Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

France: 2nd Congress of NPA debates

Tribune of 4 positions (January 6th)

The New Anticapitalist Party of France (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste) is  the major far left organization in France. Originally formed at the initiative of the LCR, the most important section of the Fourth International, it is a major regroupment initiative bringing together not just a large number of Trotskyists, but also forces not associated with Trotskyism. Its founding Congress saw the Party having about 9200 members, far larger than the LCR. Its principal spokesperson has been Olivier Besancenot,) From 12 February, the NPA has begun its Second Congress.  This is the fourth brief summary of the NPA's ongoing pre-Congress debate posted on the NPA website. The four positions are those of the four tendencies which have presented documents on the political situation and on the orientation and construction of the NPA for the congress. Translated from the French by Giselle Gerolami

Position 1

Let nothing go...from NPA's initial project

The social movement from the fall suffered a legislative defeat on the retirement issue. But it won the battle for ideas. The policies of the rich and their implementation are becoming more bitter to make the working class pay for the crisis. But millions of the victims of these policies have lucidly resisted. It's a point of support to pursue the largest resistance possible. There is also a stake in expressing a clear political orientation. Whereas mobilizations rise in Europe as well as the stakes involved in the depth of the crisis, it is necessary to rally those who refuse to resign themselves to the austerity measures driven by the right as well as the left, those who want an anti-capitalist and ecosocialist rupture from Athens to Tunis, from Lisbon to Paris.
This is the orientation of Position 1 combining radical social struggles, united vitality and steadfastness in the requirement of independence vis-a-vis the liberal left. The road that separates us from decisive victories for our social camp is long and difficult. It is this that the comrades from P2 and P3 are underestimating; each in their own way is proposing shortcuts.

The P2 comrades denounce the record described as electoralist of the outgoing majority, forgetting at the outset that the NPA as a whole went through its baptism by fire last fall.  They are demanding a "purity" as if being harder on the rest of the political, trade union and community left could erase the difficulties we are confronted with.  The consequence of this isolationist option would put us in great difficulty. The P2 comrades in the outgoing Conseil politique national (CPN)  have fought against signing the Copernic Appeal, something which would have left us on the outside of the series of meetings that resulted from that.  Is that reasonable?

The P3 comrades insist on the lack of focus in struggling with the presumed partner, the Front de gauche. As if you can paint the program and strategy of the PCF/PG red. The comrades are however aware of the divergences that were expressed in the social movement. It would be audacious to pretend that the Front de gauche has broken with the PS and social liberal politics. Contrary to what they sometimes announced during the regional campaigns, don't the elected members of PCF/PG/GU vote social liberal budgets in the regions led by unions of the left?

The shortcuts proposed by P2 and P3 are really deadends. Without sectarianism, with opportunism, let's affirm with P1 the will to let nothing go...from the NPA's initial project.

Position 2

Faced with the crisis, a party for the overturning of capitalism

It's unfortunately more and more of a hypothesis from which we must draw all consequences: the worst of the crisis is ahead of us. After Greece and Ireland, the debt crisis could touch Portugal, Spain, the point that the euro and the EU will be brought into question. The politics of austerity are worsening on a continental level which could make the coming year a dramatic one for the working world.

At the same time, we are beginning to see the first reactions. The popular mobilizations are multiplying at this level. In France, the working class by coming back on the scene, has given the period an anti-capitalist tone. Beyond the question of retirements, it's the refusal to pay for the crisis which has been expressed. Through the high school mobilizations is the question of a whole generation's future which has been set. The retirement struggle is not over in the sense that it can rebound in more than one way, in more than one place and constitute a step in a general and longer lasting movement in the reconstruction of a working class political consciousness.

It's in any case from this perspective that we should draw choices for the NPA. It is possible to overcome the crisis we have known, notably during the regional elections, linked to the fact that there remain many illusions about the possibilities that elections offer.  The two years we've lived since the foundation of the NPA have brought forth concerns and questions about the orientations and functioning of the past as well as the future. To overcome these concerns and move forward collectively, we must continue to discuss everything, our record and our orientations in the struggles.

This is why the party needs to deepen and clarify the politics that have belonged to it since its foundation, politics for the overturning of capitalism, for breaking with the institutions, independent of the PS and its affiliates, and most of all that address workers directly, supporting the needs and aspirations and the consciousness of that base which seeks to resist attacks at the same time it seeks the path of its own emancipation.
More than ever, the construction of a revolutionary, anti-capitalist party is a necessity in the current period.

Position 3

What wishes for 2011!

First of all, we don't want to endure a fifth year of the reign of the monarch who is deriding us. Kärcher (Sarkozy) first and his affiliates, Marine Hortefeux (an amalgamation of the names of the anti-immigrant Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and National Front Vice-President Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen) and his hordes of hate, out with them all and without delay.  So many retorts and low blows that stir up anger...After the theft of two years of retirement breaking into our lives, the announced social security heist to further strain solidarity! 2011 needs to sound the defeat of a political power indecently imbedded with business. To put them out of their misery, we know - and last fall reminded us - that we need a gathering of forces for a social movement that is radical as well as unified...

Our second wish relates to the hope generated by the Appel de Montreuil launched Feb. 13 at the end of the NPA Congress. The message clearly affirms that faced with social, political and ecological urgency, the NPA won't cultivate its isolation, that, on the contrary, it is calling for a regrouping of all social, political and community forces, of all militants who reject the inevitability of capitalism and who have the will to transform society. The content of this rupture with capitalism can remain up for debate if we agree on the urgent measures which radically challenge the social liberal changeover proposed by  the PS...To concretize the alternative to the changeover, we need to sustain the struggle carried out in the fall to maintain retirement at 60 years with full benefits which generated such interprofessional solidarity into a regrouping, a social and political front for the struggles and the elections. For the presidential election, the Appel de Montreuil proposes a united candidacy recognized by the social movement that can regroup beyond partisan interests.

The third wish relates to the NPA. Building a new political culture is a difficult challenge especially if we don't confront the different political cultures, "openness" being cantonized in little groups coming from the Trotskyist far left. The openness of the NPA to other traditions, to the social, trade union and community movements should compensate for this difficulty. We need new confrontations in order to build a party of struggle against all forms of oppression that intersect in society and that refract in the organization, to create a collective that is owned at the same time by each and by all.
May the year 2011 be the one where the project of a large, open, pluralist and united party can be put back on track!

Position 4

A revolutionary party for workers in struggle

The events of the fall have changed the equation. Certainly, the government was able to impose its reform with the collaboration of the trade union leadership who blocked the lead up to the general strike. However, the new fact is the awakening of class consciousness which puts the reconstruction of a working class movement on the agenda at the moment where the crisis of capitalism makes the radicalization of class struggle inevitable.
Our party came ill prepared for this confrontation. In our opinion, the ambiguities of the founding principles, proposing the construction of a party without clear class delimitation and refusing to draw the line between reform and revolution are at the heart of our weak establishment in the big working class bastions as well as the constant tailism of the outgoing leadership with regard to reformists.

The NPA needs to make a radical turn. We are not for building an electoralist party but a working class, revolutionary party forged in the class struggle, integrating the most radical elements from the new generation which is emerging.

As to Melenchon's project of electoral revolution, we should oppose a strategy to win, but support the revolutionary mobilization of workers and the constitution of their own government which will expropriate the capitalists, destroy the bourgeois state and build a socialist society by democratic planning of the economy.

To the treasons and days of actions without perspective of the trade union leadership, we oppose a policy of workers united front which will help the class have its experience with the former as we put all our forces into the struggles to develop self-organization (strike committees, Interpro), into the convergence of struggles and the general strike. We will fight at the same time in the unions for a cross-union workers' current.

To the capitalist crisis, we oppose a transitional program inherited from the Fourth International, linking immediate demands to the objective of workers power. It is only by doing this that the NPA can attract the most combative elements from the fall and constitute itself as a revolutionary  workers alternative to the trade union leadership and reformist parties. It will help the working class break with the spiral of defeats and advance towards its emancipation.

The Egyptian Mirror

The Egyptian mirror

By Glenn Greenwald

President Barack Obama meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the White House last September.
(updated below)

