Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Delhi’s Surgical Strike upon Kashmir is a Reckless Push to its Roadmap to a Hindu Rashtra and Big Power Ambitions in Asia!

Re-blogged from Worker Socialist Blog.  By Rajesh Tyagi/ 13.8.2019 

Amidst domestic and international outrage and in a complete military lockdown of the far northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, the hindu supremacist government at New Delhi under Narendra Modi, has stripped the only muslim majority state inside the Union of India, not only of its special privileges but also of its status as an ordinary state.

In what can be termed nothing less than a palace coup, the far right-wing Modi government, has demoted and bifurcated the state of J&K into two Union Territories- the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and the UT of Laddakh- restricting their executive and legislative powers, while placing them under direct control of the Centre. While UT of J&K is given an Assembly with 110 seats, a High Court and the right over the land, the UT of Laddakh, geo-strategically more important being located on border with China, is given neither an Assembly nor the rights over its lands.

The move is part of fortification of India’s own territorial claims against its geo-political rivals. Purpose behind this palace coup, in the first instance, is to reinforce the military establishment of India as against Pakistan and China, the bordering states having rival territorial claims in the region.

Recent tensions in the region, due to escalation of war prospects between US and China in which India is being more and more integrated into the US led war alliance as a frontline state against China, constitute the main stimulus for this move.

Rival states of China and Pakistan have not taken it lightly. Pakistan was quick in responding to the move through snapping all diplomatic and trade relations with India. It has also approached the International Court complaining that the realignment is violative of Simla agreement. After China claimed that it is viewing the situation with concern, the Indian authorities assured China that the realignment of the border state would not affect the Macmohan line.

The clandestine move, carried out in complete stealth on the back of the people of J&K, is a covert attempt by the elite rulers of New Delhi to redraw the map of Indian Republic oriented towards and evolving into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

The move, an extension of the politico-military war to which the state of J&K has been subjected for long by the Centre, is completely fraudulent in nature, besides being subversive of the very foundations of the Constitution itself.

The apparently illegal surgical strike upon federalism has been conducted by the ultra right-wing government under Modi, through the Constitution. Article 370 of the Constitution has been used to demolish Article 370 itself.

Twin Articles of the Constitution of India- i.e. Article 370 that recognised special status of the state inside Union of India, with special powers to have a separate Constitution, flag, legislature, an executive and judiciary and Article 35-A that had hitherto protected its lands against the intrusion of outsiders- have been rendered nugatory by the Central government at one stroke by enacting the Parliamentary law- The J&K State Reorganisation Act, 2019. The parliament in turn, has supposedly assumed this authority through a Presidential Order dated August 5, issued under Art. 370. Another Presidential Order issued in February this year, disbanding the Assembly has substituted the Governor instead of the elected Government and the Assembly, for purposes of Article 370.

The new law would come into force on October 31 this year, on birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, first Home Minister of India, a core right-winger inside the then ruling Congress Party, whose name is associated with crushing of peasant uprising of Telangana and merger of 565 princely states in Union of India. Patel commands immense support among the ranks of saffron hindu chauvinists.

Ironically, while Muslims comprised the broad mass of poors and toilers in Kashmir, Article 35-A was inducted in the Indian Constitution, under pressure from Kashmiri pundits who owned the major parts of the lands in the valley. It were the Pundits, the propertied lot, who wished to prevent the outsiders including the British, from acquiring landed possessions in Kashmir. Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir himself was keenly interested in preventing the outsiders from purchasing lands inside Kashmir.

The law passed by Parliament and promulgated by the Central Government through a Presidential Order the next day, is patently illegal, chiefly on two counts: Firstly, that it threatens to demolish at one stroke, the federal structure of Union of India. If after imposing President rule in a state and substituting not only the local government but the state legislature too by the Governor, a state can be declared a UT by the President with consent of governor; or a law can be passed by the central legislature- the Parliament- to that effect, then all states at one go can be declared Union Territory overnight, throwing federal structure of the Union, to the winds.

Federalism being inalienable part of the basic structure of the Constitution, but cannot be altered through exercise of any executive or legislative power. Secondly, the Constituent Assembly in the State of Jammu and Kashmir at the time of adoption of the Constitution of J&K, with reference to Art 370, has specifically and unambiguously resolved, to keep the relationship between the state and the centre in suspended animation, forever. This means that no successive Assembly in the State could have varied this relationship in any manner whatsoever.

