, as the Empire favoured Hindus over other ethnic groups and helped strengthen religious boundaries. They also strengthened the caste system within India as a route to dividing the colonised population and facilitating its colonial exploitation by the imperialists in London. As for Kashmir, during colonial times, Jammu and Kashmir was governed by a Hindu élite under British paramountcy, that did not represent the Muslim population. For Britain, the 1947 Partition was an easy way out of an increasingly unstable India. Much like the earlier partition of the Ottoman Empire, this was marked by a process of hastily drawing new borders across ethnic lines, leading to widespread displacement and violence. It was this departure and the instability caused by a rushed partition that led to the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian state.

Communist parties across India have condemned the repeal. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other left parties released a statement yesterday, criticising the move as going directly against the principles of federalism outlined in the Indian constitution. While the CPI (Maoist) has not yet released a statement, it has previously come out in support of Kashmiri self-determination. As well, the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation has called for a solidarity march in Delhi. Meanwhile in Britain, we are yet to see any condemnation from government, and the Labour Party, including supposed anti-imperialist Corbyn, has so far kept a conspicuous silence on the Article 370 revocation.

Due its colonial-era role in India, Britain is home to the world’s largest Kashmiri diaspora. Red Fightback comrades attended an Emergency Vigil for Kashmir held at the Indian High Commission in London on Monday 5 August, called by the South Asia Solidarity Group. As communists, we must oppose fascism and settler colonialism in all its forms, wherever it may be found. Israeli occupation tactics have no place in Palestine and they have no place in Kashmir.

Red Fightback sends its solidarity to the people of Kashmir and to all organisations opposing this illegitimate move by the Indian government. Any attempts by the Indian government to further consolidate the occupation of Kashmir must be unconditionally opposed.