One of the most revealing journalistic genres is the effort by establishment media outlets to explain to their American audiences why Those Other Countries -- usually in the Middle East -- are so bad and awful and plagued by severe political and societal corruption (see here and here for examples).  This morning, The New York Times has a classic entry, as it unironically details how Egypt is a cesspool of oligarchical favoritism and self-dealing.  The article focuses on Ahmed Ezz, a close friend of Hosni Mubarak's son who has exploited his political connections to corner much of the nation's steel market, triggering growing resentment by the public.  Along the way, we learn several disturbing things about Egypt, including this:
For many years, Mr. Ezz has represented the intersection of money, politics and power . . . . Public resentment at the wealth acquired by the politically powerful helped propel the uprising already reshaping the contours of power along the Nile. . . . Hosni Mubarak's Egypt has long functioned as a state where wealth bought political power and political power bought great wealth.
Can you believe that "in Hosni Mubarak's Egypt," private wealth translates into great political power and vice-versa?  What is it like, wonders the curious and concerned Times reader, to live in a country like that?  No wonder there's an uprising.
How many American politicians with a national platform over the last thirty years have failed to convert their political standing into great personal wealth?  Perhaps only those who began their political careers with great wealth.  Ex-Presidents and their wives and top aides are routinely lavished with many millions of dollars from media companies and other corporations for books, speeches and other services (Obama didn't even wait to become President to capitalize on his political celebrity), while a large portion of ex-members of Congress and administration officials with any real power feed at the trough of corporate largesse in exchange for peddling their influence.  It would literally be impossible to list all the top officials from both parties who have quickly converted their political influence into vast personal wealth over the past two decades; it'd be much quicker to list the few who haven't.
And that's to say nothing of the virtually limitless political power automatically wielded by those with great  private wealth, who own America's government institutions and literally write most of its laws.  As the NYT taught us today, "Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt has long functioned as a state where wealth bought political power and political power bought great wealth."  We also learn this about Egypt:
While hard facts are difficult to come by, Egyptians watching the rise of a moneyed class widely believe that self-dealing, crony capitalism and corruption are endemic, represented in the public eye by a group of rich businessmen aligned with Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son, as well as key government ministers and governing party members. . . . On paper, the changes [in the 1990s] transformed an almost entirely state-controlled economic system to a predominantly free-market one. In practice, though, a form of crony capitalism emerged, according to Egyptian and foreign experts.
So apparently, what happens in Egypt is that they pretend to have a free-market economic system, but in reality, the very rich are able to influence the government for special favors that enhance their private-sector wealth and power.  How could the people there have put up with that for so long?  But it gets worse:
Exacerbating tensions, Egypt's oligarchs flaunted their wealth. They built grandiose homes in the desert outside Cairo and along the country’s coasts. They drove brand-new Mercedes-Benzes down derelict Cairo streets with police escorts.
A tiny segment of the population not only becomes wealthier as a result of its political influence, but increasingly flaunts that wealth while the vast majority of the nation suffers.  No country could possibly sustain political stability for long under those conditions.  Worse still, the entrenched inequality extends (in Egypt) to the legal sphere as well:
Over the next few years, as Mr. Ezz took on important responsibilities in the governing party, allegations mounted that he was using his position to enrich himself and defend his near-monopoly on the steel business. Professor Selim said complaints brought against Mr. Ezz with the Egyptian Competition Authority were dismissed . . . Even without formal sanctions, the public took a dim view of Mr. Ezz’s business dealings, which were faulted -- rightly or wrongly -- as raising construction costs in Egypt. . . . Political analysts said that the focus of investigations now, including Mr. Ezz, is at best selective, intended not to punish corruption, but to address public grievances without actually changing the system.
Even the most flagrant corruption and illegality result in no accountability for the Egyptian elite.  Still, public anger at least results in some prosecutions against rich and well-connected people such as Ezz, but when that happens, it's designed only to placate public rage in order to preserve the system of entitlements and prerogatives, not to change it.  With a status-quo-perpetuating system of justice like that (over there in Egypt), the only wonder is that it took this long for them to rise up.  Thankfully, Times readers don't live in a country were such endemic problems reign.
* * * * *
None of this is to say that such matters are not newsworthy when they take place in other countries; they are.  And obviously the domestic political repression in Egypt does not compare to what one finds in the U.S.  But there are two points about these types of articles worth making.
The first is that they have the effect of manufacturing the appearance that such problems exist only Over There, but not here.  One would never, ever find in The New York Times such a sweeping denunciation of the plutocratic corruption and merger of private wealth and political power that shapes most of America's political culture.  Just like "torture"-- which that paper has no trouble declaring is used by Egypt's government but will never say is used by ours -- such systematic corruption can exist only elsewhere, but never in America.   That's how this genre of Look Over There reporting is not just incomplete but outright misleading:  it actively creates the impression that such conditions are found only in those Primitive Foreign Places, but not here.
The second point is how adeptly the media morality narrative has been managed from the start of the Egypt crisis.  Any foreign story that interests the American media for more than a day requires clear villains and heroes.   What made the Egypt story so rare is that the designated foreign villains are usually first separated from the U.S. before being turned into demons; it's fine to vilify those whom we have steadfastly supported provided the support is a matter of the past and can thus be safely ignored.  Thus were Saddam Hussein, the former Mujahideen (now known as The Terrorists) and any number of Latin American and Asian tyrants seamlessly turned into Horrible, Evil Monsters despite our once-great alliances with them; the fact that it happened in the past (albeit the very recent past) permitted those facts to be excluded.
But so intertwined are the U.S. and Mubarak -- still -- that such narrative separation was impossible.  Not even American propaganda could whitewash the fact that the U.S. has imposed Hosni Mubarak's regime on The Egyptian People for decades.  His government is not merely our ally but one of our closest client regimes.  We prop him up, pay for his tools of repression, and have kept him safe for 30 years from exactly this type of popular uprising -- all in exchange for his (a) abducting, detaining and torturing whom we want, (b) acting favorably toward Israel, and (c) bringing stability to the Suez Canal.
And yet it's remarkable how self-righteously our political and media class can proclaim sympathy with the heroic populace, and such scorn for their dictator, without really reconciling our national responsibility for Mubarak's reign of terror.  Thanks to this Look Over There genre of reporting, we're so accustomed to seeing ourselves as The Good Guys -- even when the facts are right in front our noses that disprove that -- that no effort is really required to reconcile this cognitive dissonance.  Even when it's this flagrant, we can just leave it unexamined because our Core Goodness is the immovable, permanent fixture of our discourse; that's the overarching premise that can never be challenged.
Some leading American officials have been criticized for recent statements that have been too starkly pro-Mubarak.  Joe Biden was first when he decreed that Mubarak was "not a dictator" because "has been an ally of ours in a number of things" (as always in the American Foreign Policy world, whether someone is a democrat or a dictator is determined by how much they serve or defy America's will, not by how they acquired or use power; kudos to Biden for unintentionally being so candid about that).  Then Hillary Clinton -- who said in March, 2009 that "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family":  her very politically enriched family, that is --  appeared to defend Mubarak's ongoing rule.  Then, it was claimed that a State Department envoy, Frank Wisner, went off-script when he said Mubarak "must stay in office in order to steer those changes through."  And Dick Cheney just praised Mubarak as a good friend and ally.
But I empathize more with these pro-Mubarak political officials than with their American critics.  All Biden, Clinton, Wisner and Cheney are doing is reflexively giving voice to decades-old bipartisan U.S. foreign policy.  They're defending Mubarak because he has been -- and still is -- our close friend and client ruler.  He has loyally done our bidding, and in exchange, we've kept him in power and kept him close.  That's why it's a bit difficult to endure the sudden outburst of righteous contempt for Egypt's dictator.  We've eagerly sent our money and aid for decades to ensure that he wields power over Egyptians; all that's changed is that his true face has been exposed in a way that prevents us from turning away and denying what we support.
The fact that we don't actually regret anything is compellingly demonstrated by Obama's efforts to ensure the empowerment of Egypt's new "Vice President," Omar Suleiman, who has been Mubarak's -- and our -- brutal domestic enforcer and oppressor for years.  Pragmatic arguments can of course be assembled to justify that support -- exactly the same way that support for Mubarak can be pragmatically justified.  And that's the point:  moral proclamations notwithstanding, we're not doing anything different with Egypt now.  We're doing what we've always done:  subjected the people of that region to hard-core oppression in order to advance what we perceive to be our interests (though, as 9/11 proved, that perception about self-interest is dubious in the extreme).  That behavior would almost be tolerable if we were at least honest about it, but pretending that we're so very inspired by the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people -- all while we have long acquiesced and still acquiesce in the extermination of those aspirations -- is a bit too much to withstand.  But as long as we can keep Looking Over There to those bad people and bad things, none of these contradictions will be particularly bothersome.
UPDATE:  Highlighting several of the points here, The Independent's Robert Fisk today discovered that the aforementioned pro-Mubarak official Frank Wisner -- hired by the State Department as its Egypt envoy -- happens to work at Patton, Boggs, the very well-connected law and lobbyist firm which happens to represent the Egyptian regime and has in the past represented Mubarak himself.  I'm sure there's some reasonable explanation for the State Department's conduct here; I can't wait to find out what it is.

The Identity of Kashmir in Contemporary History

The Identity of Kashmir in Contemporary History


Kunal Chattopadhyay

Introductory Note: About a decade back, the Centre for European Studies, Jadavpur University, organized an international seminar around identity politics. Dr. Nandinee Bhattacharya (Calcutta Girls College) and I presented a paper entitled Imagined Authenticities: National and Supranational Identity Building in Kashmir and Tadzhikistan. Subsequently much time has lapsed. The present essay is based on the portion on Kashmir, for which I was mainly responsible. As I could not get Dr. Bhattacharya’s permission before publishing this in a slightly different form in a printed journal, I have been forced to omit her name. But I wish to record that the arguments developed here have her inputs too.

Kashmir and Central Asia:

There is a long stretch, from Kashmir via Afghanistan to the ex-Soviet Central Asia, where ethnic, linguistic, religious and other identities jostle uneasily. Plural identities might not have caused any harm, were it not for the fact that each identity is held up by its champions as the sole authentic identity. In this essay, my concern is to argue that imagined histories of authenticity do not provide convincing cases for contemporary forms of unity. Instead, they often result in destructive conflicts. One could mention Afghanistan and Tadzhikistan as other such cases. Space constraint and the need to present a focused narrative prevent me from doing so at any length. But a few points will bring out one highlight, which I would like to return to at the end of the essay.  Tadzhikistan and Kashmir have certain similarities. Both have been parts of multi-national, multi-ethnic states. Both have, in the past, had tolerant religious traditions. But there have also been important differences. The point I wish to make is not that these are identical, but that historical patterns cannot be unquestioningly called into the service of any force. Texts of contemporary or modern history, documents, agreements and violations of agreements, and so forth, might be of more use in working out legalities. But the building of modern nations and states in a democratic manner, where citizens can really control their lives, and not simply take part in make believe electoral farces, calls for a sharp questioning of all prevailing claims of authenticity that can impose totalitarianism in the guise of democracy coupled with “national security”.

