Kashmir bleeds in virulent crossfire

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Lal Khan
The intensified shelling by the two nuclear-armed neighbours across the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday dangerously escalated the situation in Kashmir. An Indian mortar shell hit a passenger bus in the Pakistani administrated Kashmir near Muzaffarabad, killing 10 civilians while leaving 21 seriously injured. In addition, three army personnel lost their lives. A local administration official, Sardar Waheed, told reporters that the insistent firing had even prevented ambulances from reaching the injured. This shelling occurred only a day after India had said that three of its soldiers were killed and mutilated, threatening of “retribution”. Crossfire has increased since the attack on an Indian army base on September 18, 2016. India had then accused Islamic terrorist outfits of carrying out the attack, also blaming the Pakistani state agencies to have orchestrated it. The ruling elites of Pakistan and India have already imposed three wars on the oppressed masses of this region since the bloody partition, which was engineered by the British in 1947. On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khawaja Asif, said that this escalation was unsustainable and could lead to a catastrophic war. However, an extraordinary contact between this front’s rival military commanders called for restraint, indicating that the full-scale war was not on their agenda, as usual. This reluctant retreat proves the fact that the ruling elite can neither go to an all out war nor ever sustain durable peace and prosperity for one-fifth of the humanity that inhabits this South Asian subcontinent.The present escalation is due to the Indian state’s failure in crushing the indigenous uprising of the Kashmiri youth and toilers that had begun in early July. Modi regime’s accusations of foreign terrorist infiltration are nothing new. These claims by India that are met by denials from Pakistan are an ongoing exercise since many decades. If anything, the reality is that the infiltration of religious fanatics and foreign agents only undermines the Kashmiri movement. Such acts of intrusion are used as excuses for the intensification of state’s brutalities but, more importantly, these reactionary streaks within and from outside Kashmir tend to break the unity of the struggle by splitting it along the religious and sectarian lines. The reactionary ruling elites use them to control and restrict movements within the confines of their vested interests garbed in religious, ethnic and nationalistic ideological formations.The movement in Kashmir is a genuine struggle spearheaded by students and the youth to attain their social, economic, national and cultural liberation. The movement had begun on a massive scale in 1987. The apparent religious overtones are, in fact, a backlash against the anti-Muslim vicious crusades of the Hindutva activists and organisations like the RSS and Shiv Sena ever since Modi’s advent to power. Despite the Pakistani and the Indian media’s attempts to artificially impose religious prejudices, it is basically a people’s movement against deprivation and oppression. Even the right wing Hurriyat Conference leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, vehemently rejected allegations of this being a religiously motivated upsurge.The subcontinent’s belligerent capitalist states have been acting as colonial masters in Kashmir among other oppressed classes and nationalities of the region. Kashmiris are perhaps in the forefront of this struggle. The repression of the mighty and blinkered Indian state is ferocious and remorseless. There have been several protests against this oppression of the Kashmiris throughout India. Artists, writers, literary figures, left parties, students, worker organisations and progressive intelligentsia amongst other sections of the society have protested and dissented against these acts of India’s state violence in the valley. Most significant was the one launched by the communist-led students union of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. It quivered the establishment and the Modi regime. Its impacts inspired similar student protests in eighteen universities and many other educational institutions in India against the regime’s tyranny in Kashmir. Because of the so-called prestigious status of the JNU, the media was compelled to give a greater coverage to this students protest and revolt.The Indian scholar, Pankaj Mishra, wrote in 2010, “Once known for its extraordinary beauty, the valley of Kashmir now hosts the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killings fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet.” The horrid nature of the Indian regime, system and the state was exposed by Goldie Osuri in an article in Aljazeera, “When is an occupation not an occupation? When it is executed by one of the world’s largest markets? When is a butcher not a butcher? When he is a prime minister; or when he is an ally? …We live in a time when nation-states overtly commit war crimes, are cheered on by bloodthirsty majoritarian citizens, and literally get away with murder. The word democracy glitters like fool’s gold on the tongues of world leaders. Human rights regimes seem toothless in the face of the bold barbarisms of nation-states invested in repressing democracy, and need reform if they are to deliver justice.”Multifaceted protests are being carried out across the LoC, in Pakistan. The state seems to be unnerved by the protests and support for the movement by the progressive forces here. Pakistani media only covers the manifestations of religious parties and pro-establishment Kashmiri politicians. The real protests of the Kashmiri people are being spearheaded by the progressive students, led by JKNSF, youth and ordinary Kashmiris, who inhabit this part of the territory and abroad. However, they are completely ignored and contemptuously obscured by the corporate and state media. Kashmir is at the crossroads. The increased war hysteria and border skirmishes expose the intense and aggravating social and economic crises, which are destabilising the ruling classes, their system and these belligerent states. It is the reflection of the rotten nature of capitalism and the obsoleteness of the social and political systems that cannot develop the society any longer. This renewed struggle of the Kashmiri youth has lit a torch of hope and revolution for the students and toilers not only in India but also those struggling in Pakistan and elsewhere for salvaging their lives from this suffering and deprivation.