Many years ago, when I was still a naive high school student, I decided to write my final major research paper for my college-level history class on the historical underpinnings for the Indian and Pakistani occupations of Jammu & Kashmir. At the time I was a nascent Marxist but was still firmly wedded to Indian nationalism (my grandparents were part of the freedom struggle). A grand-uncle of mine was kind enough to help me do the research for the essay by taking me around town in the 40+ Celsius heat to find books that touched on the issue. I spent several weeks going through the literature and found my nationalist views Jammu & Kashmir were completely untenable: there was sufficient evidence that the Indian government provoked a Pakistani intervention and Muslim uprising by cutting promised supplies and monies (which were promised under the agreement to separate the region into India and Pakistan) which created the appropriate political crisis by which to pressure the Maharaja of Kashmir to cede the territory to the Indian union; that the Maharaja of Kashmir was hated by nearly the complete population for decades of religious intolerance, except for a small Hindu minority that benefited from having a Hindu king over a Muslim majority state, and did not represent the views of the majority of the population; that the peoples of Jammu & Kashmir, due to their demographic makeup, were not actually religiously or socially contiguous with either the Indian or Pakistani polities; and that the struggle for a free Jammu & Kashmir was historically as old as the struggle for a free India and that they wanted to be part of neither India or Pakistan (and thus I see ‘Azad Kashmir’ as being an equally abhorrent political entity). At the end of the several weeks I wrote my paper and submitted it to my uncle to read. He was furious. I didn’t know then that my uncle was a life-long member of the Indian fascist RSS and that he believed in the ‘integrity’ of the Indian state which included Kashmir. I was surprised by his reaction and realized that I held a position that many, if not most, Indians did not agree with. At the time I had yet to read the Comintern theses on National Liberation.
Fast forward. As an undergraduate student in Canada and was increasingly becoming involved in South-Asian activism again after having committed myself to the anti-war movement (the 2nd Iraq War) and Palestinian national liberation movement. A group of us formed a small group called the “South-Asian Political Forum” and started organizing events on the recent anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat and of course the national liberation struggle in Kashmir. It was clear to us, and to the larger Indian community in Canada and the USA, that the Hindu fascist BJP was being largely bankrolled by the Indian-American/Indian-Canadian communities and that it was our responsibility to explain to the community that the isolation we felt from our new countries of residence and from our homelands could not be overcome by simply becoming virulent Hindu nationalists. Again we were attacked for our views on these issues. However, by that time I had read the Roy-Lenin debates and the Comintern’s documents on national liberation and was supportive of the secular Marxist-led national liberation parties in Kashmir, like the erstwhile JKLF, rather than any of the Islamic groupings.
So let me be clear. In the light of the recent sedition charges that have been pressed against Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Arundhati Roy and others for their recent ‘anti-Indian’ speeches which recognized that the Kashmiri people are fighting for their right to self-determination and that the status of Kashmir is not as clear as the Indian establishment would suggest that it is. In light of recent months in which there has been a resurgence of a Kashmiri Intifada, as it were, that it is incumbent on us in the Indian/Indian-American/Indian-Canadian Left to take a stand. We must be unequivocal for our support for the people of Jammu & Kashmir to determine their own futures and have a right to secession from India and Pakistan if they so choose. Furthermore, we must recognize that this right is not simply enjoyed by the Kashmiri peoples but also by people in Baluchistan, Nagaland etc. I refuse to allow the Indian government to kill innocent peoples, under the guise of counter-insurgency, in my name or in the name of ‘internal law and order’. If this makes me anti-Indian then so be it. However, I do not believe that the struggle for freedom from the yoke of British imperialism allows us to then turn around and then oppress another people just because of some nationalist sentiment or myth-making (whilst everyone in India knowing in the back of their minds that the principal reason for the Indian and Pakistani occupation of Kashmir is a military-strategic one).
Long live the people of Jammu & Kashmir and their heroic national liberation struggle.