Neither the government acting through its executive head-the President, nor the parliament is able to rise above the Constitution, to subvert the federal character of the Republic and the Constitution. It cannot use the Presidential Rule in the state for oblique purpose of bypassing the elected Assembly to the detriment of the state.

Secondly, and even more importantly proviso to clause (3) of Article 370 makes the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly obligatory if the Article was to be later repealed. Initially inducted as temporary provision in the Constitution, subject to repeal on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly, Article 370 has become permanent and ossified, upon demise of the Constituent Assembly in 1957. 

The Presidential Order has only empowered the Parliament to act in lieu of the Assembly, but as the Assembly itself could not have re-animated the relationship between the centre and the state, the Parliament putting its feet in the shoes of the Assembly, could have never done it. The disability of the State Assembly, could not have been overcome by the Parliament while importing its powers. On the contrary, the Parliament, while enabling itself with the powers of the J&K Assembly, would essentially import alongwith it, the disabilities under the disabling provisions and clauses. It cannot do anything that the Assembly could not have done and cannot scale over the legislative competence and powers of the J&K Assembly. Its powers would be circumscribed by the disability imposed by the Constituent Assembly of the state upon itself. Thus, as the Assembly itself cannot alter the relations between the centre and the state, the parliament cannot do so.

Lastly, the President or Governor rule, as the government of interregnum has a limited purpose to hold the power to meet exigency, between two Assemblies. It cannot take such strategic decisions to abrogate or completely alter the status of the state.

The impugned law, passed by the Central Legislature, not only alters the relationship between the centre and the state, but virtually overturns it, to the detriment of the state. This flies in the face of a recent judgement of 2018 of the Supreme Court. The decision, in no ambiguous terms had declared that the relationship between the state of J&K and the centre is unalterable and fixed as the Constituent Assembly had disbanded itself in 1957 without abolishing or altering Article 370. A 2015 decision by the J&K High Court lays down the same proposition.

The patently illegal move of New Delhi met with conflicting responses among the sections of bourgeoisie as well as the Stalinist left. While many in ranks of bourgeois opposition and Stalinist Parties opposed the move, many others have supported it with open arms.

Opposition parties like SP, BSP and BJD stood support to it, while JDU from inside the ruling National Democratic Alliance, opposed it. Ranks of the largest opposition party-Congress- got split on the issue. Its front rank leaders like Janardhan Dwivedi and Jyotiraditya Scindhia supported the government while Ghulam Nabi Azad, an MP from Kashmir, opposed the same.

Stalinists put up a hypocritical and phoney opposition to the move. While continuing to support the claim and resultant coercion by New Delhi upon Kashmir on the ground of ‘unity and integrity of India’, Stalinists opposed the move on flimsy grounds. Stalinist parties had supported the Congress-led governments at the centre who had implemented the very same repressive policies in Kashmir.

Days before the law was introduced in Parliament, in an unprecedented move by the centre, the state was completely cut off from rest of the world, in anticipation of widespread public resistance to its action. All communications- including phone lines and social media- were shut off and curfew was imposed after cancelling even the pilgrimage of Amarnath shrine.

Kashmir, has a chequered history. For long, the region had reeled under medieval oppression of successive warlords. Amidst the disintegrating Mughal Empire, a century after death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, a warlord and spoiled drunkard with 46 wives, after a failed attempt in 1913, conquered Kashmir in 1818, acquiring whopping annual revenue collection of 70 lacs, defeating Afghan ruler Jabbar Khan.

After Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, British East India Company quickly took over his Sikh Kingdom, defeating his weakling successors.

In 1846, Gulab Singh, a local Dogra head, purchased the entire territory of Kashmir for Rs.75 lacs from the Company. Kashmir was sold at this specially higher price as Kashmiri masses, mostly muslims, were presumed to be docile and law abiding and hence amenable to exploitation and easy revenue collections.

Compounding the woes of Kashmiri people, the region with a populace overwhelmingly Muslim (around 94% of total) was placed under the sword of hindu warlords, who turned the region into a living hell for the poor and toiling masses of Kashmir. Hindu religious customs and culture was forced upon the masses. Beef was completely banned and death penalty was prescribed under law for cow slaughter, which was so customary among locals.

In line with their reactionary role in the colonial periphery of the East, British rulers had perpetuated and reinforced the rule of medieval lords.