Imagined Authenticities, Contradictory Claims:

In the case of Kashmir, three mutually incompatible claims have been standing against each other, and bleeding the place to death. If this last clause sounds hyperbolic, let us look at some figures. According to Bilal Hussain, a Srinagar based journalist, writing on 11 September 2010, “Due to the ongoing political unrest the loss suffered by the valley would be around INR 20 to 25 crores a day as the impact doesn’t include all economic sectors and for 80 days it is around INR 1600 crores”. [1] Interestingly, Hussain is actually trying to reduce the loss claims made by the Government of India, arguing that this is a ploy by the state to put pressure on the agitators. Other estimates exist, like the one by Dr. Angana Chatterjee, Professor, Department of Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies and Co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir. Chatterjee has claimed in a recent article that since 1990, Kashmir’s economy has incurred a loss of more than 1,880,000 million Indian Rupees ($40.4 billion U.S.).[2]

As for actual deaths, the figures are absolutely shocking, if only Indians were not fed information that contradicts them incessantly. Chatterjee’s article mentions that the Indian army, paramilitary forces and the police have killed (executed is her word) 109 persons between June 11 and September 22 of 2010. And this was no extraordinary summer. According to Kashmir Watch, this is the general picture of Kashmir:



Since 1989


Houses/Shops Destroyed

Since 1989



Since 1989


Women Molested

Since 1989



Since 1989


And these exclude certain other dimensions that cannot be excluded when looking for the total picture, including killings by armed groups calling for independence as well as armed groups trained by Pakistan for its own goals.

The three contested authenticities are Kashmir’s authentic national claim, Kashmir’s Islamic and consequent Pakistani identity, and Kashmir’s being irrevocably Indian. Each of these is based on certain myths about history. While in this essay my main focus will be on the Indian claims and the myths involved, I do propose to look at the other options as well. It is my argument that both the Indian and the Pakistani claims are based on profoundly illegitimate bases. It is my further contention that a simplistic argument about the right of nations to self-determinations does not clarify the issues, since who is the nation is an important question here.

The Illegitimacy of Indian and Pakistani claims:

India claims that by the Instrument of Accession signed by the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, followed by the fact that the Constituent Assembly of India had members from J&K, and that the J&K Constituent Assembly itself accepted the accession, and finally that there have been repeated democratic exercises, show that Kashmir’s accession to India is final. I propose to show that these claims are based on hiding gaps. At the time the instrument of accession was signed India had promised to hold a referendum, never held subsequently. The elections in Indian administered J&K, have repeatedly been heavily doctored elections. And legal processes have been flouted in the process of building up the so-called Indian claim. As only a clear historical narrative can establish the foregoing, we will shortly go into such a narrative.

The Pakistani claim is simpler, but no less dangerous. Pakistan was created on the basis of the claim that Muslims constituted a separate nation in India. This was a great distortion of the democratic ideal of the right of nations to self determination. That was a demand formulated in the context of oppressed nations and oppressor nations, and where the oppressed nation was founded on at least some kind of democratic principle. It can be argued that all nation-states are based on certain exclusions and marginalisations, but the experience of Israel, Pakistan, and similar cases clearly show that nation states defined by religion are bound to exclude minority religions. Secondly, the historical experience of Pakistan showed that religion is a poor foundation for a nation. Muslims remaining in India were as numerous as those who went to Pakistan, yet the creation of Pakistan by equating Islam and national identity left those in India vulnerable to Hindu communal charges of being crypto-Pakistanis. Moreover, Islam proved to be a poor basis of nation building, as it led to the imposition of West Pakistani domination over East Pakistan, and conflicts culminating in the breakup of the country and the emergence of Bangladesh.

Kashmir is Indian (And Damn Arundhati Roy):

To the average Indian, Kashmir’s accession to India appears cast in reinforced concrete. The mythic elements in its construction and repeated reconstruction are usually elided. Yet a careful scrutiny of events and of texts will disclose severe problems with the official Indian claims.  To begin with, Jammu and Kashmir was not part of British ruled India, but a princely state. This, and the earlier history, of the territories in dispute cannot be ignored if we were looking for solutions where humans and their aspirations matter.

For Kashmiris, the crucial rupture in their history dates from 1586, the year when the Mughal emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir. Islam had come to Kashmir through Sufis, and as a result it had been both peaceful and heterodox.[4] Prominent Sufi saints like Nur-ud-Din were revered by Hindus and Muslims alike, while later on orthodox Islamic currents found it difficult to swallow the specificities of Kashmiri Islam with its syncretic tendencies.[5] So in the history of Kashmir, religion was not the basic divide, contrary to recent communalist claims. From the Mughals Kashmir passed to the Afghan empire of Ahmad Shah Abdali, and then to the rising Sikh empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was Ranjit who gave Jammu as a jaigir to his nobleman, the Dogra Rajput chieftain Gulab Singh.

The establishment of the Dogra monarchy in particular calls for close scrutiny, for the official Indian claims hinge on the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, and therefore on his sovereign right to make such decisions alone. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Kashmir was still part of the Durrani Empire. Ranjit Singh’s own title of Raja had come from Zaman Shah, the Afghan ruler.[6] Ranjit had made an abortive attempt on Kashmir in 1813, aided by his Dogra general Gulab Singh. The latter was a Dogra Rajput whose father held the jagir of Andarwah in Jammu.[7] Taking advantage of the weakness of the rulers of Jammu, Ranjit conquered Jammu in 1808. Gulab Singh joined his court as a military officer. As a reward for switching over and for his other services, Ranjit made him a Raja and awarded Jammu to him as a vassal kingdom.[8] Eventually, in 1819 Ranjit conquered Kashmir from the Afghans. In 1841, Zorawar Singh, a general of the Sikhs, invaded Western Tibet and though he died, the attack confirmed the possession of Ladakh by Kashmir, and of the possession of Kashmir by the Sikh kingdom. Meanwhile, Ranjit had died in 1839. The British East India Company was jockeying for influence in the Punjab. After the death of Ranjit, during the turbulent times in the Lahore court, Gulab Singh played a two-faced game, ultimately helping the British through his activities. After the defeat of the Sikhs at the first Anglo-Sikh war, the Treaty of Lahore, imposed on them, compelled them to cede territory and also to agree to pay reparations worth 15 million rupees. When they failed to do so, they were ordered to cede Kashmir to Gulab Singh. For this, Gulab Singh paid a one-time sum of 75 lakh rupees, and a token yearly tribute – a dozen pashmina goats, one horse and three pairs of Kashmiri shawls, by the Treaty of Amritsar (1846). Kashmiri nationalists were subsequently to call this a bill of sale, not a treaty.

All foreign domination had been oppressive. But Dogra rule was particularly terrible. Prof. J. B. Das Gupta has drawn a rosy picture of the economy of Jammu and Kashmir under Ranbir Singh.[9] Kashmiri nationalists, by contrast, viewed Ranbir as a tyrant credited even with the murder of poor peasants en masse just to show inspectors sent by the British an absence of poverty stricken Muslim peasants.

In 1947, some 77% of Jammu and Kashmir were Muslims. But the Dogra rulers had a purely Hindu Rajput bureaucracy. Even Kashmiri upper caste Hindus, generally called Pandits, though generally better educated, had little space in the ruling echelons. Prem Nath Bazaz, a Kashmiri Pandit political activist, gave a detailed account of the conditions of Kashmiri Muslims.[10]

Thus, the Dogra rulers were utterly unrepresentative of the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and any claim that accession to India was lawful and final depends on two claims, which are both easily contestable. The first claim is that since culturally Kashmir was part of India, therefore the unification was legitimate. The second is that the Union of India was the residuary legatee of the paramountcy formerly claimed by the British power, and therefore accession to India was legitimate. Given the existence of Pakistan, the second claim is of course incorrect, because the authority of the imperial power was divided between these two states. As for culture, Kashmir had as much Indian culture as Central Asian culture. In addition, to make a common culture the basis for any claims about national unification could be extremely dangerous. One might then argue that Nepal too should be a part of India, for it too is culturally close to India. Finally, we have to take into account the rise of Kashmiri nationalism and its role and impact. Kashmiri nationalism began with protests by Muslims against oppression and discrimination, including discrimination on religious grounds. They formed the Muslim Conference. But its most important leaders, like Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, were secular, and in the very first formal conference of the organisation, he said that the struggle in Kashmir was not a communal struggle. From the beginning it appealed to all communities, and in 1939, the name of the organisation was changed to Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. In 1944, it adopted a Manifesto known as “New Kashmir”, which called for a constitution, and proposed an economic alterative. Politically it called for full democracy, equal rights for women, equal opportunities for all, and the institution of democratic self-rule at all levels. It wanted Urdu as the lingua franca, while seven languages were to be granted the status of national languages in Kashmir. In the economic sphere it wanted the abolition of jagirs and chaks (large laded estates – based on royal grants, for loyal service, for compensation against military command, etc). It called for an egalitarian society.[11] This was far more radical than anything proposed by the main Indian bourgeois party, the Indian National Congress. By 1946, the NC was to launch a Quit Kashmir movement against the oppressive ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh.

In 1946, with the British officially stating they would hand over power to responsible governments, an interim government was formed. Hari Singh did not join it. The Muslim League, the major Muslim communal party, supported this, claiming that the Princely states had full sovereign right not to join the constituent Assembly.[12] The League, with a considerable landlord-princely component in its leadership, believed even Hindu rulers might be tempted to join Pakistan, where their class privileges would be better protected. In this situation, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had three options – joining India, joining Pakistan, or remaining independent. The distinctive feature of this princely state was that it had a Muslim majority population with a Hindu ruler.

