INDIA « Kashmiris’ legitimate rights must be restored ! » A letter from Nambiath Vasudevan

A letter from Nambiath Vasudevan, trade-union activist and coordinator of the International Committee against War and Exploitation, for the Workers’ International (IWC).

Kashmir became a part of India through an instrument of accession signed between the then Kashmir King and the government of India. India had agreed to a special status for Kashmir and this was guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. On August 5 this year the special status has been withdrawn by an act of parliament, the federal government claiming that since Kashmir legislative assembly has been dissolved some months ago it is the inherent right of the national parliament to revoke Article 370. Thus the withdrawal of special status to Kashmir did not have the sanction of the people of Kashmir or their elected representatives as provided in the constitution. 

The sudden abrogation of Article 370, similar to imposition of the national emergency in 1975, has raised doubts in the minds of non-BJP political parties, that using authoritarian power and control in the parliament any other state in India can be reduced to the status of Union Territory which will amount to the death of constitutionalism. 

India is a union of states. Kashmir was a separate state in the union India. Kashmir comprised Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh, known as J & K, Jammu and Kashmir. Of this Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim majority area. Hindus are majority in Jammu. 

On August 5 J & K ceased to be a separate state. J & K has been bifurcated, Jammu and Kashmir would become a Union Territory (UT) with a separate assembly. Ladakh will not be a part of J & K. It will become a Union Territory (UT) without an assembly. All UTs in India are under the direct control of the federal government. 

From 1947 onwards relations between India and Pakistan turned hostile on the issue of Kashmir and with the involvement of UN line of control came into existence and people were divided in two territories. 

Kashmir was embroiled throughout in a demand for autonomy for some and independence for others but for those Indians outside Kashmir it was an integral part of India. BJP has always played its hindu card in fomenting national spirit ignoring the human angle involved. 

From August 5 within Kashmir and between Kashmir and rest of the world, there is complete information black out, no TV, landline/mobile telephone connections, Facebook or Internet. No newspapers, or media connectivity. 

All main line political party leaders, activists are detained. No time limit has been set for their release or lifting information black out. 

Since security of Kashmir has become the direct responsibility of the Indian federal government it is natural to expect more tension at the border areas especially between two Kashmirs particularly when both countries claim to own the entire territory. 

Added to the new tension is the creation of Ladakh bordering China. India is equally concerned about the negative reaction coming from China. The Chinese angle is a new dimension involving Kashmir. 

The internal situation and reaction of Kashmiri people will be known after August 15, Independence Day, when normalcy is expected to be restored. Though BJP has a brute majority in parliament, there is tremendous opposition to government using its armed might against innocent people in Kashmir. Kashmir is a hugely militarized zone. Over 40,000 people have lost their lives already in Kashmir. After 2016 thousands of youngsters have been victims in addition to military and para military personnel. By any account there is not going to be a happy outcome in Kashmir. If BJP government is scheming to create Hindu settlements in Kashmir and parcel out lands to outsiders ostensibly for the development of the state, resistance is bound to rise. Whether Kashmir would repeat Kosovo or Wet Bank is the question bothering many. 

The labour movement must demand restoration of rule of law, government must free from detention all political party leaders and trade union activists, remove ban on press, media and communication system. Kashmiris must have legitimate right to express their views, defend their constitutional rights. Government of India should adhere to constitutional guarantees given to Kashmiri people. 

Finally, the claim made by President Donald Trump that he was requested by Prime Minister Modi to mediate in Kashmir was not contradicted by PM Modi despite demands raised by opposition leaders in the Indian parliament. Latest reports say the American administration has withdrawn from the move.