Kashmiris in Throes of Belligerent Crossfire

By Lal Khan | First Published on Asian Marxist Review

The skirmishes across the LoC in Kashmir, the Himalayan region, which is divided between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, dangerously escalated last Wednesday. Infantry and small arms firing have now morphed into heavy mortar shelling and rocket firing in Kashmir that is in throes of belligerent crossfire. The ruling elites of the two rival states have imposed three wars over the oppressed masses of this region since the bloody partition and so-called independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja Asif said in a television interview on Wednesday that this escalation is unsustainable and can lead to catastrophic war.

Aljazeera reported that at least nine civilians and three military personnel were killed and thirteen injured in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir when an Indian artillery shell hit a passenger bus in the disputed region on Wednesday. The bus was heading towards Muzaffarabad from Kel when it came under attack. Local administration official Sardar Waheed told reporters that firing between the two militaries was preventing ambulances from reaching the scene. This threatening spike in hostilities ultimately led to an extraordinary contact between the military commanders of Indian and Pakistani armies of this front.

Both military press communiqués issued with ostentatious verbosity but the deliberations were a sign that the full-scale war was not on the agenda as usual. This reluctant retreat of the military bosses from the hysterical rhetoric and war jingoism once again proves the fact that the ruling elites, corrupt and incapacitated to the core can neither go to an all out war nor can they ever sustain a durable peace and prosperity for one-fifth of humanity that inhabits this rich but deprived and tragic South Asian subcontinent.

Indian officials did not comment on the deaths but a military spokesperson said the Pakistan army initiated “indiscriminate” firing on Wednesday morning on Indian army posts in the Bhimber Gali, Krishna Ghati and Nowshera sectors. The incident comes a day after India said three of its soldiers had been killed by Pakistani troops and threatened “retribution”. Cross firing from both sides has increased since the deadly armed attack on an Indian army base on 18 September. India accused Islamic terrorist outfits carrying out the attack blaming the Pakistani state agencies to have orchestrated it.

Indian army claims to have hit back on 30 September with cross-border “surgical strikes” targeting the bases of these terrorist groups blamed for killing the 19 soldiers at the Uri military base. However, a BBC investigation found that Indian troops had crossed the de facto border (the “Line of Control”) to hit border posts but then pulled back without going deep into the Pakistani-administered territory. That means that the claim of a ‘deep surgical strikes by Indian forces was a propaganda stunt for domestic consumption. The BBC analysis commented. “Narendra Modi’s BJP government swept to power in 2014 promising a tough line on Pakistan…Many observers say Mr Modi feels he has to placate an angry domestic constituency and send out a message that he is a strong leader.”

The immediate cause of the present escalation with heavy weaponry across the LoC in Kashmir is the failure of the Indian state to crush the indigenous uprising of the Kashmiri youth and toilers in the Indian part of the colonised Kashmir. The claims by the Modi regime of foreign terrorist infiltration are nothing new. These claims by India and denials from Pakistan have been an on-going exercise on now for decades. If anything, the harsh reality is that infiltration of religious fanatics and any foreign agents only undermines the movements in Kashmir.

Such acts of intrusion are not only an alibi for the intensification of the Indian state’s brutalities but more importantly these reactionary tendencies within and from outside Kashmir break the unity of the struggle on religious and sectarian lines and ultimately weaken and disintegrate it. This shows the reactionary character of the ruling elites of the region that use their states to control and restrict every movement within the confines of their vested interests garbed in various religious ethnic and nationalistic ideological formations.

The Movement in Kashmir to end the woes of the ordinary people that inhabit this territory led by the students and the youth is a genuine struggle to attain their social, economic, national and cultural liberation. The religious overtones in these Kashmiri movements are in fact the backlash of the anti-Muslim crusades of the Hindutva activists and organisations on the rampage in India. These reactionary religious bigots feel emboldened after Modi’s advent to power. The provocative acts to instigate the various religious identities in India have now been dug out through this reactionary campaign of religious discrimination and social stigmatisation overtly sponsored by the Indian state.

Both the Pakistani and the Indian media are artificially trying to impose a religious identity and prejudices on the movement that actually it is not. One of the most prominent Islamic politician in the Kashmir under Indian occupation, hyped by the media in India and Pakistan for their own manufactured narratives has not only instilled sectarian divisions within the movement but has been dictating the Pakistanis to impose a reactionary political and socioeconomic doctrine of his intransigent sect in his videoed sermons that are viral in the media. Even the right wing Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq vehemently rejected such allegations of religious character of the uprising and called these media crusades as a smearing campaign against the movement at the present time.

But what cannot be denied that the regions mighty states act as colonial masters in Kashmir and other oppressed classes and nationalities. They have failed to carry out any substantial development that could have improved the plight of the deprived and dispossessed masses of the subcontinent. Their only tool is brutal state and non -state repression that is now more than often being challenged by the oppressed classes and peoples. Kashmiris are perhaps in the forefront of this struggle of the toilers and youth of the region. The repression of the mighty and blinkered Indian state is ferocious and remorseless.

The Indian scholar Pankaj Mishra already wrote in 2010 during the upsurge in those days: “Once known for its extraordinary beauty, the valley of Kashmir now hosts the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killings fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, speaking in Geneva, called for unconditional access in divided Kashmir. Pakistan later agreed on a conditional access, but India flatly rejected the idea. Hussein said: “Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers and then invests in a public relations campaign to offset any unwanted publicity.”

There have been several protests and campaigns against this oppression of the Kashmiris throughout India. In spite of a fleeting surge of Hindutva, there has been an opposition to these atrocities by the left parties, students, workers organisations and progressive intelligentsia. Artists, writers, literary figures and other sections of the population have protested and dissented against these acts of state’s violence. The most prominent movement was the one that was launched by the communist-led students union of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. It shook the establishment and the Modi regime. Its impacts inspired similar students protests and opposition against the regime in at least eighteen universities and dozens of other educational institutions in India. Because of the so-called prestigious status of the JNU the media was compelled to give air time and coverage to this movement.