The Hindu communal organisation J&K Hindu Sabha strongly campaigned that a Hindu ruler should not join secular India. The Muslim communal Muslim Conference, formed by a minority from the National Conference, demanded an independent Kashmir and a separate constitution. The National Conference, the most popular organisation, was not consulted by the Maharaja. In the event, Pakistan, India and the Maharaja were all agreed in affirming that the people need not be directly consulted at all. This has major implications for subsequent developments and the claims made about them.

Under Section 7(i) (b) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, the suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indian princely states lapsed with effect from 15 August 1947. On November 1, 1947, Mountbatten, in his capacity as Governor General of India, wrote to his counterpart, M. A. Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan, suggesting that when the ruler and the majority of subjects belonged to different communities, and where the state had not acceded to the Dominion whose majority community was the state’s own, the final decision of accession should be decided by an impartial reference to the will of the people.[13]

This was after Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession (26 October 1947). So the Hed of State was offering a democratic final solution. One could argue that he did so knowing well that Jinnah would reject his offer, but the fact remains that such an offer was made. One could also argue that he was acting against Indian interest, but this flies in the face of the other widespread belief that he engineered the change in the Radcliffe award whereby Gurdaspur district was added to India, giving a line between India and Jammu and Kashmir.

Signing the Instrument of Accession:

The conditions under which the Instrument of Accession was signed, and the legal details, need to be understood here. Attempts by Hari Singh to assert his supremacy and fear of a democratic election had led to Hindu communal repression of Muslims in Jammu and Poonch. This sparked off a revolt, backed by Pakistan. A Pakistani general, ostensibly on leave, commanded the rebels. The invaders approached Kashmir Valley, and the Maharaja’s government fled. This was when the Maharaja sought Indian help, and was told that unless he signed the Instrument of Accession India could not/ would not help him. The day after the signing of the Instrument, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar, the capital. An undeclared war began. On 2 November 1947, Indian Prime Minister Nehru in a radio broadcast reiterated that the accession of Kashmir should be settled by a reference to the people.[14] Thus, Mountbatten was not acting against his Prime Minister. The two had similar stands, and this seems to have been based on an understanding, probably correct if we consider that particular moment, that if in a referendum the choice was posed between democratic India with some scope for autonomy and a landlord dominated Pakistan, the majority, including the then most powerful nationalist Kashmiri organization, the National Conference, would opt for India. But the formal position is, India did make this offer, but never kept faith.

The Instrument of Accession signed by Hari Singh had certain important points:

  1. He acceded to India only in respect of defence, external affairs and communications.
  2. The terms of accession were not to be changed without the ruler’s consent.
  3. The Instrument did not commit the sovereign to acceptance of any future Constitution of India.
  4. All powers except those specifically acceded remained the powers of the ruler of Kashmir.[15]

The state of Jammu and Kashmir was then governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution Act of 1939. As Dr. A.S. Anand, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, pointed out in his Ph.D thesis, the instrument thus clearly indicated that the state was to be governed by the old Constitution Act till the people of Kashmir formed their own constitution. The state had voluntarily surrendered three powers only and the government of India could not enlarge the space of its jurisdiction at its own discretion. [16]

However, from the start, these democratic statements were being nullified. The Instrument of Accession was signed by Hari Singh because his rule was under multiple threats. He had attempted to assert Dogra supremacy, and his launching of Hindu communal repression had sparked off a reaction, with Muslim rebels being backed by Pakistan. The ultimate result was a considerable loss of autonomy, as we have just seen. As noted, on 2nd November, 1947, Nehru in a radio speech stated that the accession of Kashmir should be settled by a reference to the peoples. But when the UN Security Council adopted a resolution in favour of a plebiscite,  the Indian Government was caught on a the wrong foot. Formally, India accepted the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP)’s 13th August, 1948 resolution on a plebiscite, but by 12 January 1949, Nehru was writing to Sheikh Abdullah that the plebiscite would perhaps never be held.

From 21st April, 1948 to 2nd December, 1957 there have been a series of UN proposals for a referendum. The early democratic claims notwithstanding, India clearly rejected these proposals – on each occasion, due to plausible reasons, but making it clear that the Kashmir accession was becoming a non-negotiable issue.

Internally, the same contradiction between democratic claims and the reality were visible. On 27th May, 1947 Sir N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar proposed the nomination of four members from Kashmir to the Constituent Assembly of India. When objections were raised, he responded that if as a result of a plebiscite Kashmir left India, India would not stand in the way of Kashmir’s separation.[17] On 16th June, 1947, Sheikh Abdullah, Mirza Mohammed Agzal Beg, Maulana Mohammaed Syed Masoodi and Moti Ram Bagha took the pledge and signed the register of members of the Constituent Assembly of India.[18]

By then negotiations had began on the terms of Kashmir’s membership of the Indian Union. It was agreed that Kashmir was to have its own constitution and the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was to determine in respect of what other subjects the state would accede.[19]

Already both the Government of India and the Kashmiri nationalist leadership were moving away from a democratic principle, though a case has been made out that Abdullah tried to stick as close to the principle as possible.[20] Instead of first organizing elections, they were negotiating among themselves. Yet in October 1947, Abdullah had asserted that the establishment of democracy should come first, and any question of accession should be discussed later.

According to even scholars critical of India, like Alastair Lamb, a plebiscite at that stage would have resulted in the state according to India, because Abdullah, finding full independence impossible, preferred India. In that case, why did Indian leaders demur? It is only possible to speculate. But perhaps the supposition that this might lead to complications elsewhere would not be very fanciful. So they opted for support to Abdullah as someone, in Nehru’s words, “who would deliver the goods to India”. So, in March 1948, Abdullah became Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, but the elections to the Constituent Assembly were held only in 1951. And these elections were typical of elections in Kashmir. The National Conference won all 75 seats uncontested, as every opposition candidates’ papers were rejected.

It is likely that the National Conference would have won a majority of sets in a fair election. But these suppositions –- that India could have won a plebiscite, that Abdullah could have won in fair polls – are simply hypothetical conjectures and they do not negate the fact that in neither case were democratic means used.

Meanwhile article 306A of the Indian Constitution had been drafted by Ayyangar (this was, with modification, the future article 370). But after Abdullah and his fellow Kashmir delegates had accepted one version, a different version was moved and passed. One consequence of this change was that in the earlier version, Abdullah’s dismissal would have been a constitutional impossibility.

The article provided that the power of the Indian Parliament to make laws for Kashmir would be limited to those matters which corresponded to the Instrument of Accession, and those which were accepted by the Government of the state, this last being defined as “the person for the time being recognized by the president as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of the council of Ministers for the time being in office under the Maharaja’s proclamation dated the fifth day of March, 1948”.

The Article further provided that even this concurrence was temporary, and had to be ratified by the state’s Constituent Assembly. The authority of the Government to give concurrence was to last only till the Constituent Assembly of the state was convened. If this means what it says, the power of concurrence disappeared the moment, in 1951, the Constituent Assembly met. Yet, successive state governments, put into office through rigged elections, have continued to give “concurrence” even after 1956, when the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir ceased to exist. Till 1986, Article 370 has been repeatedly amended. Even Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, by which an elected state government can be dismissed by the Central Government at the report of the Governor (who is always a stooge of the Central Government) has been applied.

In 1968, in the Sampat Prakash case, the Indian Supreme Court delivered an outrageous judgment. It brushed aside Art 370, and ruled that the President of India could go on adding to the Union’s powers with the concurrence of the State Government.[21]

For lack of space, and because I am interested in establishing the spuriousness of India’s claims even when viewed in Indian legal-constitutional terms, I have stuck mostly to legal and constitutional documents, though the political ones make equally interesting reading. Despite Abdullah’s conditional preference for India, he had never accepted the accession as final. He had hoped that with the help of the Indian Constitution, a secular, democratic polity could be built up in Jammu and Kashmir, and a neutral state, patterned somewhat after Switzerland, could eventually emerge.  When it became clear that on the core issue of accession he could not be budged, he was removed. From 9th August, 1953 to 8th January, 1958, from 30th April, 1958 – 6th April, 1964, and from 8th May, 1965 to 2nd January 1968, he was in prison. At no stage was he tried and convicted. A whole series of Indian scholars and journalists have spilled quarts of ink trying to prove that he took advice from Moscow, from the US, etc .[22] The simple reality seems to be, in refusing to be a stooge of Delhi, he left India’s rulers no option but to incarcerate him. The subsequent ministries of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, G.M. Sadiq, Syed Mir Quasim, were formed by blatant rigging.[23] Using such pliant agents, by 1964, Jammu – Kashmir was made a simple province. Formally, Article 370 was retained. But the democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir were totally thwarted. Such an ostensible resolution of the “Kashmir problem” carried within itself the seeds of destabilization. When, from the 1980s, armed militancy developed, the response of official India, including the Governmental left, has been to say that this was simply Pakistan sponsored and communal. As a matter of fact, two very distinct strands existed among the militants. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, in particular, represented the same secular nationalist politics earlier represented by the National Front. The rise of militancy reflected a growing feeling among Kashmiris that any peaceful, democratic solution was impossible. This could not be admitted by the government of India, because such an admission would be tantamount to accepting that the people of Kashmir had not accepted the supposedly secular democratic Indian Union.

I propose to examine the problems of the Kashmiri nationalist identity later. But I would like to conclude this section by arguing that the constitutionality of Kashmir’s accession to India is, even from internal evidence, indefensible. For this reason, India was forced, after the mid-60s, to shelter behind the Soviet veto over Kashmir. Today, as the world changes, all arguments about the legitimacy and finality of Kashmir’s accession ring hollow.

