Without repealing AFSPA and ending Army rule, there can be no solution to the Kashmir problem
Statement of the Central Committee of Communist Ghadar Party of India, 22nd November, 2014
Elections to Jammu & Kashmir Assembly will be held in five phases beginning on 25th November, 2014. These elections are being held in conditions of brutal rule by the central armed forces.
As long as 25 years ago, the fascist Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was imposed in Kashmir, after declaring it a “Disturbed Area”. Under this act, the armed forces have unrestricted powers to shoot at sight, torture, and rape the civilian population with complete immunity. Over 80,000 people have lost their lives in this reign of terror.
The civilian government in Jammu & Kashmir is but a facade as the Central government rules through its Army commanders. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said recently that he wanted AFSPA to be revoked in some parts of the Kashmir valley, but that the Central Government would not permit it. He also said that in future, the Central Government might use the excuse of threat from ISIS (the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria) to justify continuation of AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act.
More than 600,000 troops are stationed in this state, one soldier for every 20 persons. People in Kashmir are not free to move around without army permits, and even then they do so at grave risk to their lives. The cold blooded murder on November 3, 2014, of two youth, and grievous injuries to two others driving past an army check post in Chattergam area in Budgam district, reflects what has become “normal life” in Kashmir. Immediately following this, thousands of people of the area took to the streets in protest. This too has become part of normal life, revealing both the death defying courage of the people and their determination to fight for justice and rights. The subsequent police and army firing on the protestors, which injured many more people, has also become the norm in Kashmir.
The number of incidents of fake encounters, and of killings in army firing on protesting people are too numerous to recount. Life in Kashmir is a living hell for its people. Youth and other “suspected terrorists” are routinely picked up from their homes or streets, taken to the army torture chambers, brutally tortured and then murdered. Even their bodies are not returned to their families, who do not even know if they are dead or alive. (see box APDP)
The Government of India claims that AFSPA and army rule are allegedly necessary to put down “cross-border terrorism” and separatism. This propaganda is aimed at portraying the struggle of Kashmiris to live in dignity and be masters of their own destiny as something illegitimate and sponsored by Pakistan. All people of the state who question the need for AFSPA, who demand an end to army rule, or question the present arrangement of the state of Jammu & Kashmir within the Indian Union, are persecuted as enemies and a threat to “national unity and territorial integrity of India”. Incessant propaganda that Kashmiris are “anti national” and “Pakistani agents” is used to justify the continuation of army rule and the persecution of Kashmiris all over the country.
Association of Parents of Disappeared People
Twenty years ago, in 1994, women and men of conscience courageously formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP), to highlight the tragedy of thousands of families whose near and dear ones had simply "disappeared". They have been demanding that the state immediately stop the practice of kidnapping, torturing and murdering people and throwing their bodies into canals or nallahs, or carrying out mass burial in unmarked graveyards. They have investigated and established, at grave risk to their lives, that the Armed Forces of our country have created death squads called Ikwans who murder and dispose of the bodies of people kidnapped and tortured by the Army and unleash reign of terror on the civilian population.
The APDP has estimated that between 8000-10000 people have “disappeared” in Kashmir, mostly young men including boys, but also people of all ages and professions. Entire graveyards of hundreds of unidentified people have been discovered. The APDP has over a thousand women of such families as members. In conditions of savage terror, it has been organizing regular monthly protest meetings. In 2004 the APDP raised a memorial for those who have disappeared. The armed forces demolished it immediately.
Right in the run up to the current elections, politicians and political forces advocating boycott of the elections have been arrested. They are not free to propagate their views.
Elections in such conditions are a mockery of democracy. Far from being a process of expression of the people’s will, it is a process of legitimizing the continuation of army rule, with the facade of a government elected by the people. That these elections are being imposed on the Kashmiri people at a time when the lives of lakhs of people have been shattered by unprecedented floods is but further confirmation of the utter disregard of the Central government for the people of Kashmir.
Kashmiris of the valley and Dogras of Jammu are ancient peoples, each having a distinct culture, language and territory of residence. They were part of Ranjit Singh’s empire prior to the Anglo-Sikh war of 1846, after which the British East India Company created the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir under the treaty of Amritsar, and installed one of its trusted lackeys as its ruler, a Dogra king called Gulab Singh.
One of the conditions of the communal partition of India imposed by Britain in 1947 was that the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir would have the right to opt for being part of Pakistan or India or remain independent. The people were rising in revolt against Maharaja Hari Singh at that time, fighting for land reforms and other measures against his oppressive rule.
Before any decision could be taken about the future of Jammu & Kashmir, the Anglo-American imperialists started plotting to incite rivalry between the newly formed states of India and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir. Indian troops occupied Jammu. Tribesmen from Pakistan entered Kashmir to join forces with the mass movement against the Maharaja. Then Indian troops entered Srinagar and Pakistani troops occupied the western districts of Kashmir.
On 25th October, 1947, Lord Mountbatten wrote to Maharaja Hari Singh that he could accede to India temporarily if he agreed to a plebiscite later on. The next day, Hari Singh signed a treaty of accession with India, and Indian troops officially took charge of what became Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir.
