Kashmir's Ordeal - Chapter Seven

In the first part of this chapter Lal Khan looks at the role played by religion and fundamentalism in the subcontinent. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Kashmir was introduced by both the Pakistani and the Indian states to divide and weaken the movement of workers and students. In the second part he looks at the national question in Kashmir, and the position of the Marxists in relation to the struggle for national liberation in Kashmir.

Chapter Seven - Fundamentalism, Nationalism, and Socialism

The aim of socialism is not only to end the division of mankind into tiny states and the isolation of nations in any form, it is not only to bring the nations closer together but to integrate them. (V.I. Lenin) 1

The Epoch

 Every epoch in the history of human society has a particular character determined by several factors, above all the objective conditions through which each given society is passing at that moment in time. If we examine history generally, most periods are dominated by the tendencies of reaction. Lull prevails at all levels of society. That is why revolutionary periods are historical exceptions. However, history is also witness to the fact that even through the most stagnant periods, the process of change continues. This process of change moves not in a gradual evolutionary manner, but registers itself in history with great leaps. That is why revolutions are termed as locomotives of history.

As Marx said,

Hitherto, All history is the history of class struggle, every form of society has been based,  as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. 2

 The class struggle does not move with the same speed, intensity, and momentum at all times. Nevertheless, it is present where class society exists, its pace and intensity depends on the character of the epoch. In the periods when the rhythm and intensity of the movement slow down, other contradictions, mainly belonging to pervious historical periods, begin to dominate the socio-political spectrum of those societies. These conflicts are totally incapable of resolving the modern contradictions and end up complicating and protracting the struggle of the masses.

Similarly, if we look at the history of the people of Kashmir, we see this phenomenon reinforced at every juncture. In the post-partition era there has been no respite in this struggle. Although there has been more emphasis on the post 1989 insurgency, it would be wrong to assume there was peace and stability before that. The only difference is, as in any movement for national liberation, that the dominant tendencies and ideologies change with the degree of intensity, momentum, and rhythm of struggle. The role of the subjective factor is also important. We must see the road as a whole with all of its ups and downs, without for a moment losing sight of direction in which we are heading.

The Causes of Religious Revivalism

One of the tendencies that started gaining certain prominence in the struggle of the 1980s was Islamic fundamentalism. Several fanatical organisations and terrorist groups mushroomed in Kashmir. However, this phenomenon at this particular period was not isolated to Kashmir. Islamic and other forms of reactionary religious bigotry surged in several parts of the world. The reasons for this are many, but above all it temporarily filled the vacuum created by the decline of the left in the  1980s and 1990s.

The tragedy of the present epoch is that no traditional mass political party even poses the question of bringing about a radical change or a social transformation to this crisis-ridden system. Gigantic events like the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin wall further perpetuated the reaction in objective situation.

The result was a temporary lull in which nourished hopelessness, despair, disillusionment, and, a tendency to avoid reality. In such an atmosphere the viruses of bigotry and irrationalism grow and multiply. During the last 50 years, we find trends of religious revivalism with economic and political objectives. The main causes of this resurgence are summarized in the following pages.

· There has been a degeneration of the so-called left-wing parties and their leaders as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist embrace of the Chinese bureaucracy. This includes the betrayal of the leadership of traditional mass parties and the trade unions. The widening social and economic gap in society, the increasing social crisis, as well as the clear lack of a way out has led to an increase in the political crisis that inevitably gives birth to extremism and terror. It is a reactionary attempt to search for light in the tombs of the past due to uncertainty about the future.

· A large-scale migration of people from villages to the cities has aggravated this crisis. The insecurity, misery, and bitterness of life in the city slums and shantytowns gives rise to frustration and despair. Frustrated and deprived, many youth turn to crime. The religious parties patronise such lumpen elements and provide them with political protection. Because of the lack of any way out of this misery and having a guilty conscience over their crimes, many young people get lost in religious mysticism in an attempt to escape into oblivion.

· Another important factor, which helps these religious parties recruit from the backward layers of the youth, is the extreme hatred against the colossal corruption, vanity, and insolence of the traditional bourgeois liberal politicians. Whereas the religious politicians hypocritically continue to preach “social justice”, “an end to corruption”, “cultural purity" and "piety". The propaganda of the end of communism, and the historical decline of nationalism also made way for religious bigotry to penetrate wider sections of society.

· The parents of those tens of thousands of children strangled in the religious schools in different Islamic countries could not afford to raise and educate their off springs. These children had only two futures: either they could become the raw fodder of the child labour market, or they could be thrust into the imprisonment of these religious schools (madrassas) where, at least they could get some crumbs of food and shelter. In these schools there is a regime of incessant repression, torture, intimidation, sexual assault, and theocratic indoctrination.

The education is monotonous and based on the metaphysical sermons. These “madrassas” had a single function. They were indoctrination nurseries designed to produce fanaticism, communal hatreds, bigotry, and terrorist tendencies. In these schools the Urdu alphabets that are taught are symbolic of their reactionary thought. The primers for example, “Jeem” (J) for Jihad; “Tay” (T) for “Tope” (“Cannon”), “Kaf” (Q) for “Kalashinkov”; and “Khay” (K) for “Khoon” (“Blood”). 3

 At later stages, by teaching them the history of the remote past, their minds are sunk into the darkness of wars, myths, habits, behaviours, and values of pre-medieval ages. These minds, immersed in the ancient past, come into conflict with conditions in the modern age and end up committing the drastic and insane acts that we have witnessed in the last few decades. This has given the basis to the modern, virulent Islamic fundamentalism. It has destroyed an entire generation of youth from Muslim backgrounds. The terrorism, barbarity, and bloodshed that have come out of this fanaticism are the product of a stagnant society, and a rotting system that offers only a bleak and horrifying future.

Another mode of recruitment by the Islamic fundamentalists is their charity work and providing basic health and other amenities from their accumulated wealth, extracted from imperialism, capitalists and drug barons for the services these religious outfits provided them.

