Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Kashmiris defy Indian troops for self-determination

Posted by D and I Consulting on October 29, 2010

25 October 2010. A World to Win News Service.

The pictures of young people and teenagers with their faces covered throwing stones at security forces firing real bullets remind us of the Palestinian intifada, but this time in another corner of the world.

In another photo, we see no dead or funerals, but the cries of grief from women of different ages standing next to each other clearly indicates that they are mourning a murdered family member.

The body of a young man is held high by a crowd while hundreds of people gather around in another picture. The men’s faces are full of anger. Some point their finger as if they were threatening someone. Some are full of grief. Teenagers standing quietly in the corner of the picture seem to be thinking of revenge.

These pictures clearly depict the life of many people in Indian-controlled Kashmir as masses of young men and women defy curfew and challenge the security forces who brutalize and kill them.

The Kashmiri people are simply not allow to shout “Azadi” ( Freedom) and other slogans against the Indian government’s national oppression and suppression. The Indian government has responded to their demand for self-determination not only by sending in these armed forces, but even by giving these occupiers legal immunity in advance for any beatings, rapes and murders they may commit under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA ) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). These laws are a clear signal by the Indian government that the men have been sent in for the purpose of committing atrocities and abusing human rights.

In the summer of 2010 the security forces had to confront stone-throwing youth daily. Few people would fail to admit that these youth have had the support of their sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles and even grandparents. As a result of the Indian forces policy of trying to deter protests by meeting stones with automatic weapons fire at demonstrations, terrify the people by murdering suspects and sometimes raping and killing at random, and imposing strict curfews to control the whole population, the crisis of the occupation has deepened.

Some commentators put it as the India’s most serious crisis in recent history. But the Indian government faces rebellion on several fronts, including other struggles for self-determination in border regions. Along with Kashmir, it has also sent in large numbers of troops to inflict intense repression in India itself, with Operation Green Hunt, a military offensive to put down tribal and other peoples who are rising up in a people’s war under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). On 30 September of this year the Maoist party called for a 24 hour bandh (shutdown of work, business and transport) in six states in support of the Kashmiri people’s struggle against the Indian government. (See their full press release, go to bannedthought.net, ” Statement on the Killing of Kashmiris” ).

It is notable that even though the armed actions against the Indian government that took place in Kashmir in the early 1990s were largely replaced by unarmed protests in the new wave of protests since 2008, the Indian government has continued to kill unarmed demonstrators and has even escalated its violence, not in response to the violence of the resistance but its growing determination in the face of this brutality. In turn, the Kashmiri protests have intensified even more. Outraged people have attacked police offices, government buildings and power companies and set fire to armed forces and government vehicles.

In the more than a thousand protests and clashes between the protesters and the security forces last summer, the security forces murdered over a hundred people and injured a great many more. According to the Indian government, stone-throwing youth have injured more than 1,200 security forces.

What sparked this year’s summer protests was the death of a 17-year-old student, Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. He was walking home from a tutoring centre in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian controlled-Kashmir, when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired from close range. He died immediately. This act angered a whole population that has seen this kind of brutality repeatedly in the past.

In fact summer 2010 was the third successive year that massive street protests have broken out in Indian-controlled Kashmir. This year’s demonstrations and clashes were the most intense in decades. People’s anger has been accumulating. They were less willing than ever to obey the curfew and more willing to confront the security forces.

Last year protests (2009) flared after two young women were found dead by a river near the town of Shopian. It appeared that they had been raped and killed by security forces, but Indian investigators excluded this possibility in advance and concluded the women had drowned accidentally. But that was not the end of it. In order to deter people, the Indian government filed charges against the doctors who performed the post-mortem, and against the lawyers who had filed charges against the state. As one comment put it, ”Charges are filed against everybody except a possible suspect for the rape and murder, or the many officials who had visibly botched up the investigations.” (Economic & Political Weekly, 11 September 2010)

Even in the midst of the protests this past summer, the security forces continued committing the brutalities and human rights abuses that angered the people in the first place. For example in Anantanag, security forces chased a 10 year-old boy who in order to save his life had to jump into a river.

In defiance of the curfew, thousands of angry people protesting this marched in the boy’s funeral procession. According to residents, the officers fired at the marchers.

The repeated imposition of round-the-clock curfews had another damaging aspect on the life of the people in Kashmir. The curfew effectively shut at least Srinagar city down completely throughout the summer. Residents experienced a desperate shortage of basic foods, even milk for children, and medical supplies. Schools and universities were closed and the economy as a whole came to a halt. People could not even go to a doctor or a hospital. There are reports that hospital workers and doctors could not get to their posts without taking tremendous of risks. Some doctors on their way to work were arrested or brutalized by police and security forces, or turned back, according to Dr. Shahida Mir, the principal of the Government Medical College. (The New York Times, 2 September 2010)

The extent of India’s deliberate atrocities come to light when the security forces extended their mistreatment even to people who had no intention of taking part in the protests. A resident in Srinagar, in the midst of the summer, said, ”We can’t even move out or look outside from the window. It is suffocating.” (The New York Times, 5 August 2010)

This year, the confrontations that began in mid-June are continuing, as the hot summer turns into what people call the ” bitter fall”. Another curfew was imposed in Srinagar and three other towns in September, and in response a general strike and shutdown against the occupation was called for 25 October.