Muslims Must be in Pakistan (or, the Pakistani Rhetoric):

Because of India’s patent undemocratic actions, including by now two decades of bloody suppression of civil resistance as well as terrorism through state terrorism, the Pakistani claims get less careful scrutiny from Indians who condemn India’s atrocious record, and in this paper too, they will be treated much more briefly. However, since Pakistan, a state that for most of its existence has had a very tenuous relationship with democracy, claims to stand by the democratic principle of the right of a nation to self determination, some examination of Pakistan’s role and claims are essential.

The Pakistani claim to Kashmir is based on even more convoluted grounds than are the Indian claims. Pakistan, in fact, has two claims. The original claim was that since a majority of Jammu and Kashmir were Muslims the state should have gone to Pakistan.[24] Pakistani politicians and communal nationalist historians have waged a long battle to establish that there was a conspiracy from 1947. They assert that the Radcliffe award was influenced by Mountbatten’s pro-India tilt. Had the Gurdaspur District not been give to India, the Maharaja would not have had any option of acceding to India.[25]

Even if Mountbatten’s or Britain’s alleged pro-India tilt concerning Kashmir is conceded, however, the Pakistani  claim is a difficult one to accept. Pakistani was created on the basis of a reactionary ideology. The rulers of Pakistan were evidently arguing that this ideology should be pushed back to the past. Their speculative argument went something like this: The communal division was accepted in British India. Had Kashmir not been given to the Dogra ruler in 1846, had the British annexed it outright, then Kashmir too, would have gone to Pakistan. Hence Kashmir ought to go to Pakistan. [One could argue that such counterfactuals can be pushed back continuously. Had Babar been defeated at Khanua, the Rajputs might have reasserted their domination over North India. Had the ecology not changed, the Indus Valley Civilisation might not have died out and in that case the Vedic peoples would not have settled in much of North India. ]

The Pakistani claim, based on a communal logic, has had consequences of various sorts for over sixty years. To begin with, the sequence of communal tension and violence, and Pakistani help to the insurgents, in 1947, has been explained in opposite ways by Indian and Pakistani Politicians. Gilgit, the western half of the Northern Areas, had had an almost exclusively Muslim paramilitary force, the Gilgit Scouts. Gilgit, though forming part of Jammu and Kashmir, had been leased by the British since 1935. When the leased area was returned to the Maharaja, the governor sent by him found the Gilgit Scouts in a state of near rebellion. The accession to India was followed by full rebellion. Pakistan therefore contends that the Gilgit Agency, by way of a popular upheaval, had gone outside the area of conflict in Kashmir.[26]

The rising in Poonch was of a different kind. Poonch had not taken Dogra rule happily. The Dogra ruling class had been essentially Hindu, and Muslims, whether of the Kashmir Valley or of Poonch, had been oppressed. In June 1947, a tax–refusal movement broke out in Poonch, and shortly turned into a separatist agitation. This led to massive state terror and communal violence on the Muslims.[27] In Jammu, too, Hindus and Sikhs, organised or backed by the RSS and the Akalis, attacked Muslim villages. It is estimated that some half a million Muslims left their homes or died. The survivors took shelter in Pakistani territory.[28]

By September 1947, the Muslim conference activist Muhammad Ibrahim Khan had organized a base in Pakistan from which he tried to help co-ordinate the revolt. The Pakistan government for its part put pressure on the Maharaja. Clearly, both Pakistan and India were looking avidly at a tasty piece of real estate. Pakistan’s tactics in Kashmir were similar to the Indian tactics with the Nizam of Hyderabad. By mid-October, Mehar Chand Mahajan, the Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister, was warning Pakistan that unless Pakistan improved the political and economic relations with Jammu and Kashmir, his government would not hesitate to accept friendly assistant from other forces. Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, reacted by threatening dire consequences.[29] On 24th October, a huge number of tribesmen from the NWFP invaded Jammu and Kashmir.  Pakistani soldiers “on leave” joined them, and were led by Major General Akbar Khan. This force entered Poonch, then went on the Baramulla district in the valley. In Baramulla they carried out extensive looting and destruction. In the town of Baramulla alone, nearly 3000 people died.[30] Liaquat Ali claimed that spontaneous anger of the tribes people in the face of atrocities committed against their co-religionists in Kashmir caused the attacks.[31] It is possible that with the appointment of Mahajan as Prime Minister, apparently with Indian conservative leader and Union Home Minister Patel’s advice, Pakistan’s position did indeed harden. Moreover, the first “Azad Kashmir” government was formed before the tribal raid. This happened on 3rd October, 1947 at Rawalpindi. This was followed by a second Government, formed on 24th October.[32]

To sum up the discussion on this point, then, the Pakistani claim to Jammu and Kashmir on religious ground was to lead to Pakistani support to an invasion of the state by non-Kashmiris. This pattern has continued, with religious fanatics of various places being given the facilities by all Governments of Pakistan to carry out terrorist activities.

The question of how valid this claim was, leads to several interesting issues. Some are counterfactuals now, yet deserve close scrutiny. The formation of Pakistan had followed votes. No representative elected assembly existed in Jammu and Kashmir. But all contemporary evidence suggests that the National Conference would have dominated such a body, though it would of course not have had the 75-0 presence it did through judicious help from the Government of India. Abdullah had been opposed to the two nation theory, and if anything had been to the left of the Congress (Noorani even claims many NC members were friends of the CPI and that the NC leaders on occasion used the kind of language to be found in the Adhikary thesis on national self determination).[33] In the election to the Praja Sabha, a partially elected (only 30%) legislative assembly in the 1930s, the Abdullah led party (then still called Muslim Conference) had won a majority of the seats up for popular votes. The “Quit Kashmir” movement led by the National Conference in 1946 had been widely supported. Consequently, one can ask how far the called for Pakistan would have been heeded. Something that is widely recorded and is not a counterfactual is that the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley resisted the Pakistan-backed invasion, at a time when the Maharaja and his entourage were turning tails. According to the census of 1941, Kashmir had a population of 4,021,616 of which Muslims accounted for 77.11% and were overwhelmingly dominant in the Valley.[34] Thus even the communal logic cannot be established for Kashmir.

The second argument used by Pakistan has been the demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir. As Robert Wirsing puts it, “it was at the outset of the Kashmir dispute, and it has never ceased to be the legal hinge on which much of the Pakistani position on Kashmir depended.”[35] This is why Pakistan has, at all stages, maintained the fiction of the Azad Kashmir Government. However, Pakistan’s “Support” to plebiscite has been support to Jammu and Kashmir joining Pakistan. This was established clearly when a nationalist Kashmiri struggle for full independence surfaced. In fact, a conscious policy decision was taken to cub the sentiment for independence. Wirsing cites a Pakistan based Kashmiri observer as stating that in February 1990, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Chief of Army Staff Aslam Beg, and the President and the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir held a meeting in which they considered the possibility that the JKLF led struggle could make Pakistan lose the whole of Kashmir.[36] Pakistani troops and riot police opened fire on unarmed Kashmiri nationalist protest marchers, killing at least 12. [37]

Despite Pakistan’s lip-service to the plebiscite, the Pakistani position is explicable in equally annexationist terms. While India uses the Instrument of Accession and subsequent  “legal” developments to buttress Indian claims, for Pakistan the UNCIP resolution on plebiscite is the legal fiction by which that country wishes to absorb Kashmir. And for this, the ultimate ideological justification remains the long exploded Two Nation Theory, shown to be utterly false and rejected by the majority of Pakistan (who felt dominated, fought and created independent Bangladesh). Pakistan has to rely on its control over “Azad Kashmir”, as well as the importation of communal Muslim forces having nothing to do with Kashmir, in order to shore up its fighting forces.

The Problems of Kashmiri Nationalism (Or, Kashmiriyat and Islamic Fundamentalism, The Valley and the Rest of the Province):

Finally, we come to the Kashmiri nationalist effort at identity building and claims for independence. The National Conference in earlier times, and the Jammu – Kashmir Liberation Front more recently, fall in this category. Their basic claim is based on the democratic principle of self – determination. This is backed by the history already briefly narrated, namely, the conquest of Kashmir by Ranjit Singh, followed by the conflict between the Sikh Kingdom and the British and the Treaty of Lahore, and the award of Jammu and Kashmir to Gulab Singh. They also stress that Kashmir had a composite identity cutting across religions. In the late 1930s this was a key reason for Abdullah persuading his party to change its name from the Muslim Conference to the National Conference. However, the history to which they appeal is a double – edged sword.

The rise of Kashmiri nationalism, consequently began with protest by Muslims. However, the most important leader of the Muslim conference, Sheikh Abdullah, was secular, and in the very first conference, he said that the struggle in Kashmir was not a communal struggle. From the beginning, the NC appealed to all communities. In 1939, the special session of the organization changed its name to all Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. In 1944, it adopted the  “New Kashmir” Manifesto, discussed earlier.

However, the history of the National Conference since 1947 shows a growing gap between the Kashmir people and the party claiming to represent them. We have already noted Abdullah’s willingness to stand in place of a democratically elected representative body.  At the same time, Abdullah’s government began a series of reforms which hit the jagidars. A land ceiling was fixed and 396 huge jagidaris were abolished. Nearly 1,00,000 acres of land were taken over by the government. Ruinous loan incurred by poor peasants were written off. A number of Muslims were appointed to government posts, ending a century of Dogra anti–Muslim policy. Contrary to claims by the Praja Parishad (the Jammu – based Hindu communal party) this reflected no Muslim communal orientation.[38] Abdullah was moving against the exploitation of Kashmiris. Since the majority of Kashmiris, especially the lower classes, were Muslims and the majority of exploiters were Hindus, any pro-poor policy could be falsely portrayed as Muslim communalism. Had the NC been Muslim communalist, Abdullah would have pressurized Hari Singh to opt for Pakistan, or he could have outright supported the Pakistan backed invasion. Both before and after accession, Muslims in Jammu were under attack from Hindu communities, egged on by Hari Singh, while Abdullah and the NC kept the Hindus and Sikh of the valley safe. The Praja Parishad, founded by RSS cadre Balraj Madhok, mobilished disgruntled landlord and bureaucratic elements who wanted to crush the NC, and do so, they wanted to abolish the autonomy and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

By 1949, Abdullah was becoming disenchanted with Indian leaders and their attitude to Kahsmir.  This was what led to his eventual ouster. Abdullah’s supporters in the Plebiscite Front formed by Mirza Afzal Beg continued to protest the illegal unification of Kashmir to India.