The Dollar Jihad

Lately one of the main sources of financial and social support of religious fundamentalism is globalisation and the crushing dominance of the imperialist monopolies that curb the interests of some sections of local industrialists, traders, businessmen, and drug barons. The greatest support for the religious parties comes from these sections of society. The Islamic fundamentalists use different criminal methods, including the production of drugs and arms smuggling, to generate the wealth they require. During the 1980s, US imperialism also sponsored and encouraged this trade to finance the “Afghan Jihad”.

The mass production of heroin was a by-product of the First Afghan War (1979-88). The money it generated was utilised to fund the Mujahideen against the Godless soldiers of the former Soviet Union. The foundation and rapid growth of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was necessitated by the needs of the Cold War and the drug barons. Money was laundered on a massive scale: heroin money from Pakistan and cocaine cash from Colombia was used to bribe and reward bankers and politicians in every Western country as well as funding the Contra operation in Nicaragua and the Mullahs in Afghanistan. 4

 The drug barons have made billions through this trade. The deeply entrenched conviction in private property is evident in the writings and preaching of the fundamentalist ideologues like Abul-ala-Moudoodi and Osama Bin Laden.

In reality, these Islamist scholars are the most ardent supporters of capitalism. Their own political and social existence is dependent on finance capital. Hence, the imperialists and the fundamentalists continually change their loyalties according to their changing interests and priorities. That is why sometimes the imperialists and the fundamentalists are friends and at other times they pretend to be foes. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin.

If there is fundamentalism in Islamic countries, there is no dearth of Christian fundamentalism in the United States. Ninety per cent of the population in the US expresses belief in God. Sixty per cent believe in angels. In the United States, there are more believers than in the whole of Europe. The Christian fundamentalists in the US declared that the events of 9/11 were the wrath of God, because in America there was increased promiscuity and the moral decline and social corruption of society were at their peak.

Similarly, the Jewish religious fundamentalists are not ready to accept Israel as the true model of their fundamentalism. They are indoctrinated with the bigoted desire to spread the domination of Zionism throughout the world. They consider the murder of Palestinians as the murder of infidels. Under the cover of fundamentalism, Israeli rulers are committing the worst acts of repression and barbarism. These acts are then justified on the basis of religion! The result is religious bigotry, and a situation where terrorism, barbarism, and hatred feed upon each other. The shedding of innocent human blood continues unabated.

Even so-called secular rulers such as Benazir Bhutto and now Musharraf again and again use religion when confronted with crises, political turmoil, and mass resentment. When the rotten policies of the rulers and their out-dated system fail to develop society, they exploit religious beliefs, particularly among the backward layers of society. This is done in order to divide and subvert the movements of the workers and peasants. Pilgrimages, visiting shrines and attending religious ceremonies, are an integral part of the policies of these leaders.

The mutual alliance of the mullahs and some sections of the army is also based on the sense of betrayal due to the cutting of US aid. This resulted in the loss of wealth the imperialists shelled out during the Afghan Jihad. Recently, a retired Pakistani general expressed his grief in the following words:

"Pakistan was the condom that theAmericans needed to enter Afghanistan. We've served our purpose and they think we can be just flushed down the toilet." 5

 Zia-ul-Haq was an officer in the armoured corps, who had been trained in the highest American military training centre  Fort Bragg. He said his prayers to God but his actions were subordinate to his real master  the United States of America. For example, in 1970, he headed a military operation in Amman in which 18,000 Palestinians were massacred. This operation, planned by bloodthirsty Israeli and US experts, was undertaken to save the US and Israeli agent, King Hussein of Jordan, from the revolutionary uprising of Palestinians in Amman. But it was Brigadier Zia who executed this brutal massacre. It did not run counter to his Islamic ideals and he did not hesitate to slaughter the Muslims “over there”. In that period, the various Islamic revivalist movements were deeply connected to US imperialism.

Another important characteristic of this reactionary fundamentalism is its trend of extreme opportunism. On the one hand, they spread terror while displaying stubbornness, inflexibility, and repression. On the other hand there is much opportunism, weakness, greed, and cowardice in their character. Time and time again they have proven themselves sell-outs when given the first opportunity. That is why the chief characteristic of religious fundamentalism, regardless of the religion, is hypocrisy. In the societies where fundamentalism has a certain social base, hypocrisy becomes a norm. This factor comes to the fore in their relationship with capitalism and imperialism.

During the Afghan Jihad, when the Pakistani generals requested Arab countries send an eminent person from the Royal Family to enhance recruitment and persuasion for Jihad, the man they sent was Osama Bin Laden.

When Osama Bin Laden reached Pakistan, the American National Security Adviser, ZbignewBrzezinski, was on an official visit to Pakistan to promote and  encourage Jihad. Osama Bin Laden was in the audience when Brzezinski  delivered a speech at the Khyber Pass. In his speech Brzezinski openly said, “Go and fight the Russian Infidel. Go and wage the Jihad, God is with you". 6

One of Osama's first actions as a pro-Western “freedom fighter” was to attack a co-education school, which was burnt to the ground and its headmaster killed and disembowelled.

In an interview published by the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur in January 1998, Jimmy Carters's National Security Chief Zbigniew Brzezinski left little room for doubt:

Q: the former director of the CIA, Roberts Gates, stated in his memoirs [From Shadows] that the American intelligence service began to aid the Mujahidin in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the National Security Advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes, according to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahidin began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 December 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: indeed, it was 3 July 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorist?

B: What is the most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet  empire? A few crazed Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?  7

 It is now an open secret that Israel was also involved in this Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan.


In 1985, a young Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Mansoor, who worked for an Islamabad based English daily, 'The Muslim', accidentally came across Israeli advisors in the bar of the Pearl Continental Hotel, Peshawar.