In an article in Aljazeera, Goldie Osuri exposed the horrid nature of the regime, system and the state, “When is an occupation not an occupation? When it is executed by one of the world’s largest markets? When is a butcher not a butcher? When he is a prime minister; or when he is an ally? …We live in a time when nation-states overtly commit war crimes, are cheered on by bloodthirsty majoritarian citizens, and literally get away with murder. The word democracy glitters like fool’s gold on the tongues of world leaders. Human rights regimes seem toothless in the face of the bold barbarisms of nation-states invested in repressing democracy, and need reform if they are to deliver justice.” The UNO, Western liberalism, most human rights organisations and the so-called international community have proved to be futile and in some cases complicit in this sinister policy and designs of India ‘national’ bourgeois.

However across the LoC, in the areas under Pakistan’s state control the resistance and protests have been multifaceted. There is a generalised resentment and grief amongst the masses and a seething rage amongst the youth. The protests and denunciations mostly covered by the media and sponsored by the political regime and the establishment have been tainted with religious connotations and designs in accordance with the policies and strategic interests of the state. Most protests and demonstrations are those of religious organizations and the pro-establishment Kashmiri politicians and parties. In reality, the progressive students youth and ordinary Kashmiris inhabiting this part of the territory and abroad have been in the forefront of the protests and solidarity campaigns. Understandably these demonstrations and protests are obscured by the corporate and the state media. Unfortunately, these students didn’t belong to the prestigious institutions such as the JNU in Delhi or the elite Atchison or Government College in Lahore. But in resistance they were and their indignation and the will to fight was much more than those progenies’ of the ruling classes in the lucrative elitist institutions.

Perhaps the most significant demonstration of solidarity and support for the students and youth fighting against the Indian aggression against the peoples of Kashmir was organised and led by the JKNSF the traditional mass organisation of the Kashmiri students. On 23 September the JKNSF’s Azadi Caravan departed from Muzaffarabad and on 24 September and youth and students from different cities and districts Poonch joined the impressive march towards Palandri where Socialist Kashmir Conference was to be held. The participants of the caravan raising red flags marched through the streets of Palandri and chanted the slogans against Indian brutalities and vowed to fight with their comrades across the LoC. The march culminated in the community hall Palandri where the conference was held.They stated that it was, in the last analysis a class struggle, that unites us across frontiers and continents on the basis of the Marxist principle: workers of the world unite!

The most salient feature of this conference was the telephonic speech of comrade Yousaf Tarigami, leader of CPI (M), state president of CITU (Kashmir) and Member of the Indian-held Kashmir’s state parliament. He called for the unity of the struggles of the Kashmiri youth and expressed his gratitude for the support of JKNSF and other progressive forces in this part of Kashmir and Pakistan.

However, the media and the ruling political and state elite in Pakistan have not only ignored this movement for the solidarity and support of the Kashmiri youth in the struggle by the JKNSF. The Islamic fundamentalists in this part of Kashmir are in fact disdained by this movement of the youth on progressive ideas and aims. They are terrified that the JKNSF is gaining more and more support of the students and the youth in Kashmir. Even the Islamicist outfits banned in Pakistan are operating freely in Kashmir and involved in sabotage and coercive activities against the JKNSF and other progressive youth organisations and parties in Kashmir.

They have a tacit support of the most reactionary sections of the deep state. False leaflets of malicious accusations of infidelity etc. have been distributed by these Islamicist organisations to get the activists and leaders of the JKNSF prosecuted on fabricated charges in their sinister pursuit to sabotage the JKNSF. Three comrades from the JKNSF and other progressive students organisations have been arrested and many threatened with ‘dire consequences’ if they continued to struggle in the JKNSF or even support it.

The JKNSF along with other left progressive organisations have launched a bold campaign against these vicious acts and treacherous campaign of these fundamentalist organisations some of them are banned in Pakistan for their links and involvement in terrorist activities. The police and local state official along with the leaders of the ruling parties and Kashmiri elite politicians are playing dumb. However, the struggle shall expand and intensify against this wily and venomous coercion and repression by these non- state actors who act as proxies of the establishment. It is the duty of revolutionaries and all the progressive unions of workers, students and political activists in Pakistan and elsewhere to unite in a befitting support and solidarity campaign of the JKNSF.

Kashmir is at the crossroads. The increased war hysteria and rising crossfire expose the intense and aggravating social and economic crisis that is haunting the ruling classes of the rulers of these belligerent states of the subcontinent. It is the reflection of the rotten nature of capitalism and the obsoleteness of the social and political systems than cannot move society forward anymore. Kashmir’s ordinary people have been used and abused in this conflicts of imperialists and their subcontinental ruling elites planted by the British at the end of their direct colonial rule. The struggle of the Kashmiri youth in the Indian occupied Kashmir has sent a ray of hope and resilience to the students and youth of not only India but also those struggling in Pakistan and elsewhere.

In the coming period, these struggles of the students of the youth will spread throughout India and Pakistan. It will ultimately reach and inspire the proletariat and the oppressed masses to enter the arena of history for transforming this system to end the misery and deprivation they have been forced to endure for generations by this rotten capitalist system. A revolutionary victory of this class struggle in any of these countries shall light the torch of revolution throughout the subcontinent leading to the formation of a socialist union or voluntary of the south Asian subcontinent. Its revolutionary impacts the across the world would be unprecedented and a wave of socialist victories can open up the possibility of the ultimate emancipation of the human race—communism

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