The Strategy of Inaction

Despite continuing army barbarity, despite much of the Left’s failure of solidarity, Kashmir has been the test of Left politics. More and more people are realising the political bankruptcy of the Left. The dilemma that is Indian Left is nowhere so naked as in Kashmir. What has been happening in the Valley of Death—Kashmir—since April 12 is something the people of Kashmir have had to face whenever they take to the streets in protest against army atrocities and injustice, for their democratic rights. Voice against the mighty military means bullet. The armed forces fire upon unarmed civilians at the slightest pretext as in the case of April 12 when the army units deployed in Handwara in Kashmir opened indiscriminate fire on protesters—men, women and children—who were in the streets to protest against violation of women’s dignity by army jawans. Two youths were killed in the unprovoked firing. As the army responded to the surging protest demonstration that was spreading like wild fire, three more people, including a woman, died. The Left simply ignores this barbaric act of the army—they are more busy in exposing communal face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The army stands for state terrorism in Kashmir and it has created some of the most brutally inhuman conditions the people of Kashmir are facing today, notwithstanding a civilian government—a coalition government of regional PDP and BJP—in Srinagar.

Thousands of youth have simply been declared ‘‘disappeared’’. Third degree torture, extra-judicial killings, rape, rather mass rape, mass graves and enforced ‘‘disappearances’’ by the security establishment in Kashmir have been the norm for decades. As for the ‘disappeared’ Kashmir may now rival Guatemala. What finally matters in the lives of the people of Kashmir is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)—Kashimiri lives don’t really matter to the ruling elites, civilian or otherwise. In essence it is the rule of the Centre, they rule through AFSPA, because the army is not accountable to any elected government in the state for its misdeeds. Against the backdrop of Kashmir agitation in which anti-Indian slogans are frequently raised by agitationits to vent their anger against the de facto army rule, the BJP is now tactfully trying to trap the Opposition into the motivated, if not misplaced, debate of ‘nationalism’, their dubious yardstick to measure one’s patriotism, in premier academic institutions in the country.

Left secularists like their communal counterparts don’t organise solidarity movement in support of anti-AFSPA struggle by the people of Kashmir. They are afraid to be identified with anti-army voice of the voiceless in Kashmir, lest they are branded as anti-national. They maintain an ‘‘ostrich–like attitudes’’ even towards stone-pelting students as if they have nothing to do in case of gross violation of law by law enforcing agencies, as things happen in Kashmir. Even by conservative estimates 80,000 people have lost their lives in this Kashmir imbroglio in the past twenty-six years, not to speak of hundreds of thousands of ruined families who will never be able to live with dignity. And there is no let up in body counts because the army won’t allow the people to live in peace and harmony.

It’s easy to grill the BJP for communal violence and earn comfort of being called ‘progressive’ without doing anything concrete, but it is not that easy to attack the same BJP for army atrocities in Kashmir. In a sense all the so-called mainstream parties, secular and communal alike, are alienated from the masses of Kashmir. Again it is easy to demand democracy in Bengal and Bihar but it is equally difficult to fight for democratic rights of Kashmiris. In truth, leftists—or for that matter communists of all shades, would like to distance themselves from the struggle against the army rule in the valley. In other words they too are party to the crime—crime against humanity.

Also, these leftists are too clever by half—by continually locating communalism in BJP they just sidetrack the real issues that affect ordinary people in their daily precarious existence. Given the situation of anguish everywhere across the country, fight against communalism makes little sense unless they launch movement against ‘development’ pursued forcefully by the BJP government in Kashmir as also in the Northeast. Ironically, their ‘scientific socialism’ doesn’t see danger in anti-scientific ‘development’ projects executed under the bayonet of security forces. Most river projects funded by the World Bank and its affiliates are anti-people and yet, the Left in India never feels any urgency to initiate relentless struggle against such projects. Inter-linking rivers is not feasible even from the techno-economic point of view but the persons in authority are hell bent on implementing this notorious plan while the Left just looks on, without giving any weight to the issue, albeit it will be disastrous for present generation and future generation as well, if they get their way. The idea was first conceived in India in 1992 and vested interests continue to create grand illusion around inter-linking rivers.

Inter-linking apart, hydel power stations stretching from east to west in the Himalayan region, have become a new nightmare for the hilly people. What happened recently in Arunachal Pradesh may be repeated across the Himalayas because the Centre is determined to dam every stream, big or small in the Himalayan region. On May 2, 2016, two people, namely Monk Nyima Wangdue and Tshening Tenpa, were killed and many injured in police firing, while protesting against the arrest of Lama Lobsang Gyatso, one of the most vocal opponents of hydro power projects in Arunachal state’s Tawang region. Lama was leading the ‘anti-dam, anti-hydro power’ protest movement under the banner of Save Mon Region Federation, basically an organisation of the Monpa community in the Mon-Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh. It’s not known, whether it’s India’s answer to China’s massive damming programme across the Brahmaputra in Tibet. Of the 100 hydel projects planned by Arunachal Pradesh 13 are in Tawang. They are building these destructive dams and power projects against the law of the land. The National Green Tribunal refused to grant environmental clearance for the 6400 crore Nyamrangchuu Hydro Power Project in Tawang, promoted by the Noida-based steel conglomerate LNJ Bhilwara group. In short these hydel projects and dams will ruin the livelihood and social system of the Monpa tribal community completely. The question of survival has reached such a pass that even Buddhist monks are leading the anti-hydro power agitation from the front.

They don’t fight against AFSPA and yet they think they could improve democratic culture in Kashmir by issuing harmless press statements. They don’t support people against disastrous ‘development’ projects, as in Arunachal Pradesh and yet they think they could spread their sphere of influence among the most oppressed—their professed constituency.

Vol. 48, No. 46, May 22 - 28, 2016