“What India has done in Kashmir over the last 30 years is unforgivable. An estimated 70,000 people, civilians, militants and security forces have been killed in the conflict. Thousands have been “disappeared,” and tens of thousands have passed through torture chambers that dot the valley like a network of small-scale Abu Ghraibs,” write two reporters in the NY Times .
That was even before India’s communalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, sent an additional 38,000 soldiers into Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. The move, which also involved cutting off all communication with the outside world, has all sorts of implications:
- It ratchets up the already-increasing communalism inside India itself.
- It is directly involved in the struggles against and also by the Indian labor movement.
- It has geopolitical implications.
- It has environmental implications.
- It involves the growing cultural, ethnic, racial and religious nationalism – including outright fascism – worldwide.
Background: Heritage of British imperialism
The British imperialists played a devastating role in India. As Roger Silverman wrote in The Two Faces of India “ In 1700 India’s share of world income had equalled that of all Europe combined. By the time it had emerged from the “civilising” benefits of British rule in 1947, India was among the very poorest countries in the world in terms of per capita income.”
Oaklandsocialist also explained how British imperialism has always used divide-and-conquer as its go-to strategy. It did this in Ireland with the Catholics and Protestants, in Palestine with the Arabs and Jews, and in the Indian sub-continent with the Hindus and Muslims. Forced to flee for their lives, they helped ensure that the Hindu and Muslim workers would find it difficult to unite, thereby at least ensuring the continued existence of capitalism.
More Recent History
India won its independence from Britain in 1947. The leading party at that time was the Indian National Congress party, led by Ghandi. It has been the main ruling party for decades since. As a capitalist party, it has been unable to even begin to resolve the problems of Indian capitalism. Under its rule, poverty persists, the caste system has continued, oppression of women – even including mass rapes – have continued, and so has the bitter sectarian division between the Hindu and Muslim masses. Also, under Congress an enormous parasitical and corrupt government bureaucracy has flourished. This is the background (explained in more detail here) to the election of Nerandra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP itself is the political party of what is considered the largest nonprofit in the world, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), also known simply as the Sangh. The RSS, established in the times of British imperialist domination, calls for the establishment of a Greater India as a Hindu nation or Hindutva. This greater India would include Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Myanmar and parts of Indonesia and Malaysia. In this sense, it is similar to the more extreme wings of Zionism, which call for a Greater Israel, the more extreme wings of Turkish nationalism, which call for a return of the glory days of the Ottoman Empire, and in fact in a somewhat different form the regime of Vladimir Putin, who models himself after Peter the Great and seeks a return of the old Russian Empire.
In other words, it represents the decaying capitalist world order, the lack of a single powerful dominating capitalist force (formerly US imperialism), the crisis in the working class organizations, and the consequent rise of different sub-imperialist forces and the dreams of these various national, ethnic or religious nationalist forces.
Indian working class
The weakness and decadence of the Indian capitalist class has historically contrasted with the powerful Indian working class, which has built not one, not two but three different trade union centers: The All Indian Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Even the reactionary, communal RSS was forced to create a union wing of its own, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or BMS.
Due to the heritage of Stalinism, however, the Indian working class did not develop a healthy working class party. The Communist Party was the closest it came. As Roger Silverman explains in The Two Faces of India, “The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its precursor the Communist Party of India have discredited themselves over decades of unprincipled political manoeuvring with the respective rival reactionary parties of the ruling class. Their reward has been a meltdown into near oblivion. At the 2002 elections, the two Communist Parties between them had achieved their highest ever representation in the Lok Sabha: 59 seats. This time round, they suffered their worst-ever result, winning just a pitiful five seats out of a total of 545.”
Despite this, the powerful working class has been able to force concessions from the Indian government. These included worker protections and some form or social security. Alongside of this, however, there developed a massive, inefficient and corrupt government bureaucracy. Combined with the worker protections, this bureaucracy was seen as an impediment to attracting foreign direct investment.
All of this combined to discredit the National Congress Party, but without a working class party as an alternative.
Nerandra Modi elected
Nerandra Modi was first elected in May of 2014. He set about “resolving” these contradictions through deregulating the Indian economy and weakening the influence of the Indian working class. In order to accomplish this, the historic traditions of Hindu bigotry and nationalism were necessary, as encouraged and organized by the RSS and related organizations, including the outright fascist Shiv Sena.
Hindu nationalism involves far more than just propaganda; it involves mass communal riots, such as the Shiv Sena riot in Mumbai in 1992 which resulted in the murder of some 3,000 Muslims. Modi, himself, was involved in a similar riot in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, when he was governor of that state. In that riot, some 2,000 Muslim men, women and children were hacked to death. Modi’s response was to say he had the same level of regret “as if a puppy had been run over by a car.” (See The Two Faces of India for a more detailed description of this history.) In fact, he had been banned from entering the United States for several years as a result of his responsibility for this riot.