The renegade National Conference leaders who had sided with Delhi eventually turned into Congressmen. In 1972, in order to block nationalist unrest, Indira Gandhi, started a back-handed promotion of the Jamaat – I – Islam. This was a standard pattern, as when she promoted Bhindranwale in the early stages in the hope that this would weaken the Akali Dal. The congress leadership thought that politically and morally, having the Muslim communalist Jamaat as the main opponent was advantageous. At that moment, the congress had a “left” image. Cold War politics meant USSR support to the Indian Government. The Indian mainstream left, finding the Jamaat as the “enemy”, happily extended support. Thus Muslim communalism was re-introduced by the Indians as well, in order to weaken the nationalists.

In 1972, the Simla Agreement, signed at a time when Pakistan was weak, declared the Kashmir issue as a “bilateral issue”. This did not only mean excluding the UN. This also meant excluding the people of Kashmir. This was followed, gradually, by Pakistan opting to tighten control over “Azad Kashmir”. It was in these circumstances that the aged Abdullah finally abandoned the demand for self – determination. The 1977 elections, the first fair elections in Kashmir, saw the revived NC win 47  out of 75 seats.

However, by this time, Abdullah, after his compromises, seems to have viewed Kashmir as his fief. Typical of Indian political dynasties, he had his son Farooq, a political novice, nominated as his successor.

The 1983 elections were crucial in Kashmir. During election campaign, the NC was dubbed anti – national. Nonetheless, not only did it win 40 of the 42 seats of the valley, but it won 38% of the votes in Jammu.[39] In 1984, as part of Indira Gandhi’s standard toppling games, Farooq’s government was toppled with the help of Governor Jagmohan. After Indira Gandhi’s death, communalism was given a further boost by the new government. By 1986, Jagmohan was ruling directly through the application of Article 356. During his tenure, there was a systematic drive against Muslims. He refused to acknowledge the Kashmiri national identity. So he chose do deliberately communalize the situation.

In late 1986, Farooq Abdullah, ignoring the public opinion in Kashmir, submitted to the Central Government. Politicians in the valley protested and formed the Muslim United Front. With open help from army and police, the NC – Congress alliance carried out massive rigging.

Supporters of the Indian rulers, like M. J Akbar, claimed this was a war between democracy and secularism versus Muslims fundamentalism.[40] But India  Today, for example showed clearly the extent of rigging.[41] Moreover, the Indira-Rajiv congress, repeatedly playing a “soft” Hindu card to protect India’s “integrity” was hardly secular. Farooq’s surrender to those forces ended the credibility of the NC as a nationalist force.

This led to the revival of the Jammu – Kashmir Liberation Front. Originally formed by Maqbool Butt, the JK National LF had been based in Pakistan. In 1971, Hashim Qureshi and other members of the organization hijacked an Indian Airlines flight. In 1976, Butt was arrested after entering India. In 1984, the murder of Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mahtre was followed by the hanging of Butt.

The arrest of Butt and his associates in 1976, had led to the collapse of the JKNLF. Then, in 1977, Amanullah Khan founded the JKLF in London. Ananullah had been a follower of Butt. Till, 1987, however, the JKLF had no influence. It was the developments of 1984-87 that led to nationalist and democratic sentiments turning to the JKLF. The rise of the JKLF, however, posed a series of questions. The whole nationalist claim began to unravel.

To start with, the Kashmir of the Dogra Maharajas was, as we saw, barely one century old in 1947. The appeals to historic Kashmiriyat could not encompass Gilgit, Hunza, Ladakh, Jammu and Poonch. Siddhartha Guha Roy, a leftist supporter of Kashmiri nationalism, admits this partially, but does not understand its implications.[42] How could the JKLF, or any other force claiming to be Kashmiri nationalist represent (or claim to represent) the different regions unless their political and social programmes clearly addressed those regions as well? The real mass support to the struggles have been essentially confined to the Kashmir valley. The census of 1981 showed the valley having 52.36% of the population, while Jammu had 45.39% and Ladakh 2.24%. Secondly, the Muslims themselves are not totally homogeneous. In Kargil district, most Muslim are Shias, while in the valley, most are Sunnis. Jammu Muslims have greater affinity with those of the Punjab and of Pakistan controlled Azad Kashmir. Consequently, to bring all these forces into a common fold calls for shifting from Kashmiri national identity to an Islamic identity.

The imperatives of armed struggle and unification of all the Muslims thus clashed with the ideal of Kashmiriyat. The consequence has been a failure of the nationalists to clearly define their goal or sometimes the adaption of retrograde measures. Hasim Qureshi, a one-time cadre of Maqbool Butt, argued that Amanullah Khan and his followers were taking a politically disastrous course in resorting to armed struggle. As he wrote: “Pakistan fully exploited [the] Liberation Front to realize its objectives and then abandoned it.. . the organization’s ideology also was publicised as India’s alternative plan . . . pseudo – Islamists . . . were goaded into issuing decrees (fatwa) that independent Kashmir was against Islamic system”[43]

As with many other nationalist movements that in the second half of the 20th century have fought against other, hegemonic nationalist movements and their inheritor states (East Timor and Aceh Vs Indonesia, for instance), The Kashmiri National movement had to confront the question of what strategy to take. For Amanullah, it seemed evident that alignment with Pakistan was essential. In forming, at a later stage, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, where supporters of independence and supports of Pakistan co-exist, and in not presenting any programme beyond independence from India, the JKLF likewise treated it as self – evident that since India was violating civil liberties in a massive way, any ally was permissible against India. This, however, meant ignoring the fact that the same pattern was being played out on the other side of the border, and also in ignoring the reality that if at all a pan-Kashmiri national identity could be built in the late 20th and early 21st century, that would not be possible under a Muslim fundamentalist banner or through alliances with it.

In 1996, elections were held in so-called Azad Kasmir. Discussing those elections, Hashim Qureshi pointed out that Baltistan and Gilgit areas were excluded from the general elections. Out of 48 seats in all, 12 seats are reserved for Kashmiri migrants (mohajirs) scattered all over Pakistan. In Qureshi’s words, “Past experience shows that these 12 seats are invariably captured by the candidates of the party which is in power in Islamabad.”[44] Indeed, the PPP swept the 1996 polls. However, as Qureshi repored it : “most of the nationalist groups in AK formed an alliance . . . while filing their nomination papers, these candidates refused to sign the oath document prescribing Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan and of loyalty to Pakistan. The nomination papers of all the 34 nationalist candidates who had refused to sign the oath documents were, therefore, rejected . . . in the eyes of the rulers of Pakistan . . ., Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan means the independence of Kashmir.”[45]

The adoption of Islam as the rallying cry, rather than Kashmiri nationhood, has also led to other problems. Islam came to Kashmir through sufis like Bulbul Shah and Shah Hamadan. It offered an alternative to the oppressive caste system. The only significant groups of Hindus left in the valley were the Brahmins (Pandits). The sufis of the Muslims were called rishis by the Hindus. Shiekh Nur-ud-Din, the saint of the Chrar – e – Sharif, was called Nand Rishi by the Hindus. But therefore, to “orthodox”, fundamentalist Muslims, this is unacceptable. One has only to look at the politics of some of these groups, who in recent times have been trying to impose codes of behaviour on Kashmiris. This ranges from imposition of dress codes to “purifying” Kashmiri Islam.

No Easy Solution:

In a recent seminar, Arundhati Roy and Varvara Rao shared time with S A S Geelani. Roy seemed to have some hesitations, but Rao was clear. The simplistic logic, to the effect that since the Indian state was the main enemy, and since he was an Indian, he should form an alliance with any opponent of the Indian state led him to ignore the role of Pakistan, as well as the role of Islamic fundamentalism. It is of course part of a Maoist (a term I use generically, not necessarily to mean the CPI Maoist) political culture in recent times, that Islamic fundamentalism is seen as a progressive anti-imperialist force.[46] What such support fails to recognize is that any support for an Islamic fundamentalist/communalist call for Kashmir’s independence must have as its inevitable consequence the breakup of Jammu and Kashmir, with Hindus and Buddhists claiming independence from Kashmir on the same religious grounds, and no real logic to oppose them. Any attempt to apply mechanically the Bolshevik call for self-determination up to secession breaks down here. One will have to remember that in Central Asia, indeed, the Bolsheviks followed a somewhat different strategy. If, hypothetically, the Kashmir of Hari Singh were put back and given independence, we would immediately see regional, linguistic ethnic, and religious differences emerge as major impediments to nation building, as has been the case in Tadzhikistan. As long as the nationalist movement relies on aid from Pakistan, the creation of a patch – work front including Muslim fundamentalists, and the absence of a clear alternative beyond just the call for independence from India, it, too ties itself up in contradictions. The authenticity which it asserts is that of conservative nationalism. Yet in 1944, or 1946, the new Kashmir document and the Quit Kashmir movement had actually represented much more radial democratic and secular force.

