Workers Hammer No. 212
All Indian and Pakistani troops out now!
Down with India's bloody repression in Kashmir!
In recent months the Indian state has stepped up its murderous repression of the majority Muslim population in the Kashmir Valley. On 11 June, 17-year-old student Tufail Ahmad Matoo was killed by police who fired a teargas canister at his head, sparking angry protests. Youths armed only with stones have fought daily battles with Indian police and soldiers, while hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets demanding “Go India! Go back!” and “We want freedom”.
More than 60 people have been killed in the latest shootings and hundreds injured, many of them teenagers. An article titled “The angry housewives setting Kashmir ablaze” on the BBC News website (16 August) quotes a woman protester, Firdousi Farooq, whose son was also killed by a teargas shell fired by Indian police:
“Why should I not protest? Why should I not pick up a stone? I am doing this in the honour of my martyred son. I am doing this for azadi (freedom) from subjugation and repression.”
The latest round of killings is but the continuation of decades of repression of the Kashmiri people’s struggle against national oppression. Since 1990, when around 100 unarmed demonstrators were shot dead by Indian troops on Gawakadal Bridge in the summer capital Srinagar, as many as 80,000 have been killed. The Indian military maintains an occupying force of nearly 700,000 troops and paramilitaries there, enforcing a brutal regime of curfews, arbitrary arrests, executions, rape and torture.
But the conflict in Kashmir has potentially catastrophic consequences beyond the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. The Himalayan territory is a major bone of contention between India and neighbouring Pakistan, nuclear-armed foes who have already fought three wars for control of Kashmir, in 1947-48, 1965 and again in 1999. The 1947-48 war, fought while both armies were still under British generals, resulted in the partition of Kashmir. Hundreds of thousands of troops still face each other across the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir. The on-off “peace talks” between the two countries were abruptly halted following the criminal 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which killed 174 people and for which India blamed Pakistan.
In the event of war between these equally reactionary capitalist powers we call on the workers of India and Pakistan to turn the war into a struggle against their “own” capitalist rulers. We applied this revolutionary defeatist position towards India and Pakistan in 1971 when India seized upon the just struggle by East Pakistan (Bangladesh) for independence from West Pakistan as a pretext for war. When the nationalist Awami League handed military control of the Bengali independence struggle over to India, we said, “the just struggle of the Bengalis was entirely subordinated and integrated into the interests of the predator India at the expense of the predator Pakistan”. We added that: “Under these conditions to call for support to the Bengali independence struggle is to play into the hands of Indira Gandhi and the Bengali national traitors. Revolutionary defeatism, the policy that calls upon both armies to turn their guns against their own rulers, is the only policy which can achieve the aspirations of the working masses” (Workers Vanguard no 4, January 1972).
Today, insofar as the Kashmiri struggle is not decisively subordinated to a military conflict between the Pakistani ruling class and its Indian rival, Marxists uphold the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir, which means the right to independence or — should they so choose — to merge with Pakistan (or India). Historically, despite the virulent Hindu-chauvinism of New Delhi, union with Pakistan has found little support in Indian-controlled Kashmir, whose population, in addition to the four million Muslims in the valley of Kashmir, includes two million Hindus, concentrated in Jammu, as well as a smaller number of Sikhs and Buddhists. Pakistan is a stultifying Islamic theocracy which has long denied basic civil and political rights to its own people, much less to the Kashmiris in so-called Azad (Free) Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. Like India, Pakistan is a prison house for its national and religious minorities.
In supporting the right of selfdetermination for Kashmir we do not give an ounce of political support to any of the competing Kashmiri opposition forces — neither the “secular” separatist Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), nor the various Islamic-fundamentalist outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba. All of these forces are hostile to the class struggle of the workers and peasants against capitalist oppression and exploitation whether in India, Pakistan or Kashmir. Especially since the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the subsequent counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, many of the imperialist-backed Islamic-fundamentalists who were fighting the Red Army in Afghanistan have shifted to Kashmir where they have largely supplanted the JKLF in the leadership of the anti-India struggle. Far from fighting for the national emancipation of the Kashmiri people, these reactionary forces engage in communalist terror against non-Muslim religious minorities in Kashmir and India, and pose a deadly threat to Kashmiri women in particular.
While power remains in the hands of the bloody capitalist rulers in Islamabad and New Delhi, backed by the imperialists, the prospects for Kashmiri national liberation are slim indeed. This is especially so given Kashmir’s strategic location and historical role in relations between India and Pakistan. The cause of national justice for the Kashmiri people is inseparably tied up with the revolutionary struggle of the working masses of both countries against their capitalist oppressors. There can be no genuine expression of the right of Kashmiri self-determination without the withdrawal of both occupying armies. In opposition to the chauvinism of the rulers in New Delhi and Islamabad workers in both countries must demand: all Indian and Pakistani troops out now!
