India’s left takes to the streets against government’s assault on Kashmir

Hundreds of party members and activists protested in New Delhi and other parts of the country against the BJP government’s decision to abrogate a constitutional provision that protected the autonomy of the State of Jammu and Kashmir

August 07, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
India's left takes to the streets against government's assault on Kashmir
The protesters also condemned the repression being unleashed in Kashmir currently. Photo: V. Arun Kumar

Left parties in India are strongly resisting the government’s decision to repeal large parts of Article 370 of the constitution (which granted special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir) and break up the State into two union territories. On August 7, hundreds of party members and activists took to the streets  to protest the decisions, as well as the massive repression unleashed in Kashmir by the Indian government. Kashmir is under curfew and a complete communications blackout.

The main protest was held in New Delhi following a call given by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M), the Communist Party of India CPI and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation, CPI(ML), along with their affiliated organizations. Similar protests were held in the States of Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

Many students and residents of Kashmir, who participated in the protest, spoke of their anxieties over the crackdown in the State. Tabinda, a professional who works in Delhi, told NewsClick: “We haven’t slept in over three days. We are not able to contact our families. We have no idea as to what they are being told and if they are even aware that our constitutional right and the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir has been taken away in a few minutes by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government without even consulting the stakeholders from the State.”

The proposal to abolish Article 370 and a bill to break up the State was introduced by home minister Amit Shah of the far-right BJP on August 5 without any consultation with the people and leaders of Kashmir or the opposition parties in India. Article 370 and its related provisions protected the autonomy of Kashmir and the rights of its people. The scrapping of this provision has been on the agenda of the Hindu right-wing for decades as it would set the stage for a demographic transition of Kashmir, which is Muslim-dominated. The proposals moved by the government were passed in both the houses of parliament in two days and a notification to the same was released by the president on Wednesday, the third day. Ahead of the announcement by the government, over 35,000 troops were rushed to Jammu and Kashmir, curfew was imposed, and mobile and internet services were snapped to prevent any resistance in the region. The developments were also accompanied by an outburst of jingoism across the country.

The parties of the left have been among the forces actively resisting this move of the far-right government. Speaking to NewsClick, Brinda Karat, politburo member of the CPI(M), said, “The BJP is trying to package this move as one that connects people of Kashmir to the rest of the country. The truth is that the BJP has crushed the voice of ordinary Kashmiris [by] imposing a complete shutdown in the State and shrouding the process in complete secrecy from the common people, whose lives are deeply impacted by this decision.”

Activists view the abrogation of the constitutional provision as an attempt by the BJP and its ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to create a Hindu country, where members of other religions are second-class citizens. Marching in Delhi, social rights activist Syeda Hameed said, “The move is a deliberate slap in the face of secularism in India. As someone born in Kashmir, this move is one that is deeply disturbing and one that is triggering anxieties across India. It is clear that the BJP is targeting the minorities through all of its moves, by finding legal loopholes.”

Speaking to NewsClick, Annie Raja of the CPI said, “The Left parties have come together today yet again to fight the politics of hate and the jingoism that is being fueled by this move, which was in complete violation of the parliamentary process.”

(With inputs from NewsClick)