Approach to the Constitutional Coup on Kashmir and the Task before Democratic Forces
[Edited version of Comrade Kolla Venkaiah Memorial Speech by P J James, PB Member, CPI (ML) Red Star]
Kashmir remains as the most militarised region in the world today. With the entire people being caged following abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019 by the corporate-saffron fascist Modi regime, Kashmir is literally a prison-house now. With 900000 military and paramilitary troops stationed in Kashmir, which has only a population of 15 million, it has become the highest militarized region in the world at par with Zionist occupied West Bank. With the possibility of the number one and two imperialist powers, US and China directly coming into 'conflict' at Kashmir, Modi regime through its actions have transformed Kashmir as one of the most important geo-strategic global 'hot-spots’ too. And it's consequences to the Indian people, especially in view of Indian regime's ongoing integration with US as the latter's junior strategic partner and as a launching pad in its machinations against China are gruesome. In effect, Modi's Hindu Rashtra policy on Kashmir has transformed India as a direct focal point in the inter-imperialist contradictions, especially between US and China.
Since the mainstream Indian corporate media is already co-opted or collaborated and those who are resisting being already subjugated, people have to depend on international media to know the whereabouts of Jammu and Kashmir today.
Meanwhile, the RSS-led BJP regime after abrogating Articles 370 and 35A through a Constitutional coup as per its Hindu Rashtra agenda, is engaged in a most vicious propaganda to justify its heinous move of downgrading J&K and dividing it in to two union territories. Claiming Kashmir as Akhand Bharat’s legitimate property, the usual argument being put forward is that the Special constitutional Provision for Jammu & Kashmir has been the root cause of the Kashmir issue including its alleged underdevelopment. Abolition of this special provision, it is argued, will lead to the integrated development of J & K and shall also result in ending the menace of separatism in the region.
At the outset, we have to unequivocally say that this is a ‘post-truth’ version on the part of Hindutva forces. At the time of power transfer, many princely states were outside the so called India and Pakistan defined and handed over to the respective rulers then by the British. It was through a complicated process that many erstwhile kingdoms acceded either to India or to Pakistan. In spite of that, J&K, Manipur, Nagaland and Sikkim continued outside India. However, Kashmir situation where majority of the population was Muslim but ruled by a Hindu king Hari Singh was totally different. The King initially took the position not to join either Pakistan or India. However, towards the last quarter of 1947, there was a Pakistan-instigated infiltration in Kashmir that prompted the King to seek Indian help followed by him joining India based on an Agreement (Instrument of Accession) between the two without seeking the opinion of Kashmiri people. According to this Agreement, except Defence, External Affairs and Communications, the J&K is empowered to frame laws of its own. There was also an understanding (connected with UN intervention in 1948 followed by India moving to UN opposing Pakistan) that there should be a plebiscite or referendum in which the people of Kashmir shall use their right of self-determination, thereby either to remain as an independent country, or to join India or Pakistan.
During the initial days, Congress leaders like Nehru were upholding this perspective, though RSS (also discredited with its involvement in Gandhi assassination, and on account of its espousal of Manusmriti as the Constitution, etc.) had been opposing this position from the very beginning. Meanwhile several rounds of discussion at national and international levels had been there regarding the Kashmir question, contrary to the false Sanghi propaganda now being spread that Kashmir has never been an international issue. Even ceasefire between India and Pakistan was arrived at based on UN propositions. However, in course of time, by the second half 1950s, a mood began to be created in Indian ruling class circles that the Instrument of Accession itself was sufficient enough to treat Kashmir as an inalienable part of India. Meanwhile though several discussions went on between Indian and Pakistani leaders on Kashmir, both sides took diametrically opposite positions that even led to wars also, finally resulting in the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 to form a separate country. However, Jan Sangh, connected with RSS had been consistently demanding abolition of Article 370 and 35A and forcible integration of Kashmir with India, and with emergence of BJP as the far-right ruling class party led by RSS, this demand got a further boost which even some Congress leaders also began to support. At the same time, because of the undemocratic approach of the Indian regime including dilution of the Article 370, majority of the Kashmiri people became alienated from India altogether. This should be seen in the general context of the utter collapse of even namesake federalism in India following the superimposition of GST, etc. by which India had already transformed in to a unitary regime instead of the much trumpeted ‘Union of States’.
