It is time for the international left to throw its weight behind the Kashmiri struggle for democracy, argues Sweta Tapan Choudhury
It has been two months since the Indian government stripped the Kashmiris of their partial autonomy. Hundreds of protests have been organised since, both within and outside of India, as the region continues to be under a complete lockdown. According to local media reports, the clampdown continues in Indian-administered Kashmir where the security forces have been accused of carrying out atrocities against ordinary Kashmiris in order to intimidate them and stop them from protesting against the government.
In a move to silence activists in the name of patriotism, people are being held under the Public Safety Act, a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial while the communications blackout and media restrictions are still intact with foreign media having living limited access to what is going on.
Meanwhile, the threat of war between nuclear armed India and Pakistan are ever growing. Both countries have reactionary regimes and that makes armed conflict a certainty if the zero sum mindset is not discarded. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has repeatedly criticized the Indian government’s unilateral decision, accused Modi of repeatedly rejecting his peace overtures and urged the international community to step in and solve the Kashmir issue. But Imran Khan’s intentions are no different to Modi’s. Modi and his hard right government have no genuine interest in improving the lives of ordinary Kashmiris and neither do their cheerleaders in Washington and Beijing.
One thing we can be sure of is that there is no imperialist or capitalist solution to the problem. Most of the left in India have opposed the BJP government’s move over the Kashmir issue and has expressed solidarity with the Kashmiris and their right to self-determination. As for the rest of the country, any secular and democratic minded Indian should not accept this undemocratic decision of the Hindu fundamentalist BJP government.
Numerous petitions have been filed by left-wing groups, human rights groups, students and peace activists asking India’s top court to reverse the government’s decision to scrap Article 370. The Supreme Court has agreed to carry out a five-judge constitution bench that would hear all 14 petitions in the first week of October. This is a major opportunity for the left to mobilise and put pressure on the Indian government to reconsider its decision. The international left and the progressive political forces need to express their solidarity more strongly with the Indian left to raise their voices against the Indian aggression. This can only be achieved by the left categorically rejecting the Indian government’s decision and by pledging to defend the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
Giving Kashmiri people the right to determine whether their land belongs, which is their absolute fundamental right, should be on the top of the left wing political agenda. As socialists, it’s our duty to defend the rights of oppressed people – whether it is in Kashmir, in Palestine, or anywhere else in the world. The fate of a region should be determined by the people living in it, not by those who take away the fundamental rights of their citizens by force.