Kashmir, Solidarity and the Canadian State

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1877 ... August 18, 2019

Kashmir, Solidarity and the Canadian State

In his essay, "India’s Kashmir Crackdown Poses Risk of War," John Riddell argues that India unilaterally revoked the autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, flooding the region with troops, imposing a curfew, and shutting down all communications, and imposing direct rule by New Delhi, India’s Hindu nationalist government, under the leadership of Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), radically increased the dangers of regional war. The Indian left immediately denounced the measures and called Jammu and Kashmir occupied territories (further drawing parallels to Occupied Palestine). In turn, this raised questions of international solidarity for the anti-war movement, and in Canada the demands to be placed on the Canadian state. Here Richard Fidler and John continue to discuss the Indian intervention into Kashmir and solidarity responses in Canada.

I agree entirely that Kashmir deserves our solidarity in the face of the Indian government’s repression and denial of its constitutional rights. However, I think we should be specific about what is meant by defense of Kashmir’s self-determination. In this... regard, I question some of what John says about Canada’s diplomatic role in the past concerning Kashmir.

The Kashmiri question is a product of the partition of the Indian subcontinent by Britain when it was finally forced to end its direct colonial control following World War II, in the face of a powerful independence movement. In a classic application of imperialist "divide and rule" politics, Britain established Pakistan in the predominantly Muslim territory, India in Hindu dominated territory. More than 550 princely states within colonial India that were not directly governed by Britain were to decide whether to join either of the new states or to remain independent.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had a majority Muslim population, was governed by Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu. Singh wanted independence for Kashmir. However, Pakistan pressured Kashmir to join it. Pro-Pakistani rebels, funded by Pakistan, took over much of western Kashmir. In September 1947, when Pashtun tribesmen from Pakistan invaded Kashmir, Singh sought military assistance from India. Upon the insistence of the British governor general Lord Mountbatten, India required the Maharaja to accede sovereignty to India before it could send troops. Although India granted partial autonomy to Kashmir -- now nullified arbitrarily by the Modi government -- it promised that the constitutional Instrument of Accession would later be submitted to a "reference to the people," who could "decide where Kashmiris want to live."

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