India: Kashmir - Betrayal through coalition

If the armed struggle, religious fundamentalism, nationalism and other such notions of people’s freedom in Indian occupied Kashmir have failed to deliver any respite to the oppressed masses, the rhetoric of ‘democracy’ and ‘development’ are equally no solution. In reality they are mere deceptions. The PDP’s coalition with BJP is nothing but a blatant betrayal and an insult added to injury for the Kashmiri masses that voted for the PDP in the recent elections, making it the largest party in the Kashmir state assembly.

After months of negotiations following an election in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu fundamentalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its regional rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have agreed to form a coalition government, in a state where youth and the oppressed have been fighting Indian rule for almost seven decades.

BJP president Amit Shah announced the ‘deal’ after meeting PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti in New Delhi, saying the two parties had resolved most of their differences. “In a few days, Jammu and Kashmir will have a BJP and PDP alliance government”, Mr Shah told reporters. Mehbooba Mufti sounded more cynical than ironic: “PDP and BJP have formed joint agenda for development. This alliance is not for power-sharing but it is to win the hearts and minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. The BJP won 25 seats in the elections to Kashmir’s state assembly in December, a feat unthinkable just a year ago. But the Hindu nationalists fell short of a majority, as did the PDP, which took 28 seats. The strong showing was seen as the BJP extending its grip on the country after Mr. Modi’s landslide general election victory in May.

Both parties benefited from widespread public discontent against the state’s former ruling National Conference party over its handling of devastating September floods that killed more than 200 people in Kashmir. The disputed region was placed under New Delhi’s direct rule in January after the two parties failed to agree on key and prickly issues. The PDP has long demanded the removal of a draconian law in Kashmir that gives Indian forces sweeping powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight, and which is seen by critics as a cover for human rights abuses. The BJP has said the law was needed to halt militants fighting for Kashmir’s independence or for its merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands of people dead, mostly civilians.

The results of the elections to the Legislative Assembly of J & K, declared on 23 December 2014, opened new horizons for the BJP regarding the capture of power through complicity with dubious elements in Kashmir. The intrigues and deception of BJP’s Kashmir accomplices are a curse for the masses. If the coalition succeeds, this crime will pave the way for the saffronisation of, and the brutal intrusion by corporate vultures into, the Kashmir Valley. This will result in the extortion of the economy and the devastation of the environment.The BJP as a coalition partner with the PDP will acquire a foothold and rulership over the Valley’s electorate, despite such rulership being flatly denied it by a unanimous verdict of rejection.

It is not a coincidence that in the aftermath of the poll results, the RSS paper, ‘Organiser’, reprinted its editorial of 15 January 1948 titled “Kashmir: The Spiritual Home of Hindus… The Maharaja is more sinned against than sinning. The Hindu kingdom is one of the oldest in world history and is an indissoluble part of the cultural hegemony of the Hindustan”. On 4 January 2015 it wrote: “For J&K, it is the beginning of real democratic integration… BJP has now entered into the power politics of the State, as it is the second largest party with 25 seats. Its aim of 44+ seats failed but in the coming six years, no party or coalition in power can ignore the strength of BJP. However, the Party has missed a good opportunity as it has lost 9% of its support from May 2014, when BJP got more than 32% of votes in the 2014 parliamentary elections. It had at least the opportunity to get all 37 seats in Jammu and 4 seats in Ladakh. If that had happened the Party, without even getting a seat in valley, would have come into power on its own, with minor adjustments”.

The PDP leaders had nothing but praise for Vajpayee throughout the campaign. Their rhetoric of having ‘reservations’ about forming a coalition with the BJP was a mere ruse. The BJP was not deceived. The hung Assembly provided an excuse and Mufti immediately came out for the BJP. What followed in public was a spurious charade to dispel any doubts in the party rank and file. In the PDP’s election manifesto it was written: “The Self Rule document will be the guiding framework for Resolution. Closer ties across the Line of Control. Make borders irrelevant”. The BJP is simply going to backtrack from any promises it has made to secure the coalition deal. Its wily chief Amit Shah is too devious even for the PDP leaders. The PDP leadership went into this coalition in the first place due to its lust for power and plunder. However, the ‘development’ tonic of the BJP will prove to be poison for the working people of Kashmir. Apart from its superficial rhetoric of ‘Hindutva’ chauvinism, the real designs of the BJP are to aggressively push through policies in the interests of the profits of its real backers, the Indian and Imperialist corporate bosses. The PDP will end up with just as much responsibility for the misery that these policies of capitalist extortion and exploitation will inflict upon the Kashmiri masses. This coalition of opportunism and reaction will face a mass revolt sooner rather than later.

The secular nationalists have collapsed after abandoning their left-wing ideas and were terrified of any mention of socialism in their programme. In the past, leaders like Maqbool Butt unambiguously rejected the capitalist path of independence while advocating socialism. The Islamic fundamentalists were also quickly exposed by their brutality towards the ordinary Kashmiris and by the partial withdrawal of support for them by the Pakistani state under the pressure of US and British imperialism. There is a seething hostility and revulsion against the BJP in spite of its 25 seats, achieved through electoral manipulations and the rhetoric of development. The Indian state can never win the hearts and minds of ordinary Kashmiris within the present system. Kashmir’s political elite has proved to be subservient to the Indian and Pakistani bosses for its own opportunist ambitions of plunder and privilege. This has come at the cost of excruciating class and national oppression of the masses in this serene but tragic land. All sections, from the Islamists to the secular nationalists, have been exposed in the eyes of the youth and the masses.

For the masses across the Line of Control in the Pakistani controlled ‘Azad Kashmir’, not only is freedom elusive, but the vast majority of the population is suffering in poverty, misery and deprivation. Large sections of the youth have escaped this ‘Azadi’ for the menial jobs on offer in the Pakistani cities and the scorching heat and brutal regimes of the Gulf States. Those remaining are in a relentless quest to flee. But despite of the repression and tyranny inflicted upon the Kashmiri masses by the ruling classes of the subcontinent, the Kashmiri youth have shown extraordinary resilience. The recent victory of Comrade Yousaf Tarigami from Kulgam in the state assembly elections, and the resurgence of the JKNSF with a Marxist leadership across the LoC, are some of the signs of an optimistic future of the struggle and revolutionary perspectives for the movement in Kashmir. These sparks of defiance against these oppressive states and the capitalist system can inspire and ignite a revolutionary inferno throughout the South Asian subcontinent.