Knowing that this news could prove a great setback for Zia's Islamic dictatorship, he discussed the news with his editor, some friends, and the visiting WTN correspondent. After a few days, on an alert from the security agencies, the Islamic mujahideen captured and killed him.8

 The main architect of modern Islamic revivalist movements and this frantic fundamentalism was the US Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles. After the defeat of the imperialists in the Suez war of 1956, and the rise of the populist and left-wing movements in several Muslim countries, this religious bigotry was envisaged as a tool to distract the masses and crush revolutions. There was a clear decision by U.S. strategists to use Islamic fundamentalism as a virulent reactionary force against left-wing movements and revolutionary workers' struggles in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The British Imperialists, were also deeply involved in spreading  and exploiting Islamic 'terrorism'. According to The News, Lahore,

Bristish Intelligence agency MI 6 had sent Omer Sheikh, convicted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl,abroad for military training. The revelation about the MI 6 connection was made by former British Minister Michael Machure in an article published in The Guardian newspaper. He said MI 6 recruited more than 200 British Muslims including Sheikh through the extremist organization Al-Mohajiroon to train them for Jihad in Kosovo. Machure also claimed that British and US intelligence agencies were against hanging Sheikh, fearing he might give information about British and US intelligence agencies using terrorists for their own interests. 9

The Face behind the Veil of Piety

 In 1996, when the Taliban occupied Kabul, the former President of Afghanistan Najeeb Ullah was dragged out from the office of the "UNO" and killed. Afterwards, his dead body and that of his brother, Ahmed Zaie, were hanged from a pole in the central square of Kabul and savagely mutilated. No major western intellectual, politician, or human rights organization took notice of this barbaric act. Even after witnessing this horrific spectacle on TV screens and in newspapers, no protest whatsoever was raised by the so called international community. It is now known that US imperialism and its oil magnates covertly supported the Taliban. They were paid US $30 million by the American oil giant Unocal for the capture of Kabul.

Recently in Pakistan, when there was a political crisis in the country after the general election of October 2002, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the General Secretary of the MMA (an alliance of six Islamic parties), became a candidate for the premiership. During discussions with Musharraf, he declared his willingness to establish a coalition with himself as Prime Minister. When the general pointed out that his anti-Americanism posed a serious problem, the cleric is reported to have said:


“Don't worry about that now. We have  worked with the Americans in the past. Make me prime minister and I will sort every thing out”. 10

The reason for all of this is that the economic base of the United States and the fundamentalists is the same: capitalism. Because of the severe crisis of the system, the different factions of capitalism are coming into conflict with one another. However, in the last analysis they all want capitalism to prevail.

There has always been a religious element to the political movements in Kashmir. But this has not always been their defining feature. Starting in the 1930s, the political movements were dominated by secular and even socialist ideas.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Kashmir was introduced by both the Pakistani and the Indian states to divide and weaken the movement. The Pakistani rulers tried to use religious fundamentalism to gain tighter control over the movement and to further their foreign policy and strategic ambitions. The Indians had their own plans.

Achin Vanaik explains:

The aim of Hinduvta advocates is 'the self-conscious unity of Hindus as a religio-cultural grouping,' but since Inida's Hindus are so diverse the best way to achieve this is to stress:

Not… what they are supposed to share but what they oppose, even to the point of hostility. Indeed, the more strongly emotional the common opposition to the external 'other' or 'enemy,' the stronger is the desired unity likely to be. The only feasible candidate for this status as the hostile 'other' to Hindus, given India's history, are Muslims and Islam. 11

 In February 1990, the Indian intelligence service disclosed the location of 46 camps that were being used for the training of fundamentalist zealots throughout Azad Kashmir. They described them as “safe houses”, where militants were given weapons and explosives training.

Unlike the official refugee camps of the local Azad Kashmir government, where one could see the familiar miseries of refugee life, there were no women, children, or older men in the Jamaat-a-Islami camps. They were all young men in the camps, who were well fed and very well looked after. The excesses of state violence won recruits to the militants. Stories of acts of brutality carried out by security forces continued to emerge, especially in rural areas where control from the top was not as effective. In 1995 Victoria Schofield wrote:

The Indian government assesses the life expectancy of a militant at two years, after which time they either get killed or lose their enthusiasm to fight. Insurgents who surrender are provided with a rudimentary rehabilitation programme and sometimes a change of identity. Like the security forces, the fundamentalist insurgents are subject to allegations of excesses, mainly intimidation and extortion.  A student interviewed in 1995  said, the lady next door was approached one night by militants and asked for money; in the old days she would have asked them in and given them food. This time she refused and shut the door in their face. So they pushed the door in and shot her. The militant would come to your door and ask for money or a son to fight. If you did not have money, then you would have to give up a son. 12

 Militants target rich houseboat owners and carpet dealers for money. In September 1995, a parcel bomb was sent to Yousaf Jameel, correspondent for the BBC and Reuters in Srinagar. A photographer in his office who opened the parcel was killed in the explosion.

“In June 1994 JKLF admitted that atrocities committed by some sections of the  insurgents had alienated the people and stated, that strict action would be taken against  erring elements in the movement.” 13

 Reports that religious fanatics have committed rape has also tarnished their image. Attacks were made on women for not adhering to the prescribed Islamic dress code, the wearing of a burqah (veil). The Daughters of the Nation, (Dukhtaran-a-Millat) an orthodox women's group, was particularly active in issuing threats. Several women were hospitalised because acid had been sprayed on their exposed faces.

For a significant number the insurgency became an opportunity for personal profit. The separatist movement became an excuse to extort out of the civilian population, while the atmosphere of violence and conflict made it easier to get away with criminal acts. Even where funds collected by force were used to fight the security forces, the method of their extraction cannot have endeared the militants to the public. Far more alienating than the forced collection of money, were the acts of violence  including rape and murder  carried out by militants on civilians. 14

 These fundamentalists groups and organisations are also involved in corruption and drug dealing in what is being called the criminalisation of the movement. According to Farooq Abdullah,

“There is a nexus between the insurgents, the paramilitary forces and sections of  the government, who have enjoyed absolute power and corruption that no government had ever enjoyed. 15

 The shadowy relations between the insurgents and the Indian Army are also exposed by a 1995 report of the ICJ. The report states that,

“The insurgents and government officials split development funds; also the Indian security forces not only sell back captured weapons, but will allow border crossing at a price.” 16

` Even the Mujahid-a-Awal (First Holy Warrior) of Kashmir, now the right-wing politician and leader of the Muslim Conference, Sardar Qayyum Khan, in a recent interview declared:

“Jihad has become a business. In fact the worst damage to the Kashmir cause has been caused by the Jehadis… Jihad has no future.” 17

There is no doubt that the Islamic fundamentalist insurgency was sponsored and supported by the Pakistani state agencies and their groomed Islamic parties in Pakistan. But it was also the decline of the nationalists and the left that created space for the Islamists.