Divide and rule
Both India and Pakistan are beholden to the imperialist powers, today chiefly the US. The antagonism between the two countries, as well as the attendant communal and ethnic divisions, are the legacy of a deliberate policy of divide-and-rule practised by the British imperialists as colonial overlords of the subcontinent. This policy was succinctly described by WH Fitchett, a pro-imperialist historian writing about Britain’s suppression of the 1857 Indian uprising against British rule, who said:
“What a demonstration the whole story is, of the Imperial genius of the British race! ‘A nation,’ to quote Hodson [a British military chief ] — himself one of the most brilliant actors in the great drama — ‘which could conquer a country like the Punjaub, with a Hindoostanee army, then turn the energies of the conquered Sikhs to subdue the very army by which they were tamed; which could fight out a position like Peshawur for years, in the very teeth of the Afghan tribes; and then, when suddenly deprived of the regiments which effected this, could unhesitatingly employ those very tribes to disarm and quell those regiments when in mutiny — a nation which could do this, is destined indeed to rule the world!’ ”
— The Tale of the Great Mutiny (1902)
The continued slaughter in Kashmir today is a legacy of the 1947 partition of India, carried out under Clement Attlee’s Labour government. India was divided along religious-communal lines, creating the modern states of India and Pakistan. The partition led to the slaughter of up to a million people and massive population transfers. The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, despite having a majority Muslim population, was ruled at the time by a Hindu maharaja (under the suzerainty of the British Crown) who, according to Indian sources, opted to accede to India. When Pathan tribesmen from Pakistan crossed the border in 1947 in an attempt to force the issue in favour of Pakistan, the popular Kashmiri leader Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, fearing the dominance of the Muslim Punjabi landlords, also opted for India, conditional upon an eventual plebiscite. However the Indian bourgeoisie reneged on this promise; a vote has never been held, and while the Hindu-chauvinist Indian bourgeoisie today declares Kashmir to be an “integral part of India”, there is overwhelming sentiment among the Muslims of the valley of Kashmir for an end to Indian occupation.
For a socialist federation of South Asia!
Kashmir is strategically placed on India’s borders not only with Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also with China, which controls Aksai Chin, a territory that India claims as part of Kashmir. The Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh is also disputed by India and China who fought a war in 1962. Today the rivalry between the two countries is acute. In any military conflict between capitalist India and the People’s Republic of China, we Trotskyists stand for unconditional military defence of China, a deformed workers state. The 1949 Revolution, led by Mao’s peasant-guerrilla army defeated the Guomindang nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek, shattered capitalist rule and liberated the country from subservience to Japanese and western imperialism.
The Chinese Revolution resulted in enormous social gains for workers, peasants and women. But the workers state that issued out of it was bureaucratically deformed , ruled by a privileged caste headed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). We fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy in Beijing and to establish a regime of workers democracy. Stalinism — of which Maoism is a variant — arose as an ideology in the Soviet workers state following the defeat of the revolutionary wave in Europe that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Beginning in 1923-24, a conservative bureaucratic caste which Stalin came to lead usurped political power from the proletariat, while resting on the social and economic gains of the revolution. The Soviet Union thus became a degenerated workers state.
In the treacherous tradition of Stalin and the bureaucratic caste which ruled in the former Soviet Union, Mao and his heirs in the CCP leadership aligned themselves with US imperialism, and with Pakistan, betraying the interests of the oppressed masses. During the 1980s, the Chinese Stalinists supported the imperialist-backed Islamic mujahedin in Afghanistan — ultrareactionary forces who were waging jihad (holy war) against the Soviet Union.
The Red Army posed the possibility of a social transformation that would have lifted Afghanistan from the feudal social conditions that prevail, especially for women. Instead, Mikhail Gorbachev’s withdrawal of the Soviet troops was a precursor to counterrevolution in the USSR itself in 1991-92. This catastrophe for the working masses of the world had a direct impact in Kashmir, where the mujahedin turned their attention, strengthening the hold of the most reactionary forces within the national liberation struggle.
Kashmir epitomises the seething complex of national and communal conflicts that extend from Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. The brutal repression in Kashmir, the only majority Muslim state in India, gives the lie to New Delhi’s claims that it is a “secular” democracy. The Indian state was founded on naked Hindu chauvinism and brutal oppression of minorities has been the rule under the “secular” Congress party, as well as the avowedly chauvinist BJP. Today India’s much vaunted economic progress has brought fabulous wealth to a tiny elite while the vast majority of workers and peasants are mired in abject poverty. Age-old caste oppression remains pervasive while women are the slaves of slaves throughout the subcontinent.
For Pakistan, Kashmir represents its pretence to stand for “one nation” of all Muslims. Pakistan’s rulers can ill afford to support independence for Kashmir, which would pose the same question for the minorities within its own borders, including Baluchis, Pathans and Sindhis, who chafe under Punjabi domination. But Pakistan itself is an artificial state — Pathans are divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan; Baluchis between Iran and Pakistan and today such ethnic divisions are once again being exacerbated by the US and British imperialist occupation of Afghanistan.
The key to ending the national oppression of the Kashmiri people, as well as the myriad sufferings wrought by capitalism, is the fight for socialist revolution throughout the subcontinent and the establishment of a socialist federation of South Asia. For that it is necessary to forge Leninist-Trotskyist parties which would seek to mobilise the powerful proletariat of India and Pakistan at the head of all the oppressed to sweep away the capitalist system. Indian and Pakistani workers in the diaspora in Britain, the US, Canada and elsewhere form a human bridge to the working class in the imperialist centres where socialist revolution can lay the basis for a socialist future for mankind.