Similar to the election of Trump but a thousand times worse, the election of Modi has led to a further series of Hindu nationalist anti-Muslim lynchings and riots in India. In 2016 alone, for example, one report says that, “According to official statistics, India witnessed more than 700 outbreaks of communal violence last year that killed 86 and injured 2,321 people. The actual number, however, could be higher as many cases go unreported…” (NOTE: “Communal violence” means violence between different ethnic or religious groups.) The report gave examples such as the following: “A 16-year-old Muslim boy was stabbed to death on a train last week by a mob that accused him and his three companions of carrying beef in their bags.”
Modi and the BJP has been conducting a nationwide attack on Muslim “immigrants” – one that would make Trump’s Stephen Miller or Germany’s AfD turn green with envy. According to the NY Times “More than four million people in India, mostly Muslims, are at risk of being declared foreign migrants as the government pushes a hard-line Hindu nationalist agenda that has challenged the country’s pluralist traditions and aims to redefine what it means to be Indian…. The hunt for migrants is unfolding in Assam, a poor, hilly state near the borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh….[The regime] is vowing to bring this campaign to force people to prove they are citizens to other parts of India.”
Modi’s invasion of Jammu and Kashmir is reportedly generally popular in India. “Social media feeds are flooded with Indians welcoming the move, among them many who did not even vote for Modi, and who have in fact been fiercely critical of him,” reports the Washington Post.
Caste System and Rape
The communal violence goes hand-in-hand with the strengthening of the caste system, which is also frequently linked in turn with oppression of women and girls. According to an article in the NY Times, a rape occurs every 20 minutes in India. Some of these are of little girls as young as eleven years old. In some cases, these children are held prisoner and raped over days, after which they are then murdered. Many times, these horrors are perpetrated against females of the “lower” castes. The RSS, basing itself on the worst traditions of Hinduism has reinforced this caste system. Modi’s invasion of Kashmir will increase this tendency. The Chief Minister of the State of Haryana has commented how in the past they “used to say we will bring in girls from Bihar. Now they say Kashmir is open, we can bring girls from there.”
Attacks on Working Class
Hand-in-hand with these attacks on Muslims, on women and on the “lower” castes are the attacks on the working class. In fact, they served as a necessary cover. Foreign Policy magazine put it clearly:The BJP “is more than likely… to devote its energies to socio-cultural questions in its quest to turn India into a homogeneous nation,” it wrote. Nobody could claim that Modi’s economic policies of privatization and deregulation were working, after all. For example, unemployment went from 2% in 2011 to 6% in 2017.
However, the Indian working class has fought back. As Oaklandsocialist reported: “In the two biggest general strikes in world history, in September 2016 and then
again on 8th-9th of January 2019, 200 million workers, men and women, went on strike, marched and rallied throughout the length and breadth of the sub-continent. Ten trade union federations united to call the strike; only the BJP-affiliated “company union” federation opposed and tried to sabotage it.”In fact, on August 2, just three days before Modi sent the troops into Kashmir, the union federations organized a day of protest against Modi’s anti labor policies!
Jammu and Kashmir
Modi has presented the attack on Kashmiris as simply an attempt to modernize the region and open up its economy to investment, and that this will benefit the people in Jammu and Kashmir themselves. If that were so, then why did he have to send in 38,000 additional soldiers? Why did he have to in effect declare martial law there? And why did he have to cut off all telephone and internet communication there? His pretense is belied by the fact that just in the last few days, his troops relaxed its rules against street gatherings, immediately leading to mass protests, which then lead to his troops reimposing the prohibitions!
Up until now, the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has included the fact that non-Kashmiris are not allowed to own land there. One of the main goals of this invasion has been to reverse this. The intention is to follow the examples of Israel settlements in the West Bank, of resettlement of Han Chinese in Tibet as well as in Xinjaing, the traditional homeland of the Uyghur people.
The other goal is to open up these states to investment of Indian capitalism. As the NY times reports, “Already India’s richest industrialist, Mukesh Ambani, of Reliance Industries, has promised several ‘announcements’” regarding these states.
Water and the environment
Throughout the world, access to water is becoming both a serious problem as well as a weapon in national rivalries. Nowhere is this more true than in the rivalry between India and Pakistani capitalists. In 1948, India shut off a key irrigation canal flowing to Pakistan, causing major crop loss. This has not been forgotten.
Pakistan, the historic enemy of India, is largely dependent on the Indus River for its water. The headwaters of that river originate in the Himilayas, including in Kashmir. Over recent decades, damming of the many rivers in the Himalayas has been planned by all the nations in that region. Such dams have many problems, but that seems to be the plan anyway. It is entirely possible that once the central government of India gains control over Kashmir, they will try to dam some of the tributaries to the Indus, which would cause major problems for the people of Pakistan.
For a more thorough explanation of this issue, see this NY Times article.