The 9/11 Turn Around

 However, there was a certain change in this process after the events of 9/11. The pressure on Pakistan's military regime increased, and the decrease in US aid to the Islamic fundamentalists put brakes on this insurgent activity.

Mercifully for the Pentagon and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the army was already in power in Pakistan. Washington was spared the time and energy needed to organize a new coup. General Musharraf's hour had arrived. Bush in the White House and Blair at Number 10 Downing Street feted Musharraf. This was nothing new of course: Reagan and Thatcher had welcomed Osama's friends at the same locations in the past. Alliances and enemies had shifted, but the methods remained the same and it must have been reassuring to have the Pakistani Army providing an institutional continuity.

The Pakistani civilian elite, too, was in jubilant mood. They might be the representatives of a failed state but at least they were no longer pariahs. A new imperial war, with their very own army as the principle proxy and the whole country as a base of operation, meant they were needed again. That meant money and possibly a rescheduling of the country's debt. The more liberal wing of the elite dreamt of a permanent Pentagon-Musharraf axis that would destroy the hold of the dreaded Islamists in Pakistan, and this time forever.

Emissaries sent by the disgraced politicians like Benazir Bhutto became familiar, if not pathetic, figures at Foggy Bottom, urging junior functionaries of the US State Department not to trust the Pakistani Army. 18

 But the links between the Pakistani state and these fundamentalist groups were by no means completely severed. Pakistan is a failed state because its ruling elites have failed its people. Public offices can be bought in the marketplace and the money paid is recovered through oppressive and exacting bribery. Justice is sold or badly administrated. The capitalist system serves the needs of the wealthy.

The Islamic terrorist sects have also carried out two serious attempts on Musharraf's life.

The failure to curb these obscurantist excesses lies in the composition of the army and the octopus it created (the Inter-Services Intelligence the ISI) during the First Afghan war. The ISI became an army within an army, accountable only to its own high command and controlling its own budget, much of which used to be supplied directly by Washington. It was the ISI that supervised the Taliban takeover in Kabul; it was the ISI that controlled the infiltration of skilled terror merchants into Indian-held Kashmir; it was the ISI that maintained a direct connection with Osama Bin Laden and his group.

The reason the army cannot curb the violence inside Pakistan is because if some of the leads were followed they would flow directly to the headquarters of its own organization. The MMA victories in the NWFP and Balochistan were also a victory for sections of the ISI. They could now continue to sow discord within the army itself. 19

 The architect of the two assassination attempts on Musharraf in December 2003, Faraj-al-Libbi, who is allegedly number three in the Al Qaeda hierarchy, was arrested recently in Mardan.

“After his arrest Faraj claimed that al-Qaeda has valued investments in the (Pakistani) armed forces.” 20

 Splits in these movements were inevitable due to this policy about turn by US imperialism and the decreased enthusiasm of the state agencies towards the Kashmir cause.

Another factor was a certain element of exhaustion of the insurgency and the decrease in its support amongst the Kashmiri masses. The Arab and Afghan Jehadis who had come to Kashmir after the fall of the Najibullah government were at odds with the local Kashmiri people. Their ruthlessness and barbaric methods created resentment towards them amongst the local population. Instead of strengthening the Jihad, their attitude and behaviour created more clashes within the insurgency.

However, some splinter groups are still operating and have covert support from some sections of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. The insurgency will ebb and flow. As the prospect of peace fades, the insurgency will pick up momentum again, because a comprehensive resolution of the Kashmir dispute is not likely within the existing status quo. Nor can Islamic fundamentalism be weeded out without a socio-economic transformation. Hindu chauvinism and the element of bigotry in the Indian state also have a feedback effect on Islamic fundamentalism. Politics based on bourgeois secularism and not on socialism end up strengthening religious bigotry as the fundamentalists callously play on the disparities created by liberal capitalism.

The Crisis of Representation

Apart from the armed wings of the Islamist parties, some political figures from insurgent backgrounds have now joined, or have been integrated into the so-called mainstream political process. Some of the nationalist, secular, and some mainly Islamic parties formed the All-Parties Huriyat Conference (APHC), the main political opposition in Indian-Held Kashmir. It is far from a homogenous alliance and there are said to be between 12 and 20 parties in it.

As there are rivalries and discord between the armed insurgent groups, so there are splits in the so-called political opposition. A long lasting internal split in the APHC is now out into the open. The leadership of this alliance is split into two main factions  one includes Syed Ali Shah Gilani and the other Maulvi Omer Farooq and Maulvi Abbas Ansari, who have the tacit support of Shabbir Shah. The latter represent the so-called moderate elements and Gilani, a Jamaat Islami, stalwart is taking a hard-line position, probably at the behest of a section of the ISI.

Apart from the personal conflicts amongst the leadership, there is certain confusion in the aims and objectives of the movements leading to a continual bickering and wrangling among the opposition leaders. As a result, changes in loyalties and sides are common. The proliferation of groups, supported by state agencies, confusion in objectives, divisions in the ranks, and Pakistan's changing policy towards the different groups have also contributed to this chaos.

