Kashmir Issue – A Brief Report on Solidarity Actions in Punjab: Jagmohan Singh

Guest Post by JAGMOHAN SINGH

Clear Message from the Revolutionary Democratic Movement in Punjab

We Firmly Stand with the People of Kashmir

Once again, Kashmir is boiling with rage. The pent-up anger of the people of Kashmir against their brutal oppression by the Indian security forces has erupted in powerful massive protests in the form of gatherings, demonstrations and skirmishes and clashes with these forces, in which more than 75 people have been killed, many blinded and more than thousand injured so far. It is more than 60 days now since the cold-blooded killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani by the security forces on 8th of July. Yet the anger of the people is finding no let-up. Brave Kashmiris are valiantly fighting against the atrocities and brutalities of the security forces. They are coming out on the roads time and again, in large numbers, caring little for the restrictions, curfews and even firings. They deserve our salute.

The just and righteous struggle of the people of Kashmir has gained support from variety of sections of the people world over. In India too, the reports of such solidarity actions supporting the Kashmiri people are pouring in. In Punjab also some such actions have taken place. The solidarity activity in Punjab, scattered over a wide area and taking different forms such as conventions, public meetings, demonstrations and other forms of mass-propaganda, was chiefly organized by the communist revolutionary, revolutionary democratic and other pro-people forces active in the state. Almost all the sections of society such as peasants, workers, employees, intellectuals, students and youth participated in these solidarity actions; especially the leading sections and front rank activists and fighters of the revolutionary democratic movement of the state participated in considerable numbers and with a marked conviction.

As a result of this entire activity by different sections of revolutionary democratic movement of Punjab, a clear message has emerged in support of the people of Kashmir. The voice has been raised not only against the brutal treatment meted out to the people of Kashmir by the armed forces, but also against the tyrannical and despotic political stance of the Indian rulers and in favor of the right to self-determination of the nation. The movement of Punjab, thus, could be seen standing resolutely by the side of the people of Kashmir.

Here is a brief report (with a note that more of such activities are still on the calendar):

  • First among the series of solidarity actions is a state level convention, organized jointly by four revolutionary organizations i.e. CPI(ML) New-Democracy, Inquilabi Kendra Punjab, Lok Sangram Manch and Lok Sangram Manch (RDF) and held in the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Jalandhar. The convention was attended by around 300 hundred participants from all over the Punjab. Com. Darshan Khatkar, com. Mukhtiar Poohla, com. Balwant Makhu and com. Rajesh Malhotra were the speakers who discussed the issue of Kashmir, its historical perspective, the struggle of the people of Kashmir, their right to self-determination and the AFSPA at length. The convention demanded the Indian armed forces be removed from Kashmir, democratic atmosphere be created and the right to self-determination be exercised. At the end a protest march was also in the city. Another organization, namely CPRCI(ML) sent a solidarity letter to the convention wherein the organization expressed its solidarity with the cause of the convention. It also appreciated the fact that the convention was organized jointly by three revolutionary organizations of Punjab and pointed out the scope and need for more joint activities.
  • The state committee of Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR) called upon its units to raise a voice in support of the Kashmiri people in one or the other form. Following the call, the Bathinda district committee of AFDR, with support of the mass-organizations of peasants, land laborers, students, youth and electricity employees, organized a district level convention. The convention was attended by around 350 participants including peasants, land laborers, noted intellectuals and democratic activists of the area, youth and students, including few Kashmiri students from locally situated Central University. It is worth mentioning that 30 of the peasant and land-labor activists performed the role of vigilantes to prevent any possibility of disruption or provocation all through the proceedings.

The original main speaker – Sh. Gautam Navlakha – could not make it to the convention for health reasons. The convention was thus addressed by other two speakers Sh. Narbhinder, state committee member of AFDR and Sh. Parminder Singh, one of the founding members of AFDR and member of its state secretariat presently. Sh. Narbhinder explained the historical context of the Kashmir problem, and Dr. Parminder built his speech around the conception of the very roots of democracy i.e. the people have the right to decide their own fate. Suppressing any nationality, he said, against its will, in the name of integrity of a country is anti-democratic. The right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir is their democratic right. The democratic character of each and every person and institution will now be tested on the grounds whether or not it raised a voice to support the people of Kashmir. The government of India is trampling down not only this right of the Kashmiri people but also the constitutional rights to raise a voice, to assemble and even to live. The expansionist designs of Indian and Pakistani governments have thrown the Kashmiri people in grave peril.

The convention demanded that the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people must be ensured; AFSPA and other black laws should be repealed; restrictions on media should be revoked; attacks on democratic activities and organizations upholding rights of the Kashmiri people should be stopped. Apart from this the convention condemned the communal fascist atmosphere being created against the religious minorities, dalits and adivasis in the country. A silent protest march with eye-catching placards and posters was also held in the end.

  • Lok Morcha Punjab (LMP) gave a call to hold a gathering on the issue of Kashmir in Lambi region (home constituency of CM Parkash Singh Badal, an alliance partner of ruling BJP) of Muktsar district. Supported by the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (PKMU), the convention was attended by around 250 land laborers, including 125 women and considerable number of youth participants. Sh. N. K. Jeet, state advisor of LMP and Sh. Pavel Kussa, state secretary of Naujwan Bharat Sabha addressed the gathering.  The convention started with a homage to Nanak Singh, the deceased leader of PKMU. During his speech, Sh. N. K. Jeet threw light on the perilous condition of the people of Kashmir under the brutal attack of the Indian armed forces. Curfews, killings, beatings, arrests, pellet guns, clashes and mourning assemblies have become a norm of the day in Kashmir. Touching upon the historical aspect of the Kashmir issue he said the accession of Kashmir in 1947 was only an ad hoc arrangement under certain conditions – including the condition of holding a referendum. But the Indian rulers had gradually violated all the conditions and occupied the territory permanently. Sh. Pavel Kussa told about why the struggling people of Punjab and India must support the people of Kashmir as both are fighting, in one way or the other, against the feudal-imperialist subjugation of their lives, livelihoods and lands. This is, he explained, the common cord between the struggle of the two. The struggle of the people of Kashmir for self-determination could only succeed by becoming part and parcel of the struggle of the toiling people of India against the feudal and imperialist exploitation.