On 1st January, 1948, India complained to the United Nations about the forcible occupation of a part of Kashmir by Pakistan. This resulted in the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 47. This resolution required that Pakistan withdraw all its troops and India withdraw most of its troops from Jammu & Kashmir, so as to create conditions for a free and impartial plebiscite (referendum) in which the people will decide their own future.
Following the UN Resolution, Prime Minister Nehru repeatedly declared that the treaty of accession signed with the king was temporary and that India would ensure that a plebiscite was held in Jammu & Kashmir as soon as “conditions became peaceful”. He promised that the people would exercise their right to self-determination; that is, they would decide whether they want to be part of the Indian Union, or part of Pakistan, or to be independent. However, this promise has remained unfulfilled to this day.
Article 370 was introduced into the Constitution of India to signify the special and temporary status of Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian Union, pending a plebiscite. It is titled “Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir”. It provided for a separate constitution for Jammu & Kashmir.
Elections were held in 1951 for a Constituent Assembly that would draft a Constitution for Jammu & Kashmir. However, this body did not have legitimacy because it was elected only by those living in Indian-administered Kashmir. It excluded the people of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. This unrepresentative Constituent Assembly ratified the state’s accession to India. It adopted a constitution that came into force on 26th January, 1957, which declared that “Jammu & Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India”. Ever since then, the rulers of India have declared that this is non-negotiable, and anyone who questions this or refers to the promised plebiscite is deemed to be anti-national and a threat to the unity and integrity of India.
The clash in Kashmir is over the key question: who has the right to decide the political destiny of a nation or people? Does sovereignty belong to the people, or does it reside in an elected body that does not really represent the people, and was elected by only one part of them? Can the Assembly of Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir decide the fate of the entire people of Kashmir? Does it not contradict with the temporary status of the state of Jammu & Kashmir within the Indian Union, reflected in Article 370, pending the promised withdrawal of foreign troops and the promised plebiscite in both Indian and Pakistan administered parts of the state?
The continuing mass discontent and revolt in Kashmir stems from the historical injustice of depriving Kashmiris of their sovereign right to self-determination, and the injustice of forcible partition of Kashmir by rival neighbouring states.
BJP has been carrying out a campaign for abrogation of Article 370. This means to do away, even on paper, with the “temporary status” of Jammu & Kashmir, so that the demand for a plebiscite loses all legal legitimacy. Far from helping to solve the Kashmir problem, it will only further inflame the situation.
The denial of national rights and the resulting conflict in Kashmir has been a factor that various foreign states have sought to exploit to further their own interests. This includes not only Pakistan but also the two super-powers during the Cold War period. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the threat of US imperialist plots to exploit the Kashmir dispute has increased. The response of the Indian ruling class has been to impose army rule to ensure that Indian-administered Kashmir remains firmly under its control.
In 1989-90, the intelligence agencies of Government of India organised provocations to inflame communal tensions between Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir. Terrorist attacks were organised to drive out many Pundits from Kashmir, for which “Islamic terrorists” were blamed. This was used as the pretext for imposing AFSPA and institutionalizing state terrorism as a way of life in the valley.
State terrorism and imposition of fascist army rule has further complicated the situation. It has blocked all possibilities of seeking a political solution to the problems inherited from history. It has enhanced the danger of intervention by foreign powers. There is a serious danger today that Jammu & Kashmir could suffer a fate similar to that of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, as part of the US imperialist strategy to refashion the political map of Asia.
The existing Indian Union is colonial and imperialist in nature. The rulers of our country, with their imperialist outlook, see Kashmir as a territory to be occupied and plundered. They have no regard for the rights of the people.
We, the working class and people of India, must reject and oppose this outlook. The people of Jammu & Kashmir are part of the peoples of this subcontinent. We share their joys, which have been few and rare, and their sorrows which have been plentiful.
The present situation in Kashmir is a stalemate. Elections under Army rule will not make a break with the status quo. The first step to resolve the crisis is to repeal AFSPA and pull back the armed forces into their barracks. This is the necessary condition for seeking a political solution to the Kashmir problem. In the absence of a political solution that respects the rights of nations and peoples to self-determination, the situation is bound to remain turbulent, with increasing danger of imperialist interference and war in South Asia.
Enabling Kashmiris to decide their own destiny would favour the people, not only of Jammu & Kashmir but also of India and Pakistan. It would be a major factor in favour of peace in the region. It would remove a dangerous opening for foreign powers to manipulate the situation for their own ends. Keeping Kashmir divided and the dispute unresolved has not served the interests of the people of either India or Pakistan. It has served the interests of the Anglo-American imperialists to have South Asia disunited and vulnerable to their influence.
Communist Ghadar Party calls on the working class and people of India to unconditionally support the demand of the progressive forces in Jammu & Kashmir for immediate repeal of AFSPA and end to army rule! Only then can a political solution be pursued, respecting the aspirations of Kashmiris to be freed from occupation troops and be able to determine their own destiny.