Friday, 15 July 2016

Kashmir Bleeds, Yet Again!

SFI condemns the brutal violence unleashed by the security forces on protesters following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Until now, more than 30 people have been killed including an M.Com. student of Delhi University. Most of those who have been killed are youth. This growing unrest is also an expression of people’s intense alienation and anger against the oppressive policies and killings of unarmed civilians by security forces over the years. Rather than initiating a political process of dialogue, utterly irresponsible comments insulting the sentiments of the people who have hit the streets are being made by government spokespersons like Venkaiah Naidu.

The Indian State’s engagement with Kashmir: A saga of broken promises

The history of the Indian state’s engagement Kashmir is a history of denial of democracy. It is a history of broken promises and commitments and the inability of the Indian ruling classes to recognize that Jammu and Kashmir has a special status in the Indian Union given its history at the time of independence and partition. While there were some promises initially with the enactment of Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the steps which followed from 1953 with the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest leader of his times in Kashmir on the pretext that he was attempting to lead a secessionist movement, initiated a process of complete reversal of steps which gave special status to Kashmir and sowing the seeds of alienation among the people. Sheikh Abdullah was released in 1964 only to be arrested again 1965. The alienation of the people was further accentuated by the massive dilution of article 370 and other provisions which denied even minimal autonomy to Kashmir to the extent that Central government intervened even in matters in which normally the states in the Indian Union have autonomy.  

To make things worse, even basic democratic rights were denied to the people of Kashmir. The election nomination papers of candidates who did not share the stand of the central government were continuously rejected, elections were rigged and political parties in the state were forced to toe the line of the government at the centre. The non-stop violation of human rights by the Indian army in the form of murders and rapes, with the immunity provided by draconian laws like AFSPA behind them, only worsened the matters. It is the combination of all these which contributed to the massive alienation of Kashmiri youth, leading many of them to join separatist groups. Predictably, the response of the Indian state was to consider this merely as a law and order problem and not dealing with the matter politically, which exacerbated the situation. The present killing of unarmed civilians by security forces shows that government is unwilling to learn any lesson from the past. The only response to this deepening political unrest seems to be relying exclusively on security forces. 

On Burhan Wani and Hizbul Mujahideen 

The move by the armed forces to kill Burhan Wani in an “encounter” has had extremely serious repercussions in the valley. While we recognize and fight against the brutalities and violations of democratic and human rights of the people which provide fertile ground for the growth of organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, we completely reject the reactionary fundamentalist politics for which the Hizbul Mujahideen stands for.

However, the reaction of certain “ultra-left” sections inside and outside JNU unfortunately seems to be to blindly celebrate Burhan Wani and his politics. These sections forget that more often than not, religious fundamentalist forces flourish in objective conditions where a significant section of the population is disillusioned and angry due to the state of their conditions of living. For example, the massive suffering and chaos as a result of the American invasion of Iraq provided the objective conditions for the ideological growth of the Islamic State in West Asia. The support received by the right-wing bigot Donald Trump from significant sections of the American working class who are facing numerous economic hardships is another example of a reactionary group utilizing the genuine problems and anger of the people in order to further their nefarious designs. In short, factors which motivate a person to join a reactionary group are often rooted in genuine grievances against the conditions in which they find themselves. But when these real grievances are channelized through a reactionary ideology which is thoroughly undemocratic in nature, it is the duty of every progressive organisation to oppose them tooth and nail while fighting to resolve the grievances. The SFI rejects the ideal of a theocratic state as envisaged by the dominant sections of secessionists. It is ironic that certain sections support such demands and yet call themselves “secular” and “progressive”.

Regrettably, attempts are being made to create a binary in this campus by both the ABVP and certain “ultra-left” groups, as if only two solutions exist – to either support the brutalities of the Indian State on the one hand, or Burhan Wani on the other. It is important that the democratic, progressive student community of JNU reject these designs.

Bring back Democracy to Kashmir 

It is only by recognizing the special status of Kashmir in the Indian Union that peace can be given a fighting chance in Kashmir. Steps in this direction will include engagement with all political forces in Kashmir including the separatists, demilitarization of the region and revoking draconian laws like AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act. Maximum autonomy to Kashmir which was promised at different points of time, but which never materialized, should be made a reality. But with communal-fascist forces which have from the very beginning viewed Kashmir through a communal angle in power, this is going to be extremely arduous.  It is up to us, therefore, to take them to task in order to restore peace and to fight to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Both the Central Government and the State Government must immediately initiate the political process of dialogue with all political forces and groups to end the growing strife in the state.