In conclusion, I would like to argue that the survey of history, if it shows anything, indicates the disutility of appealing to imagined authenticities. The Islam of groups like Harkat, or Dukhtaran – e – Mallat, has no roots in Kashimr’s history, and imposing this “authenticity” on locals involves the application of terrorism directed against the Kashmiri society which they are supposed trying to liberate, not merely armed battles against the Indian state and its military or other agencies. The appeal to the “sale of 1846” is historically valid and an emotive appeal. But it necessary involves separating Kashmir valley from the totality of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The solution in J & K, whether in favour of independence, or autonomy within the frameworks of India and Pakistan, or a loose federation, can only come about after certain initial preconditions are not.

(i)              India stops the constant atrocities, and acknowledges that atrocities have been committed and begins taking action against the perpetrators, to start with by ending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

(ii)            India and Pakistan give up pretending that the solution at ready exists, based on their rival claims.

(iii)          All contending forces in Jammu and Kashmir are represented in negations.

(iv)           Regional, ethnic, linguistic and religious identities are respected.

It is likely, that a plebiscite will go in favour of the independence of Kashmir. We have argued that India’s legal grounds for opposing the plebiscite are based on substantial force and legal fraud. But more than half a century down the line from the accession, the situation is now such, that Ladakh and Jammu will clearly baulk at going along with the valley. The JKLF has no answers that appear adequately convincingly to people in Jammu. A segmented plebiscite, or a plebiscite that offers three options – accession to India, accession to Pakistan, independence – are likely to throw up different answers. If, in the end, the Kashmir identity and territorial integrity are worth saving, Kashmir nationalism needs to come up with better long term programmes, based on contemporary ground realities.

[1] Bilal Hussain, Conflict in economy: Unrest and Kashmir’s financial system, (accessed on 9 November 2010).

[2] Angana Chatterjee, Kashmir: A Time for Freedom, (accessed on 10 November 2010).

[3] accessed on 10 November 2010.

[4] P.N.K. Bamzai, A History of Kashmir, Delhi 1962, pp.14-29 for the religious changes.

[5] . See Md. Ishaq Khan, Kashmir’s Transition to Islam: The Role of the Muslim Rishis, Delhi, 1994.

[6] K. M. Panikkar, The Founding of the Kashmir State, London, n.d., p.21.

[7] Ibid, p.13.

[8] Ibid, p.31.

[9] J. B. Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir, The Hague, 1968, pp.31-32. He tells us that a rupee would buy 80-100 lbs of rice or 12 lbs of meat. But he does not say how many rupees the peasant saw.

[10] Prem Nath Bazaz, Inside Kashmir, Mirpur, 1987 (original edition, 1941), pp.252-3.

[11] All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, New Kashmir, Lahore 1944, for the full text.

[12] Balraj Puri, Kashmir Towards Insurgency, New Delhi, 1993, p.8.

[13] Durga Das, Ed, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, 1945-50, Ahmadabad, 1971, p. 73.

[14] S. N. Dhar, International Relations and World Politics Since 1919, New Delhi, 1982, p.612.

[15] Government of India, White Paper on Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, 1948, p. 17.

[16] A.S. Anand, The Development of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Jammu, 1980, P.121.

[17] Constitutent Assembly Debates, Vol. VIII, P. 373

[18] Ibid, p.95.

[19] Durga Das, Ed, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence,, p.276.

[20] See A. G. Noorani, ‘Myths and Reality’, in Frontline, Volume 27 - Issue 03 :: Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2010, (accessed on 22 November 2010)

[21] AIR 1970, SC, 1118.

[22] Prof. Jyoti Bhusan Das Gupta in a remarkable feat, supposes both kinds of influence. J.B Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir,  Ch. 7

[23] In 1957 Bakshi’s party polled 96% votes. In 1962 Nehru wrote to Bakshi advising him to lose a few seats in the future (cited in M.J. Akbar, India – The Siege within, Harmondsworth, 1985, P 258). In 1972, by Mir Quasim’s admission fair polls would have meant a victory for the Plebiscite Front, Formed by Afzal Beg. (Mir Qasim : My life and times, Delhi, 1991, p106)

[24] This has entered the Pakistani communal mindset very firmly. For just one such example, see Kashmir, Manavadar and Junagarh are Pakistan: “Tehrik e Ilhaq e Pakistan” is alive. In (accessed on 22 November 2010). This boasts about the Two Nation Theory, and interestingly, argues that both Kashmir, where the ruler was Hindu but the majority of the population was Muslim, and Junagarh, where the ruler was Muslim, but the majority of the people were Hindus, should belong to Pakistan.

[25] Chaudhuri Muhammad Ali, The Emergence of Pakistan, New York, 1967 for example. However, while the first generation of books dealing with the Kashmir issue by and large rejected the Pakistani claim, more recent studies suggest that the possibility of a viceregal influence cannot be ruled out. See, e.g. R.J. Moore, Making the New Commonwealth, Oxford, 1987, p31.  Christopher Beaumont’s revelations lent further credence to this view. Beaumont was secretary to Radcliffe in India. He said that Radcliffe had in fact originally allotted Ferozepur and Zira tehsils to Pakistan, but Mountbatten had arranged a lunch meeting, after which Radcliffe had make the changes. The report of Beaumont’s written statement, originally deposited at the All Souls College, Oxford appeared in The Daily Telegraph,  London, 24 February, 1992. Finally Alastair Lamb’s Kashmir : A Disputed Legacy, 1846 – 1990, Hertingfordburg, UK, 1991, makes out a stronger case. In his opinion Britain was not going to throw away a century of policy by allowing Russian penetration through weak successor states. British strategists would have considered India a better choice as the new guardian of the northern frontier.

[26] For a Pakistani version of the Gilgit uprising, see A. H Dani, History of Northern Areas of Pakistan, Islamabad, 1989, pp.  326-407. India views of course, hold that the Gilgit revolts coming after the accession, was no popular revolution, but a Pakistan – backed revolt of military troops. See, for e.g. F.M. Hassnain, Gilgit, The Northern Gate of India, New Delhi, 1978, pp 122-58. See Also Robert Wirsing, Pakistan’s Security under Zia 1977-1988, New York, 1991, pp. 150-53 for the views of “Azad Kahmiris”.

[27] Alastair Lamb, Kashmir, p.123.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Government of India : White paper on Jammu and Kashmir, 1947- 56 New Delhi, pt I, No. 19

[30] This is the figure mentioned in Blood in the Valley, Bombay, 1995, p.27. V.P Menon, The Story of the Integration of the Indian States, Calcutta 1956 has the much higher figure of 13,000.

[31] For a defence of the Pakistani position, see A.H. Suhrawardy, Tragedy in Kashmir, Lahore, 1983.

[32] J.B. Das Gupta Jammu and Kashmir, pp. 233-4

[33] See A. G. Noorani, ‘Myths and Reality’.

[34] Encyclopaedia Britannica, London 1957, Vol. 13, p. 290

[35] Robert Wirsing, Pakistan’s Security under Zia 1977-1988, p.70.

[36] Ibid, pp.122-3.

[37] New York Times, 13 February, 1992

[38] Kashmiri Hindu communalism, as well as Indian conservative  politicians, thought or claimed otherwise. Pressure was put on Abdulah to moderate the reforms. Even so, here is a present day Hindu communal version. “After independence and accession of Jammu & Kashmir state to India, Kashmiri Pandits were pushed back to the barbarous Afghan era. They were given the sugarcoated doses of poisonous toxics. Article 370 of Indian constitution just reduced them to cipher and liquidated their population. Under the pretext of economic reforms, their jagirs were confiscated and distributed among the Muslim peasants. The administration of Shaikh Abdullah adopted malicious and pernicious approach towards the Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir”.  (An extract from an essay entitled ‘The Kashmir-History’, , accessed on 22 November 2010.)

[39] Sumantra Bose, The Challenge in Kashmir, New Delhi, 1996, p. 41.

[40] Asghar Ali Engineer ed., Secular crown on fire: the Kashmir question.  Delhi, 1991, pp 288-92.

[41] See Anne Dos Santos, Military intervention and secession in South Asia, Westport, Conn, p.71.

[42] S. Guha Roy, Kashmir : Bharater Samprasaran Bonam Mukti Sangram, Calcutta 2nd Edition, 1999, p.36

[43] H. Qureshi , Kashmir: The Unveiling of Truth, Lahore, 1999, p. 69

[44] Ibid, p.213.

[45] Ibid, p.216.

[46] See for a Marxist view of Islamic fundamentalism , Gilbert Achcar, Eleven Theses on the Resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism, in, accessed on 23 November 2010.