Finally in August 1947, the British colonial rulers, divided their dominion on the sub-continent, through the India Independence Act, on communal lines in two parts- a declared muslim Pakistan and an undeclared hindu India, while leaving the princely states, including Kashmir, to decide their own destiny.

This resulted in three simultaneous and violent partitions of Bengal, Punjab and Kashmir. The right to self-determination, as granted by the British to around 565 princely states, however, remained illusive for two reasons: First that it were not the masses but the rulers of these princely states who were to take the decision about their fate and secondly in face of the two rival dominions of Sub-Continental bourgeoisie, supported by the British, majority of these states did have no real freedom of choice. In fact, no state despite its will and effort could have survived outside the two rival domains of India and Pakistan and none remained so. Even the border states like Kashmir, who had a limited but realistic option open to them, were burdened with the yoke of military power of the two dominions. They were intrigued, deceived, and lastly forced into one or the other dominion.

Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir and a descendant of Gulab Singh, in his attempt to keep Kashmir independently in his hands, entered into a standstill pact with Pakistan. India refused to enter into a similar pact with him and Pakistan soon violated the pact.

Pakistani forces, suspecting Hari Singh’s sympathies to New Delhi being a hindu ruler, forced themselves into Kashmir in October 47, through a Pashtun tribal invasion, reinforced quickly through regular troops. After Pakistani invading forces, having captured good part of the territory, remained few kilometres away from Srinagar, alarmed New Delhi prepared for an armed intervention in Kashmir. Though Hari Singh was left with no option but to seek help from India through accession of Kashmir to it, yet by the time he took a decision to do so, Indian forces had already started to land in Kashmir. Finding himself in a situation of checkmate, Hari Singh was forced to sign the instrument of accession on 26 October 1947, handing over defence, foreign affairs and communications to New Delhi, while retaining residual powers with him.

Pakistani armed intrusion, however, divided Kashmir into two parts- an Indian occupied and a Pakistan occupied territory. Later, the Chinese aggression of 1962, carved out a third one, with China seizing upon and occupying Aksaichin region of around 50 thousand square kilometres. Kashmir thus stood trifurcated among big Asian powers- New Delhi, Islamabad and Beijing. 

The instrument of accession signed by Hari Singh under duress and compulsion and without consent of Kashmiri people, found its reflection in Articles 35-A and 370 of the Constitution of India in 1950, that granted the state of J&K special status inside Union of India.

Later, under pressure from New Delhi and the local movement led by National Conference, Hari Singh was forced to go for polls for a Constituent Assembly in the state. The Constituent Assembly while adopting the Constitution of J&K and ratifying Art 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution, resolved that the relationship between the State and the Centre, for all times to come, would remain un-animated and fixed. Thus, no successive Assembly or even the Parliament acting in lieu of it, or even the President can vary this relationship. Ossified, Article 370 has thus become one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution, despite the provision stipulating its temporary character. Both Supreme Court in 2018 and the J&K High Court in 2015 have confirmed it.

The Constitutional provision- Art 370 had existed for decades for namesake only. For long, the heavy deployment of central forces in Kashmir for alleged ‘defence’ of the border state from Pakistan and China, alongside frequent imposition of black laws like AFSPA, that give the central forces unbridled authority over locals, has made all autonomy nugatory. Sections of Kashmiri bourgeoisie, represented through the regional parties like National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, had been complacent in centre’s drive to subjugate the state and keep it in military stranglehold. Despite their demagogy, both NC and PDP have rivalled each other in clinging to the successive ruling parties at the centre. The new law merely recognises and gives a formal shape and legal character to this crude reality, existing for decades.

Apart from its natural resources and scenic beauty, valley of Kashmir is even more important for its geo-strategic location as a buffer zone surrounded on three sides by the rival states of India, Pakistan and China.

Medieval Warlords, Colonialists and then indigenous bourgeoisie had ruled Kashmir through methods of brute force. Kashmir, the victim of most savage exploitation and repression, continues to be subject of rival claims of the big Asian powers. It stands torn in three parts today through violence, intrigue, deception and bloodshed.

Sandwiched between the rival powers of Asia, Kashmiri people have suffered unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the armed forces of the state as well as terrorists supported by rival states. Mass rapes, custodial tortures and deaths, and mysterious disappearances are the routine practices in Kashmir. Pellet guns, used by the Indian armed forces frequently on unarmed protests of Kashmiris, had lately acquired special fame after horrendous pictures and videos of their victims, mostly women and children, started to appear in international media and social sites.