As already noted, right from the beginning, the RSS has been systematically demanding the abolition of 370 as part of its other demands such as construction of Ram temple, Uniform Civil Code (which implies Hindu Civil Code) where Muslims will be treated as second class citizens. Today, it has strengthened its Hindutva offensive, with such additional moves as pan-Indian extension of Assam model NRC, super-imposition of Hindi, beginning of Manu courts, RSS-led military schools, etc. Therefore, the saffron forces cannot accept the historical context and the concrete facts that led to the incorporation of Article 370 in the Constitution and Kashmir’s special status based on it. However, today using its hold over all institutions of state apparatus including even judiciary, the Hindutva fascists have become successful in implementing one of their long-standing demands, abrogation of Article 370, division of J&K into two union territories and downgrading and subjecting it to the direct administration from Delhi. This is a gross violation of the Constitution, a Constitutional coup and a betrayal of the commitment made to the Kashmiri people at the time power of transfer that they would be given their right to decide on their fate.
In this context, in addition to the direct Hindutva agenda of forcible integration of Kashmir, the corporate interests behind this offensive on Kashmir, whose social and economic indicators of development as per existing international standards are much ahead than that of the other Indian states ruled by BJP, are also very important. Obviously, Articles 370 and 35A were a barrier to the unfettered plunder of Kashmiri people and their resources by both Indian and international corporate speculators who are propping up the Modi regime now. In particular, Article 35A prevents outsiders from buying land or property in the state and assures priority in jobs to state residents. This is an immediate factor that prompted the corporate fascist regime to abrogate both 370 and 35A. At a time when India is going through a historic economic collapse on account of Modi’s policies, and as existing avenues of corporate loot are drying up, being the chosen facilitator of corporatisation, it is incumbent on the saffron regime to open up new sources of loot. This seems to be the immediate context behind the sudden Constitutional coup on Kashmir.
Thus following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and caging the entire Kashmiri people, Modi govt. has initiated a series of initiatives to lay red carpet for the unfettered entry of all corporates in to Kashmir. To facilitate this corporate plunder, the central govt. has taken decision to hold a Global Investors Meet in Srinagar during the first week of November. The task of coordinating this global meet has been entrusted with Ambani, the biggest Indian corporate company along with Confederation of Indian Industries. An important development during this period, was the strategic deal between Aramco, the Saudi-based biggest international oil company and Reliance (Ambani) by which 20 percent of latter’s ownership worth Rs.1.1 lakh crore has been gone over to the former. This deal among other things has ensured the full support of Saudi Arabia, the so called guardian of Islamic community and West Asian pillar of US imperialism, to Modi’s Kashmir move. This clever initiative by Modi once again underlines the decisive role of corporate finance capital in fascistisation everywhere, which is applicable to Kashmir also.
Another important aspect to be noted with regard to Modi govt.’s fascist offensive on the Kashmiri people, as reported by S. Gurumurthy, the RSS intellectual, is the prior intimation that Modi had given to Trump, his imperialist master on the eve of the abrogation of Article 370, thereby ensuring the support of Trump administration in this regard. It is now known widely how Modi has won the support of US, France and Russia, three out of five permanent members of the Security Council in this Constitutional coup over Kashmir for which India has to pay a very heavy price by extending vast concessions and preferences to MNCs from them. And Modi has become the first head of a state who has visited an international summit site (G7) two times within span of a week, for appeasing the imperialist heads of states attending it. To put it differently, it is through naked sell-out of Kashmir and India in general to imperialist corporate capital that Modi has succeeded to ensure the support of all imperialists to his offensive on Kashmir. This has compelled Pak foreign minister to admit that by serving the economic interests of leading world powers Modi has become successful in ensuring their support to the betrayal of the Kashmiri people.