A major problem with giving Kashmir the power of veto in the “composite dialogue” is the absence of a coherent Kashmiri freedom fighter group that could speak on behalf of the Kashmiri people as a whole. There are scores of freedom fighters organisations all claiming to be equally representative of the will of the Kashmiri masses. Some of them are more militant than others. Some, reputed to be overtly pro-Pakistan, are looked upon with suspicion by the Indian authorities. Others are regarded as enjoying the patronage of the Indian intelligence services. The fundamental division between the leaders of the different Kashmiri insurgent groups is between those that favour accession to Pakistan and those that favour independence.

At times, the relationships between opposing Kashmiri groups has deteriorated to the extent that they fight more amongst themselves than against the security forces of India. On May 21, 1990 a prominent Kashmiri leader, Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, was shot dead in his home. The killing was widely perceived by a section of Kashmiris as the action of insurgents opposed to his contact with the regime in New Delhi. Several other Kashmiri leaders have met the same fate. By the late 1990s, after years of intra-Muslim factional violence, Afghanistan had come under the control of the Taliban - funded, armed, and sustained by the Pakistan army. Pakistan itself was in the grip of corrupt politicians, and sectarian infighting claimed dozens of lives each month. In India, the Congress Party had lost its grip on national politics, paving the way for the Hindu fundamentalists, the Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP). In Kashmir, the number of armed Islamist groups multiplied as more and more veterans of the Afghan war came across the border to continue their fight for supremacy there.

The main rivals were the indigenous Hizbul Mujahidin and the Pakistani-sponsored and armed Lashker-I-Tayyaba and Harkat-ul-Mujahidin. The groups killed each other's militants, kidnapped Western tourists, drove Kashmiri Hindus out of the region where they had lived for centuries, punished Kashmiri Muslims who remained stubbornly secular, and occasionally knocked off Indian soldiers and officials. Each group was willing, when convenient, to make terms with Delhi rather than combine with other groups to inflict punishment on the Indian government.  21

It is not easy to determine which Kashmiri party would have the credentials to be represented in the “composite dialogue”. According to the Pakistani analyst M.H.Askari,

“Practically all of them have the reputation of being the protégés of the intelligence services of India or Pakistan. There is hardly any party, which does not bear the odious reputation.” 22

 India has traditionally recognized the National Conference headed by Omar Abdullah, the grandson of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, as the most representative of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan does not trust the National Conference due to historical experience. Furthermore, the National Conference lost the last state election in Kashmir mainly due to its cozy relationship with the BJP government in Delhi. Not all the governments installed in the state by New Delhi rose through transparent means or genuine elections. This too has led to severe bitterness amongst the Kashmiri masses. No revolutionary, left-wing party has been allowed to develop in these areas dominated by “mainstream” politics. This graphically illustrates that despite their antagonism and sometimes violent conflicts, there is an underlying understanding of prohibiting any genuine representation of the oppressed classes of Kashmir. This also shows just how great is their collective fear of a class struggle  a conflict they know would demolish them all.

The Dilemma of the Nationalists

The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was apparently founded in Pakistan, but now has a certain presence in Indian-held Kashmir.

When Yasin Malik was released from jail in May 1994, he renounced armed struggle and made an offer for negotiations. Malik described Mahatma Gandhi and his principles of non-violence as one of his motivating forces. He also offered a unilateral cease-fire. Certain policy and personal issues caused a rift between Yasin Malik and Amanullah Khan. At the end of 1995 Amanullah removed Yasin Malik as president of JKLF; in return Yasin Malik expelled Amanullah Khan as chairman of the JKLF. 23

 Now there are several factions that claim to be the JKLF. By 1993, the JKLF appeared to have lost its military domination to the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin. Apart from the military decline, there is a certain amount of dissent within the organisation. This has pushed the organisation far to the right. In the last period, the plight of the Kashmiri masses has aggravated the national question, and the struggle against foreign hegemony and exploitation has become more complicated. The Kashmiri masses, especially the youth, have been relentless in their resistance and the struggle. The problem is that the movement lacks a leadership and a party with the proper strategy, direction, and a clear aim of how to get out of this complicated and atrocious situation.

National oppression and class contradictions are on the rise and the masses yearn for a way out of this terrible situation. The national question is an important aspect of the struggle in Kashmir.

The religious, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural characteristics of Kashmir have always been changing. Even Kashmir's political geography and stature have been subject to change.

Over time the borders of the valley of Kashmir have expanded and shrunk, the valley sometimes forming part of a great empire, at other times comprising a kingdom in its own right.

The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, created in 1846, comprised several areas which themselves were also once independent principalities and regions: the valley of Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh, Baltistan, Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, Nagar, Hunza, and other smaller kingdoms and hill states. With the formation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into one political conglomeration, peoples of different languages, cultures, and religions learned to co-exist. The princely state attained by the Dogras by the connivance of the British colonialists covered 84,000 square miles of land; the Valley 84 miles long and 20 to 25 miles wide comprised only one third of this land space.

The present ethnic, religious, and racial diversity in Kashmir further complicates the situation. The majority of the people in Ladakh are Budhists and Shias and have a distinct ethnic makeup. The majority of the population on the plains of Jammu are Hindu and are culturally and ethnically different from the people inhabiting the Valley. Similarly in Poonch, Gilgit, Baltistan, and Hunza there are not only differences and several ethnic and cultural backgrounds, there is an entirely different administrative set-up. There is also a significant area of Jammu and Kashmir under Chinese control.

The most glaring acts of national repression are perpetuated by India and Pakistan. The absurd notion and scientifically false theory that religion alone can constitute the foundations of a nation also affected Kashmir. The creation of Pakistan and the partition of the subcontinent were based on this nonsense. The Kashmiris are discriminated against and exploited not only by the Islamic state of Pakistan but also by the Kashmiri Muslim elite. On the other hand, the Indian state, in the name of secularism, democracy, and freedom has also repressed the Kashmiris under its gruesome rule.