A goldmine of natural resources- wood, fruits, dry fruits, a hub of handicrafts and handloom- pashmina shawls, raw wool, carpets- and one of the prime hotspots for international tourism and the scenic centre of natural beauty, Kashmir, has been in more and more focus of national and international big-business and investors. These profiteers looking at Kashmir as a potential hub of international tourism, prostitution and a virgin territory for speculations in real estate and exports, had been curious for long for crashing open its gates for unbridled exploitation of its human and natural resources.

As soon as the Bill was placed in Parliament by Modi government, thousands of the BJP supporters, applauding the Bill and rejoicing to the chagrin of Kashmiris, among whom are mostly Muslims, started to circulate the mock advertisements for purchase of lands in Kashmir and taking on the Kashmiri girls. Chief Minister of the BJP government in Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, is quoted to have said in address to a public gathering that now they would be able to take on Kashmiri girls as wives.

This strike upon the territory of Kashmir, largely inhabited by Muslims, serves the political purpose of Modi Government by appealing to and promoting the backward communal mass sentiments based upon hindu chauvinistic hype.

The bourgeois political states on Indian sub-continent still continue to be in a fluid, unsettled status with rival claims to territories and with big power ambitions of their ruling elites to annex more territories to their domains. Kashmir remains the chief battleground for such contentions and claims.

Special status of a state inside the Union, however, is not a peculiarity of Kashmir. In many countries with belated historical development, from China to Canada, where bourgeoisie has failed to establish its national states and instead multinational political unions have come into existence, such special status can be found.

Nonetheless, the special status of Kashmir within India, or even its independence from India or its inclusion in Pakistan, offers no real promises or prospects to Kashmiri workers and toilers. National question in Kashmir is offshoot of the suppressed and suspended democratic revolution. It emerges from the abortion of the anti-colonial movement in August 1947 going hand in hand with reactionary communal partition of the Indian Sub-Continent that took toll over two million lives with even more victims of rapes, loot, maiming and arsons and the resultant transfer of power to the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, on both sides of the border.

South Asian bourgeoisie has failed to resolve the tasks of democratic revolution, above all the question of nationalities. All bourgeois States in this region- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, have turned into prisons for dozens and dozens of nationalities, pulverising the national aspirations of people under military boots. Historically deformed Asian bourgeoisie suffers from systemic disability that prevents it from accomplishing the political mission of fulfilling the tasks of democratic revolution, including forming the national states or uniting the nationalities into voluntary political unions. It knows nothing and relies upon only the methods of crude force and violence, deception and intrigues.

Thus, to the question- If the national aspirations of the poor and toiling masses, how much intense and pressing they may be, can be realized outside the ambit and framework of the united political struggle of the proletariat and its fruition in a socialist revolution, our answer would be a big No.

With merging of the tasks of two revolutions- democratic and socialist- into one in the backward periphery of the world, that includes South Asia, the national question has become part of the socialist struggle of the proletariat. The national struggle of Kashmiri people has thus become inalienable part of the struggle of the proletariat on the Indian Sub-Continent and in South Asia.

The task before the Kashmiri workers and toilers is thus not to fight to secede from or join this or that Union or even to create an independent statelet, but to fight for socialist revolution in South Asia that would overthrow all bourgeois regimes in quick succession to each other.

To do this, the Kashmiri Proletariat must decisively reject the sectarian agendas that support the rival territorial claims of sections of bourgeoisie over Kashmir or advocate balkanization of territories. At the same time, it must also reject the reactionary communal partition of 1947 and in tandem with other sections of South Asian proletariat must launch a fight for reunification of the Indian Sub-Continent into a Socialist Union as part of the broader struggle for establishment of the United Socialist States of South Asia, through a working class led revolution from below. This revolution in South Asia, is integral to the World Socialist Revolution.

As a transitional political program to achieve the aforesaid strategic aims, the proletariat and the youth in Kashmir and outside, must present their demands:

1. All armed interventions and hostilities in Kashmir must stop forthwith.

2. All armed forces be withdrawn from Kashmir.

3. All black laws in the region must be annulled forthwith.

4. Kashmir be declared a peace zone and kept under international observation.

5. Plebiscite/ Referendum be conducted under international observation in entire Kashmir.