Some historical background

What is the source of the problem? The Kashmiri people, like some others in the region, have been denied their rights of self-determination by the imperialists and regional powers. When the British were forced to give up their colony in 1947, instead of becoming a separate country Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir lies on the northern borders of India and Pakistan. Its more than 12 million people are mainly involved in farming or work in workshops and small factories making shawls, rugs and carpets. Kashmir’s population is multi-ethnic and multi-religious, with a Moslem majority but also many Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians. After World War 2, before British imperialism ended its formal rule and left the subcontinent, the colonialists deliberately aggravated the differences between various nationalities and religions, as they did in other parts of the world. This policy resulted in the partition of the former colony of India and the creation of the country of Pakistan after a bloody war between Hindus and Moslem that led to millions of deaths and several millions refugees. It was the biggest displacement history had ever seen until then.

After partition and the creation of Pakistan, the subcontintent’s small states that had never been under direct British colonial rule were not allowed to choose whether or not they wanted to be independent. In practice, they were forced to choose to be part of India or Pakistan. Kashmir was ruled by a brutal Maharajah called Hari Singh. India expected to secure the domination of Kashmir because the Maharajah was a Hindu ruler. Pakistan had its own excuse to seek control of Kashmir because the majority of the population was Moslem. This gave rise to the first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir in 1947.

Pashtun tribal groups backed by Pakistan invaded the Kashmir valley, and India sent in troops with the cooperation of the Maharajah. Finally with the involvement of the United Nations, two Security Council resolutions (39 and 47) in April 1948 required that a plebiscite be held to determine whether Kashmiris want to join India or Pakistan.

Independence was not a choice.

The Indo-Pakistani war of 1947 established the rough boundaries of today’s Kashmir. India controls the Kashmir Valley, and two areas called Jammu and Ladakh, with a total population of around eight million. Pakistan set up its own Kashmir, called Azad (Free) Kashmir, in a tiny western chunk that it controls. The much larger region of Pakistani Kashmir is in the North-West. This province was once called the Northern Areas. In 1982 Pakistani President General Zia ul Haq proclaimed that the people of the Northern Areas were Pakistanis. In 2009, the Pakistani government renamed the Federally-Administered Northern Areas Gilgit-Baltistan. The population of the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan is nearly four million.

India and Pakistan fought another two wars over Kashmir in 1965 and 1999. They have also been involved in several skirmishes and disputes over the north eastern part of Kashmir. In short, Kashmir has been a prisoner of the rivalry between the two countries.

The national oppression of the Kashmiri people and their right to self determination

Despite the existence of a so-called legislature in Kashmir and a chief minister Omar Abdullah elected in 2008, the real power in Kashmir is widely regarded to be in the hands of India’s army and intelligence agency and the Indian-appointed governor Narinder Nath Vohra.

Although Chief Minister Abdullah is from Kashmir, like his predecessors, people consider him no more than an Indian puppet. In fact, as the protests intensified during last summer’s uprising, he rushed to New Delhi to ask for more specially trained anti-riot forces to add to the many thousands of Indian troops already occupying the area.

Even before the curfew established last summer, Indian security forces routinely encircled and raided towns and villages, murdering, arresting and torturing people. Rape and other abuses of human rights have long been a common practice. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri people have been killed, imprisoned and tortured. Some estimates say that 50,000 people were killed by Indian security forces in 1990s.

At that time half a million Indian troops poured into Kashmir, supposedly to fight the Islamic fundamentalist groups backed by Pakistan that were very active for a few years during that decade. Today there are no longer any strong Islamic fundamentalists groups in Kashmir, so neither they nor their Pakistani sponsors can be blamed for the disturbances. But the occupation troops remain to enforce the national oppression of the Kashmiri people that has been going on and meeting resistance for more than 60 years.

The imperialists played an important role in denying the right of self-determination to Kashmir. The policy of British imperialism that led to the division of India into India and Pakistan and divided smaller nations between larger ones is not an unfamiliar policy. Not far from Kashmir, the dividing up of Baluchistan between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the division of the Pashtun areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan in a different form (since the Pashtuns are the dominant nationality in Afghanistan), are only a few examples of this policy and its consequences.

The UN, too, bears responsibility. It declared that Kashmir could only be considered a disputed area between India and Pakistan. This is the stand of the U.S., the UK and all of the imperialist powers. In other words, all deny the Kashmiri people′s right of self-determination.

The majority of people of Kashmir are not fighting to free themselves from India in order to join Pakistan, a no less brutal ruler.

Despite the activities of some religious figures and groups, the Kashmiri people’s protests over the last three years have not asked for Islamic rule. In fact, religious slogans and demands are little heard. There were few if any symbols or banners carried by the protesters to indicate they were supporting Pakistan. What they chanted was ”Azadi” (Freedom), ”Independence” or nationalist slogans such as ”The Kashmir we have watered with our blood – that Kashmir is ours!”

This is the just demand that the reactionaries in the region and the world hate and fear the most.

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