Therefore, democratic forces should have a comprehensive historical and political-economic understanding of all these developments which is essential for approaching the Kashmir question in the proper perspective. Though international and Indian public opinion is against Modi regarding Kashmir, various forces are at work that help Modi govt. to carry forward its sinister move. Within the country, various parties and organisations who do not have a proper understanding of the inter-linkage between saffronisation and corporatisation are unable to have concrete understanding of the Kashmir issue at this particular juncture. Internationally, by surrendering India’s vital interests to imperialist powers, Modi has ensured their silence, though foreign media is vehemently exposing Modi by highlighting the atrocities and unparalleled repression arising from militarisation of Kashmir.
Of course, abrogation of Article 370 and subjugation of Kashmir, as already said in the beginning, is just one among the series of saffron fascist offensives super-imposed by the Modi regime. The notorious National Citizenship Register (NRC) for Assam that has denied citizenship to around 20 lakh people and the move for a pan-Indian extension of this Assam-model together with the plan to construct detention centres all over India, the evil design to super-impose Hindi over non-Hindi speaking states, the groundwork for establishing Manusmriti courts in violation of Indian Constitution, the RSS initiative to start military schools for direct placement RSS-trained cadres in Indian military and above all the intensified lynching of dalits and minorities in the name of cow and Ram are all well-defined moves in the direction of building up the Hindu Rashtra. If not resisted and defeated at the earliest, the emerging frightening situation may lead to a ‘holocaust’-like situation with horrific consequences.
At the same time, it should be noted that, as elsewhere, the foundation of Indian fascism is also firmly rooted in corporatisation. In fact, what we are witnessing today is a pan-Indian extension of Modi’s Gujarat model. In continuation of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, during the decade that followed, Adani could multiply his assets by 1300 percent. Today Modi is replicating the same Gujarat model at the all India level and in the process has already transformed India as one of the most corrupt and unequal countries in the world, resulting in a historic collapse of Indian economy. Now Modi is trying to effectively utilise this economic crisis as the firm basis of corporate-saffron fascism in India. As such, the fascist offensive is inseparably connected with the putting heavier and heavier burdens on the backs of common people. That is, Hindutva fascism in India is inseparably linked up with a strengthening of far-right neoliberal policies in every sphere such as intensified sell-out of PSUs to corporates at throwaway prices, liberalisation of labour, tax and environmental regulations to make India investor-friendly, direct wealth transfers worth several lakhs of crores of rupees to corporates and so on, in addition to the biggest-ever corporate attacks on people through Demonetisation and GST.
In brief, therefore, a proper understanding of the inseparable link between corporatisation and saffron fascism is of utmost importance in building up a broad anti-fascist movement in India. That is, those opposition parties who are apparently opposing saffron fascism, but not having a firm position against neoliberal-corporatisation are incapable of giving leadership to the anti-fascist struggle on account of their ideological-political bankruptcy. The core of the anti-fascist offensive shall therefore be with the revolutionary unity of the struggling left forces who alone have an ideological-political clarity of the present situation. An anti-fascist broad united front led by them shall essentially be rooted in class and mass struggles and movements across India. It is the urgent task of all revolutionary and struggling forces to initiate for an open dialogue among themselves for exploring the possibilities of formulating a common minimum program both at the national and state levels encompassing both parliamentary and non-parliamentary struggles. To be precise, the need of the hour is to build up a broad anti-fascist united front based on this minimum program with all progressive- democratic forces and isolating all reactionary sections who are allying with corporate saffron fascism.
Let Comrade Kolla Venkaiah’s revolutionary memory enable us to shoulder this historic task at this critical juncture.