Decline of The Obscurantists

On both sides, various Kashmiri politicians implemented the designs of imperialism, acting as the vassals of the two subcontinental states. The support for accession to Pakistan has eroded in the last period, and if there is a general plebiscite it is not very likely that the majority of Kashmiris would opt for it. Similarly, the present situation in Indian-held Kashmir shows the enormous resentment and opposition to Indian rule and domination. Those sections of the religious parties that want to use Kashmir as the launching pad to create a pre-medieval fundamentalist theocracy in Pakistan, and in some central Asian states, as well as in Sinkiang (China) are sadly mistaken. The movement in Kashmir itself rejects this reactionary plan. It is now clear that without the support of the Pakistani state and the connivance of imperialism, these fundamentalists cannot become a formidable military or political force to dominate Kashmir

The blatant lies and propaganda of the bourgeois media and intelligentsia that the fundamentalist Jehad had not only defeated the Russians in Afghanistan, but was responsible for the break up of the 'evil empire' of 'communist infidelity', the USSR, would have shamed even Goebbels. The collapse of the Soviet Union was only scientifically predicted by Marxists, starting with Lenin as long ago as 1921. No imperialist intellectual or scholar from 1917 to 1991 ever dared to predict such an outcome concretly. The Soviet Union collapsed due to the intensification of internal contradictions antagonised by the reactionary Stalinist policy of “socialism in one country”. Trotsky graphically illustrated the outcome of this policy in the form of the collapse of the Soviet Union more than fifty years in advance in his celebrated 1936 work, 'The Revolution Betrayed'. The idea was circulated that if the Islamic fundamentalists could break up the USSR, they could certainly demolish Indian hegemony in Kashmir. This was absurd and utterly reactionary. Even the regime of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan collapsed due to internal betrayal and not through the US sponsored Jehad. Now, 16 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Mujahedeen in Kashmir are not only in retreat but are in covert negotiations and willing to collaborate with the Indian state.


Then there is the movement of secular nationalism. The decline of this movement was the result of its failure to give a clear way forward for the liberation of Kashmir. After long years of struggle and sacrifice, they have ended up negotiating the liberation of Kashmir with the Indian and Pakistani regimes. When Yasin Malik announced his intention to follow the path of Gandhi, he was in fact announcing his ideological and political capitulation to the Indian ruling class. The Kashmiris have experienced enough Gandhian “non-violence” (the official doctrine of the Indian bourgeois state) for the last 58 years. They know what it means. The bourgeois state will go to any extreme, carry out any act of tyranny and would not hesitate to slaughter thousands of innocent human beings, as it has already done in Kashmir, to perpetuate the rule of the Indian ruling classes Now Malik is hobnobbing with the Pakistani establishment and trying to find his ideal in Pakistan's notorious and corrupt information minister Sheikh Raseed Ahmed.

In the past, the nationalist leaders of the Kashmiri struggle used the name of socialism and employed revolutionary phrases to gain support. In the present day situation, these ex-heroes of the armed struggle are trying to become “respectable statesmen” in lounge suits with false handshakes and hypocritical smiles. They want to negotiate with the bourgeois states and become acceptable politicians to “the international community”. But first they have to capitulate to the system these states are based upon. They are not only renouncing the armed struggle but in reality are admitting the defeat of this tactic. But if the armed struggle failed, then the option of a negotiated settlement does not stand much of a chance either.

These are negotiations between master and slave. This notion of negotiating independence is false from beginning to end. These ruling elites will not give the Kashmiris their freedom on a platter. The fate of India and Pakistan is a gruesome example of the miseries the masses face when their “national” leaders get them independence through negotiations and accord with the imperialist masters.

In the 1960s and 1970s these Kashmiri nationalist leaders quoted Marx and Lenin in their struggle for an independent, secular, and democratic Kashmir. The Marxist position on the national question is not only misinterpreted but also fabricated to suit the interests and aims of the nationalist leaders - and not only in Kashmir.

The Marxist Position on the National Question

Marxists fight against all forms of inequality and discrimination. We are against any privileges for any linguistic, cultural or religious dominant grouping. That was also Lenin's position on this question. At the same time Lenin never went to the other extreme of pandering to every demand of the oppressed minority nationalities. To do so would have meant making concessions to their own particular bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalism, in effect their desire to become oppressors themselves. We stand for international culture and international workers' democracy.

Lenin understood very well that behind all this lay the interests of the exploiting classes within each nationality. As Marx and Engels explained, the dominant ideas within any society are those of the ruling class. Here is what Lenin wrote:

“The elements of democratic and socialist culture are present, if only in the rudimentary form, in every national culture, since in every nation there are toiling and exploited masses whose conditions of life inevitably give rise to the ideology of democracy and socialism. But every nation also possesses a bourgeois culture (and most nations have a reactionary and clerical culture as well) in the form, not merely of 'elements', but of the dominant culture. Therefore, the general 'national culture' is the culture of the landlord, the clergy, and the bourgeoisie.24

 And he goes on:

“The national culture of the bourgeoisie is in fact (and, I repeat, the bourgeoisie every where enters into deals with the landed proprietors and the clergy) bellicose bourgeois nationalism, which stultifies, fools, and disunites the workers in order that the bourgeoisie may lead them by halter, such is the fundamental fact of the present day. Those who seek to serve the proletariat must unite the workers of all nations, and unswervingly fight bourgeoisie nationalism, domestic and foreign. 25

Lenin had no problem in opposing reactionary demands of minority groups, such as separate schools. He understood that this, rather than weakening, actually strengthened racial and national prejudice. This is what he had to say about the question:

“Cultural Autonomy” implies precisely the most refined and, therefore, the most harmful nationalism. It implies the corruption of the workers by means of the slogan of national culture and the propaganda of the profoundly harmful and even anti-democratic segregation of schools according to nationality. In short, this programme undoubtedly contradicts the internationalism of the proletariat and is in accordance only with the ideals of the nationalist petty bourgeoisie.” 26

 Against “national cultural autonomy”, Lenin defended the right of self-determination. He stressed that all peoples have this right, but at the same time Marxists are not obliged to defend separatism in all situations. He wrote:

“For a Marxist, of course, all other conditions being equal, big states are always preferable to small ones”. 27

The nation state long ago became a fetter on the development of the productive forces. No country, can function as an autarchy; they all have to operate within the world market. That is why the ex-colonies that gained independence remain dependent on their former colonial masters.