Another convention was organized in Samrala by Lok Morcha Punjab. It was addressed by LMP’s state secretary Sh. Jagmail Singh and attended by around 100 participants.

  • Punjab Students Union (Lalkaar) and Democratic Students Organization, organized a successful rally at Punjabi University (one of the reputed universities in Punjab) against the atrocities being committed upon the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the confrontation with the Hindu fanatical organizations, the heavy pressure from the police to draw back the proposed demonstration and warnings against the programme from the University authorities, students did not relent. A gathering of 150-200 students was addressed by the leaders of both the student organizations. The participant students were upholding posters demanding the restoration of democratic rights and condemning the atrocities let loose upon the people of Kashmir. While addressing the rally Gurpreet of Punjab Students Union (Lalkaar) said that the Hindu fanatical organizations who were blaming us for vitiating the atmosphere were themselves doing so. He said that the acts like curfew, PSA and AFSPA must be opposed along with the atrocity of every kind.

Hardeep, speaking on behalf of Democratic Students Organization said the issue of Kashmir has been getting along with India since 1947 and Kashmir was being crushed between the interests of India and Pakistan. The government of India had never taken the issue of peace in Kashmir seriously. The sole solution of the tangle of Kashmir is that all the people living in all parts of Kashmir occupied by India as well as Pakistan must be given the right to vote to decide their future, which was promised by Nehru.

After the leaders concluded their speeches, the students present there showed their resentment by observing silence with their faces covered with black strips. The resentment was to show solidarity with Kashmir and against the attempts by the police administration to suppress their voice in favor of the truth, rights and justice. Releasing press notes, these organizations also said that it was thoroughly and unconstitutionally a wrong manner in which the University was turned into a police cantonment. And it was done under the concealed plot of suppressing their voice. The other organizations of the students like AISF and SFI also turned around there and SFI also issued a press note condemning the plot and suppression of the students’ voice.

Earlier, a kind of propaganda campaign was organized by PSU (Lalkaar) during which the issue of Kashmir was highlighted among the campus students through 100-125 wall posters and “an open discussion” on the issue, attended by 40-45 students.

  • Another students organization namely Punjab Students Union, also undertook an agitational propaganda campaign on the issue of Kashmir in few of the schools and colleges of the State. During this campaign, around half a dozen public meetings, with considerable number of students were held. The institutions where the meeting were held are Govt. senior secondary schools at Nanga and Takhanwadh villages of Moga, ITI Moga, Govt. Barjindra College Faridkot and Govt. College Muktsar.
  • A small gathering of around 15 youth workers was held in the Mazdoor Hall, in the industrial city Ludhiana by Naujwan Bharat Sabha.
  • Apart from the above mentioned activities directly organized on the issue of Kashmir, the issue was prominently discussed during some other conventions also. In a convention, organized by the AFDR and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Vichar Manch, on the issue of “the injustice to minorities and the rising intolerance in the country”, at Punjabi Bhavan Ludhiana, Umar Khalid, the student leader from JNU expressed concerns over the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir. He said “The aspirations of Kashmiri people need to be brought to the centre stage rather than using pellet guns against them.” He termed the recent killings of civilians in J&K as extrajudicial killing. “Our struggle is against the oppression meted out to the lesser privileged, Dalits, Adivasis and civilians of Jammu and Kashmir,” added Khalid. “We are supporting Kashmiris for their sake, we are supporting them for our sake, as we know their fight for independence is actually our fight for independence”. It is the people, according to him, who should be deciding about what kind of “aazadi” they want.
  • Again, in a convention on “The Adivasi Struggles and Democratic Rights”, the issue of Kashmir was discussed by Umar Khalid, the main speaker. The convention called by Lok Sangram Manch and attended by around 200 people. Speaking about real democracy Khalid said “we ought to decide what type of freedom be accepted – the hollow illusion of freedom as preached from the Red Fort or the real freedom being created through struggles”. He also declared that “There is no army in the world which can suppress aspirations of the people…. Kashmiri people are independent as their aspirations are alive.”

In another convention organized by Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Nivedita Menon, a renowned professor of political thought from JNU and the chief speaker, also spoke about the Kashmir issue. She said “…it is the citizens of the land who make a nation. We cannot make any part of country an integral part forcefully at gunpoint.” She asked in an ironical tone to try removing military and AFSPA from Kashmir if the claims of its being an integral part of India are true.

Last but not the least, this entire solidarity activity was done in face of a possible act of disruption, provocation or mischief by rogue elements – pertaining to the feverish attempts on the part of the Indian rulers for utilizing the Kashmir issue to provoke the national chauvinistic feelings and gain some political mileage. This fact has its own significance. Through this activity is also expressed the common bond between the people struggling against the different forms of feudal-imperialist oppression and exploitation. The response that this activity gained has clearly shown that ample possibilities are still present for further joint or co-ordinated activities on a wider plane which need to be realized.

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