US-Taliban negotiations in Afghanistan
The Trump administration has been negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This preparation for withdrawal of US troops would probably leave the Taliban either in a coalition government or as the government itself. With the Taliban’s close links with Pakistan, this would mean increased influence in Afghanistan for the Pakistani regime – a situation to be avoided at all costs according to the thinking of the Indian government.
As one commentator put it: “Barkha Dutt, a well-known Indian journalist and political commentator, suggested in a Washington Post opinions piece that India may be aiming to derail the negotiations in Doha, which will elevate Pakistan’s regional influence in Afghanistan if the Taliban are brought back to power and U.S. troops leave the country.”
India, Israel and nationalist oppression worldwide
A recent article in the Jerusalem Post talked about the “unwelcoming comments” from the critics of Netanyahu and Modi. “Ironically, in India and Israel both, the voices that represent those ideas – which have a long track record of violence, intolerance and domination – feel uncomfortable and often insecure with those ancient philosophies, which promote oneness, openness and universal good,” they wrote. They went on to praise the RSS as having “a track record of producing some of the most visionary political, social leaders and reformers in India, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.” They also referred positively to the RSS goal of a greater India based on the ancient Hindu culture.
This is exactly the goal of Netanyahu & Co., except his is based on (supposed) Jewish culture and traditions. Modi’s invasion of Jammu and Kashmir, thus, will give added impulse to a similar drive of Netanyahu. It will also add to the dreams of the recreation of the Ottoman Empire.
The RSS/BJP philosophy is a model for far right nationalist forces such as the AfD in Germany, Marine le Pen’s “National Rally” in France, the Italian “League” and a host of others.
This even includes outright fascist forces and individuals. For instance, the fascist terrorist murderer Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people at a leftist youth summer camp in Norway in 2011 is known to have been partly inspired by the RSS Hindutva dreams. The same article which reports that also commented: “But far from distancing himself from Breivik, former BJP Indian parliamentarian B.P. Singhal openly reveled in Breivik’s anti-Islamic cause.”
While the entire RSS may not be fascist, it has fascist elements within it, as do so many similar movements and, in fact, governments around the world. In fact, the drive against Indian “migrants” (read: Muslims) as well as the growing wave of assaults on Muslims in India recall the methods of fascism – mass terror against an oppressed group.
“One should not dismiss the odious statements from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its Sangh Parivar, and say that they are spewing venom. One should not dismiss Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s remark, at a rally, that Hindu and Muslim cultures cannot coexist, and the calls of another speaker at the same rally for Muslim women to be dug from their graves and raped,” wrote one Indian columnist. And Frontline commented “The situation in india today is characterised and manifested by creeping fascism.”
Clearly, the very fact that this magazine can openly write this means that India is not a fascist state. More important, the powerful Indian union movement stands as a barrier to fascism in India at this stage. Fascism, after all, means the complete smashing of all workers’ organizations and the atomization of the working class. Nothing anywhere near that has happened.
But what we are seeing around the world is the rise of racial, ethnic, religious nationalism. These movements may not be overtly fascist, but they do have fascist elements within them. The RSS and the political party which it spawned – the BJP – are included in this. Likewise for the Muslim nationalist forces, including those supported by the reactionary Pakistani regime.
Struggle against such oppression
There will be renewed struggle against Hindutva oppression in Kashmir. Until now, the role of guerrillaism and even terrorism has been prominent, while an attempt to link up with the wider Indian working class seems to be largely absent.
For the possible perspective of such resistance, we should look at similar movements against national oppression around the world.
One of the most prominent such struggle has been that of the Kurdish people, especially in Syria. There, the PYD has set up a semi-autonomous state in Northeast Syria. They have carried out some very positive steps, foremost among them widescale liberation of women. However, they have not taken a clear class position, and until now have relied on US troops for protection. Furthermore, from a de facto truce with the butcher Assad, in the face of the threats from Turkish troops, the PYD now seems to be moving towards an outright alliance. In the case of Kashmir, a similar role by the reactionary, bigoted Pakistani regime is likely.
The alternative: a mass workers international
As in India, as in the world, the degeneration of world capitalism is being expressed, among other things, through the increased racism, chauvinism, attacks on women, and bigotry in general. The door for this has been opened by the weakness of the workers mass organizations, first and foremost the mass workers parties. In India, such a party scarcely exists, if it exists at all.
This is doubly ironic given the recent strikes in India – strikes that must have involved both Hindu and Muslim workers. And who knows what discussions are now happening among exactly those workers? It is through these workers struggles and the discussions that must inevitably spring from them that the solution must be found – a renewed, international working class movement and a new, mass working class international.
Update: A few reporters were able to get into Kashmir and they have sent out this report of “Caged Kashmir”:
We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.
When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups….
There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?”….
All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid….
Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” – i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” – i.e is killed in custody – the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.”
Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
Read full report here.