The proletariat, far from the undertaking to uphold the national development of every nation, on the contrary, warns the masses against such illusions, stands for the fullest freedom of capitalist intercourse and welcomes every kind of assimilation of nations, except that which is founded on force or privilege. 28

Class and the Nation

 Marxists are for the elimination of all frontiers. Our final aim is the socialist united states of the world. However, we also remember what Marx said: that there is no greater calamity for a people than to oppress another people. Marxists always defend the oppressed minority. We fight discrimination, oppression and the denial of national rights. The working class, however, must develop its own, independent position on the national question, as on all issues. But its class interests come first. And the struggle for the socialism is at the top of its list of priorities. It is not in the interest of the working class to abandon its demands because of so-called “national unity”.

The situation is different when it comes to the position of an oppressor nation. Lenin repeatedly pointed to the fact that the Russian Bolsheviks, as members of the Great Russian nation, i.e. an oppressor nation had to come out against the oppressive policies of its own bourgeoisie towards the minorities that made up the Czarist Empire. This was necessary to demonstrate to the workers and peasants of these nations that the Russian workers would not oppress them, on the contrary, they would defend all their rights, including the right of self-determination. In effect, as Alan Woods, pointed out in his book on Bolshevism, the Russian workers were saying to the various minorities:

“We have no interest in keeping you in chains. Let us combine to overthrow the exploiters, and then we will give you the freedom to decide what your relations will be with us. We hope to show you that you will be treated with absolute equality, and that you will choose to remain with us. But if you decide something else, that is your own affairs, and we will fight to defend your right, even if it means setting up your own state” 29

 There was another side to the coin, however. Lenin never made the mistake of bending to nationalist pressures, including that of the oppressed. Internationalism permeated the whole spirit of Lenin.

“If a Ukrainian Marxist allows himself to be swayed by his quite legitimate and natural hatred of the Great Russian oppressors to such a degree that he transfers even a particle of this hatred, even if it be only estrangement, to the proletarian culture and proletarian cause of the Great-Russian workers, then such a Marxist will get bogged down in bourgeois nationalism. Similarly, the Great-Russian Marxist will be bogged down, not only in bourgeoisie, but also in Black-Hundred nationalism, if he loses sight even for a moment, of the demand for complete equality for the Ukrainians, or of their right to form an independent state”? 30

 As Alan Woods explains:

“The main purpose of the slogan of the right of self-determination was precisely to guarantee the unity of the working class. The other side of the coin was that Marxists of the oppressed nationalities should concentrate on fighting their own bourgeoisie by combating the nationalist poison of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie of the oppressed nationality, of waging a remorseless struggle to combat the influence of nationalism in the working class”.31

Leninism and Nationalism

While Lenin defended the right to self-determination he never once supported the idea of separate working class organisations along national lines. He was always for the unity of the working class and its organizations, both the party and the trade unions:

“Working-class democracy contraposes to the nationalists wranglings of the various bourgeois parties over question of language, etc., the demand for the unconditional unity and complete amalgamation of the workers of all nationalities in all working class organizations trade-unions, co-operatives, consumers', educational and all others in contradiction to any kind of bourgeois nationalism. Only this type of unity and amalgamation can uphold democracy and defend the interest of the workers against capital which is already international and is becoming more so and promote the development of mankind towards a new way of life that is alien to all privileges and all exploitation.” 32

 The defence of the right to self-determination was in fact aimed at securing the unity of the workers of all nations, whether oppressed or oppressors. It did not imply any kind of support for nationalism or separatism. Lenin was very clear on this:

“The recognition of the right to self-determination does not exclude either propaganda and agitation against separation or exposure of bourgeois nationalism.” 33

 Behind the demand for national liberation and “self-determination” we can find the most reactionary forces and interests. This explains why for Lenin the demand for self-determination was not absolute or universal. It was subordinate to the global interests of the working class.

We quote Alan Woods again:

Marxists are not at all obliged to support it in every case, as is frequently supposed. Marx had long ago pointed out the reactionary role played by “small nations” which become the cats' paws of imperialist “big brothers”. He was particularly scathing about pan   Slavism, the doctrine whereby Russian Czarism put itself forward as the “liberator” of the  slavs, and used this position to gain a foothold in the Balkans.

Following in Marx's footsteps, Lenin's  position on the national question was  characterized by his constant  insistence  on the class question. He consistently warned  against the danger of nationalist intoxication and wrote ironically about the slogans of “freedom”, behind which  the bourgeoisie sought to conceal its reactionary intrigues and deceive the people. 34

 The national question is not a simple, straightforward one. Whether Marxists defend the right of self-determination in any specific case depends on the concrete circumstances. As Lenin pointed out:

“The categorical requirement of Marxist theory in investigating any social question is that it be examined within definite historical limits, and, if it refers to a particular country (e.g., the national programme for a given country), that account be taken of the specific features distinguishing that country from others in the same historical epoch.” And again: “There can be no question of the Marxist of any country drawing up their national programme without taking into account all these general historical and concrete state conditions.” 35

 In analysing the historical misinterpretation of Lenin's position on the national question, Alan Woods writes:

“One would have thought that this was sufficiently clear. But unfortunately, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. Having glanced at Lenin's writings and caught sight of the phrase “right to self determination”, some people who evidently consider them selves to be followers of Lenin conclude that, come rain, hail or shine, it is always necessary to support each and every demand for independence. What Lenin carefully explained and qualified becomes transmuted into a kind of nervous tic, compelling those who suffer from it to jump to attention every time some nationalists group sounds the trumpet. One really wonders why Lenin bothered to write all those volumes, when it seems that those who speak and act in his name have clearly not understood a single line!”36

The National Struggle and Socialism

 In the case of the struggle in Kashmir, the Marxists support the right of self-determination if the people of Kashmir want to establish a separate homeland. As we have explained in the initial chapters.The first question that arises if we examine the broader implications  the integration of all countries into the world economy, the character of present day globalisation, the role of the World Bank and the IMF, and the military, political, and economic aggression of imperialism  it becomes clear that Kashmiri masses would be no better off in an independent capitalist Kashmir.

Secondly, if the Kashmiri struggle on its own cannot defeat the semi-colonial, semi-imperialist states of India and Pakistan, how would it be able to defy mighty US imperialism and its lust to exploit and plunder Kashmir?

Thirdly, the oppressors of Kashmir are also the oppressors of the other peoples of the subcontinent. The national oppression of different nationalities, ethnic, and religious groups in India and Pakistan continues unabated. With the intensifying crisis of capitalism in these countries, this oppression is rapidly becoming worse. However, more than national oppression, it is class oppression that is becoming more pronounced. The so-called neo-liberals and free market policies of privatisation, downsizing, liberalisation, restructuring etc., are playing havoc with the masses in the subcontinent. Of course Bangladesh, which attained its independence in 1971, also carries out the dictates of the imperialist financial institutions. Under capitalism, the masses in Bangladesh did not attain liberation or emancipation but only misery, destitution, and torment. It has been declared the most corrupt country in the world in year 2005.

A substantial percentage of the total population of Kashmir has left the area in the last 60 years. This exodus was also due to the fallout of the national question in Kashmir. These Kashmiri masses not only live in the metropolitan cities and towns of India and Pakistan, but a large bulk of them resides in the Middle East. Many also live in Britain, Europe, and beyond. The majority of them would opt for some sort of independence for Kashmir. However, the question is would they and the subsequent generations of Kashmiris born and raised abroad voluntarily return to an independent Kashmir? The answer is most certainly no, if an autonomous and independent Kashmir were drenched in the same poverty, misery, disease, ignorance, and deprivation which was there when they or their ancestors left. This would be especially true for those residing in the advanced countries in Europe and North America. Hence, the question of class and nature of the socio-economic system is not alien to the discussion on the national question. It is in fact an integral and organic part of the question of the national liberation of Kashmir. Only under a planned socialist economy can Kashmir attain the living standards that could become the envy of those living even in the most advanced societies today.

These same rulers, who oppress the Kashmiri masses, crush the masses elsewhere in the subcontinent for the same purpose  to prolong and sustain the exploitation of capital. Through this, they get the commissions, perks, and privileges they enjoy as subordinates in the plunder of imperialism. There is a sense of seething revolt and anger amongst the masses against these rulers. This anger against the ruling class of all nationalities must be united into one struggle to overthrow the capitalist system.

The truth is that the ruling class is incapable of giving any concessions or carrying out any substantial reforms for the betterment of the masses. Similarly, they cannot end the national oppression of the Kashmiris and other oppressed nationalities, let alone give them independence. Only by fighting for the transformation of the entire capitalist system can we unite this collective struggle. This fight can only be fought and won on the basis of the class struggle. The many rivers of the struggle for national liberation must be linked and allowed to flow into the ocean of class struggle against this oppressive system and its rulers. Keeping in mind the delicate nature of the national question, Trotsky summed up the Marxist position in the most profound manner.

“The right of national self-determination is, of course a democratic and not a socialist principle. But genuinely democratic principles are supported and realized in our era only by the revolutionary proletariat; it is for this very reason that they interlace with socialist tasks.” 37

 The fundamental and most advanced contradictions of this epoch are class contradictions. The product of these contradictions is the class war, which must be fought to the finish. The destiny of the working class and the oppressed in this struggle will be the victory of revolutionary socialism.

1. V.I. Lenin, Collected works, Vol. 22,

2. Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, Communist Manifesto (1848) 1888 translation p.100

3. Asian Marxist Review, Islam and America Friends or Foe? Summer 2004

4. Tariq Ali, ' The Clash of Fundamentalism' p. 271

5. Asian Marxist Review, Summer 2004

6. Books and Authors Review, Dawn Pakistan p.2

7. Ali, op.cit., pp. 207-208

8. Ibid., p. 209

9. The News 5th October 2005.

10. AMR, op.cit.,

11. Achin Vanaik,  'The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion Modernity and Secularization,'

12. Victoria Schofield, 'Kashmir in the cross-fire' p. 267

13. Amnesty International, 'Torture and Deaths in Custody' January 1994 p. 59

14. Dr Ayuub Thakkar Quoted in Iffat Malik, 'Kashmir: Ethnic Conflict, International Dispute.' p. 299

15. Schofield op.cit., p.268

16. ICJ report, 'Human Rights in Kashmir', op.cit., pp. 272-3

17. As quoted by M.P. Bhandara, 'Kashmir Struggle' Dawn (Pakistan) 22 May 2005

18. Ali op. Cit, p 272

19. Ibid.,. 273

20. As quoted by Dr. Farrukh Saleem, in 'capital suggestion' The News (Pakistan) 22 May 2005

21. Ali op.cit., p. 247

22. M.H. Askari, 'Conditionalities in peace talks' Dawn (Pakistan) 03 February 2005

23. Schofield, op.cit., p. 268

24 As quoted in Alan Woods, 'Bolshevism the Road to Revolution', p. 400

25. Reprinted in, The Age of the Permanent Revolution, pp. 98-99

26. As quoted in Woods, op.cit., p. 401

27. A Robinovitch, 'The Bolsheviks come to power' p. 37

28. V.I.Lenin, Collected Works, Note to L.B Kamenev, Vol 36, p. 454

29. Ibid., LCW vol 25, p. 177

30. Ibid., LCW Vol.25, p. 178

31. Woods, op.cit., p. 403

32. Op.cit., LCW, Vol. 26, p. 143

33. Quoted in Robinovitch, op.cit., p. 77

34. Cited in Ted Grant, Alan Woods, Lal Khan, 'National Question and Marxist Internationalism' p.79

35. Op.cit., LCW, Vol. 41, p. 447

36. Woods, op.cit., p. 404

37. Leon Trotsky, Writings (1939-40) p. 45