Irish Elections: Statement of Socialist Democracy

We have been lied to, we have been cheated and we have been treated as fools. We have had our salaries cut, our pension money stolen, our taxes increased and social welfare cut. Our young people are emigrating and hundreds of thousands are unemployed. Social welfare is being slashed and our health and education services are being decimated.
And we are only into the first year of a four-year plan to make all these things even worse!
We are being told that we must pay for the economic crisis even though we had nothing to do with creating it. In fact salt is being rubbed into our wounds because all the sacrifices we are being ordered to make are to save those really responsible for the crisis. The money that is taken off us is being handed over to the bankers and developers who created this mess in the first place. The bankers continue to pay themselves bonuses and NAMA hands our money over to property developers to finish their projects.
It is not only the bankers who created this mess. The government encouraged the speculation and wants us to pay to save the banks. The Department of Finance and the Regulator failed to prevent the speculation. Every part of the establishment and the Irish State failed the ordinary people of Ireland.
Those who are supposed to defend us failed us. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) was in partnership with this government every year Fianna Fail was in power. David Begg, the leader of ICTU, sat on the board of the Central Bank when it failed to regulate the banks and failed to do anything to prevent the disaster.
The whole elite and their economic system have failed us. Their entire political system is rotten and corrupt and now we are told we must do the bidding of unelected bureaucrats from the European Union and IMF. We don’t just need a change of government. We need an entirely new state and an entirely new social and economic system.
We need a new republic, a second republic, a WORKERS' REPUBLIC! We need to return to the promise of James Connolly and the fight for our independence in 1916. It promised that the ownership of Ireland would belong to the people of Ireland and that all the children of Ireland would be cherished equally.
This promise has been betrayed. The economic crisis has torn away the veil of lies from all the main parties who want the ordinary people to pay for this crisis. From Fianna Fail to the leadership of ICTU they differ only over how long they want the cuts to be implemented and what precise cuts we will have to endure.
The alternative
There is only one group of candidates who oppose all cuts. One group that opposes us paying for the banks mistakes and who oppose sacrificing our futures and that of our children for the EU and IMF. Only the candidates of the United Left Alliance offer this. As supporters of the ULA:
We are opposed to all cuts. All the main parties say that there is no money but this is not the real problem. All these parties supported borrowing billions to bail out the banks. We never heard any talk of a lack of money then. If they wanted to raise money to defend working people they could propose taxing the rich, the big corporations and use the wealth from the Corrib gas field. Instead they want to protect the big corporations and save the richest in our society such as the bankers and property developers.
We stand for total repudiation of the debt. We cannot pay it and we will not pay it! We did not borrow this money; the bankers did and Fianna Fail did. At this election we will show what we think of both of them. After the election we should not meekly pay their bills. The next step in the EU/IMF deal is to restructure the banks but these rotten institutions should not be saved with workers’ money. We need a new bank that not only is funded by working people but is owned and run by them; a workers co-operative designed not to fund property speculation but to fund real economic and social development.
We stand for complete rejection of the EU and IMF deal. The EU and IMF are ordering the Irish people to bail out British and German bankers who stupidly lent to the Irish banks.
In every country workers are asked to undercut each other’s wages, services and welfare in a race to the bottom from which only the rich can win. We should not compete with other workers. We should unite with them. Our solidarity should be with those facing the same situation as us – not Irish bankers. For this we need a new Europe. A Europe of the workers not a Europe of the bankers.
We have waited a long time for this election. We all want to punish those who have threatened our future but we will be no further forward if we vote for parties which want to continue the same policies as Fianna Fail. These parties have conspired with Fianna Fail to force the Finance Bill through the Dail and impose crippling cuts. After the election they will soon tell you that the Fianna Fail way is the only way.
This is your chance to vote for an alternative. But your vote will not be enough. Just as we cannot rely on the Dail parties during the election we will have to rely on ourselves after it. We must organise in our unions and our communities to defend our livelihoods and give our children a future.
Only ONE group stand opposed to ALL cuts, to paying the debts of the BANKERS and opposing the bullying of the EU and IMF. Vote for and sign up to the United Left Alliance!
This leaflet has been produced by supporters of the United Left Alliance who are members and supporters of Socialist Democracy. You can contact us: Socialist Democracy or contact the United Left Alliance.

Egyptian Revolution: Interview with Gilbert Achcar

Egyptian Revolution: Interview with Gilbert Achcar

Egyptian opposition, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood, have been sowing illusions about the army and its purported "neutrality," if not "benevolence." They have been depicting the army as an honest broker, while the truth is that the army as an institution is not "neutral" at all.

o help explain the thrilling developments in Egypt, Farooq Sulehria interviewed leading Arab scholar-activist Gilbert Achcar on February 4. Excerpts:

Do you think that Mubarak's pledge on February 1st not to contest the next election represented a victory for the movement, or was it just a trick to calm down the masses as on the very next day demonstrators in Al-Tahrir Square were brutally attacked by pro-Mubarak forces?

The Egyptian popular anti-regime uprising reached a first peak on February 1st, prodding Mubarak to announce concessions in the evening. It was an acknowledgement of the force of the popular protest and a clear retreat on the autocrat's part, coming on top of the announcement of the government's willingness to negotiate with the opposition. These were significant concessions indeed coming from such an authoritarian regime, and a testimony to the importance of the popular mobilisation. Mubarak even pledged to speed up ongoing judicial actions against fraud perpetrated during the previous parliamentary elections.

He made it clear, however, that he was not willing to go beyond that. With the army firmly on his side, he was trying to appease the mass movement, as well as the Western powers that were urging him to reform the political system. Short of resignation, he granted some of the key demands that the Egyptian protest movement had formulated initially, when it launched its campaign on January 25. However, the movement has radicalized since that day to a point where anything short of Mubarak's resignation won't be enough to satisfy it, with many in the movement even demanding that he gets tried in court.

Moreover, all the regime's key institutions are now denounced by the movement as illegitimate––the executive as well as the legislative, i.e. the parliament. As a result, part of the opposition is demanding that the head of the constitutional court be appointed as interim president, to preside over the election of a constituent assembly. Others even want a national committee of opposition forces to supervise the transition. Of course, these demands constitute a radical democratic perspective. In order to impose such a thorough change, the mass movement would need to break or destabilise the regime's backbone, that is the Egyptian army.

Do you mean that the Egyptian army is backing Mubarak?

Egypt––even more than comparable countries such as Pakistan or Turkey––is in essence a military dictatorship with a civilian façade that is itself stuffed with men originating in the military. The problem is that most of the Egyptian opposition, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood, have been sowing illusions about the army and its purported "neutrality," if not "benevolence." They have been depicting the army as an honest broker, while the truth is that the army as an institution is not "neutral" at all. If it has not been used yet to repress the movement, it is only because Mubarak and the general staff did not see it appropriate to resort to such a move, probably because they fear that the soldiers would be reluctant to carry out a repression. That is why the regime resorted instead to orchestrating counter-demonstrations and attacks by thugs on the protest movement. The regime tried to set up a semblance of civil strife, showing Egypt as torn apart between two camps, thus creating a justification for the army's intervention as the "arbiter" of the situation.

If the regime managed to mobilise a significant counter-movement and provoke clashes on a larger scale, the army could step in, saying: "Game over, everybody must go home now," while promising that the pledges made by Mubarak would be implemented. Like many observers, I feared these last two days that this stratagem might succeed in weakening the protest movement, but the huge mobilization of today's "day of departure" is reassuring. The army will need to make further and more significant concessions to the popular uprising.

When you talk of the opposition, what forces does it include? Of course, we hear about the Muslim Brotherhood and El Baradei. Are there are other players too like left wing forces, trade unions, etc?

The Egyptian opposition includes a vast array of forces. There are parties like the Wafd, which are legal parties and constitute what may be called the liberal opposition. Then there is a grey zone occupied by the Muslim Brotherhood. It does not have a legal status but is tolerated by the regime. Its whole structure is visible; it is not an underground force. The Muslim Brotherhood is certainly, and by far, the largest force in the opposition. When Mubarak's regime, under US pressure, granted some space to the opposition in the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood––running as "independents"––managed to get 88 MPs, i.e. 20 percent of the parliamentary seats, despite all obstacles. In the last elections held last November and December, after the Mubarak regime had decided to close down the limited space that it had opened in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood almost vanished from parliament, losing all its seats but one.

Among the forces on the left, the largest is the Tagammu party, which enjoys a legal status and has 5 MPs. It refers to the Nasserite legacy. Communists have been prominent within its ranks. It is basically a reformist left party, which is not considered a threat to the regime. On the contrary, it has been quite compliant with it on several occasions. There are also leftwing Nasserite and radical left groups in Egypt––small but vibrant, and very much involved in the mass movement.

Then there are "civil society" movements, like Kefaya, a coalition of activists from various opposition forces initiated in solidarity with the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. It opposed the invasion of Iraq later on, and became famous afterwards as a democratic campaign movement against Mubarak's regime. From 2006 to 2009, Egypt saw the unfolding of a wave of industrial actions, including a few impressively massive workers strikes. There are no independent workers unions in Egypt, with one or two very recent exceptions born as a result of the social radicalisation. The bulk of the working class does not have the benefit of autonomous representation and organization. An attempt at convening a general strike on April 6, 2008 in solidarity with the workers led to the creation of the April 6 Youth Movement. Associations like this one and Kefaya are campaign-focused groups, not political parties, and they include people of different political affiliations along with unaffiliated activists.

When Mohamed El Baradei returned to Egypt in 2009 after his third term at the head of the IAEA, his personal prestige enhanced by the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, a liberal and left coalition gathered around him, with the Muslim Brotherhood adopting a lukewarm reserved position. Many in the opposition saw El Baradei as a powerful candidate enjoying international reputation and connections, and constituting therefore a credible presidential candidate against Mubarak or his son. El Baradei thus became a rallying figure for a large section of the opposition, regrouping political forces as well as personalities. They formed the National Association for Change.

This whole array of forces is very much involved in the present uprising. However, the overwhelming majority of the people on the streets are without any sort of political affiliation. It is a huge mass outpouring of resentment at living under a despotic regime, fed by worsening economic conditions, as prices of basic necessities, like food, fuel, and electricity, have been sharply on the rise amid staggering joblessness. This is the case not only in Egypt but in most of the region as well, and that is why the fire of revolt that started in Tunisia spread so quickly to many Arab countries.

Is El Baradei genuinely popular, or is he in some way the Mir-Hossein Mousavi of the Egyptian movement, trying to change some faces while preserving the regime?

I would disagree with this characterisation of Mousavi in the first place. To be sure, Mir-Hossein Mousavi did not want to "change the regime" if one mean by that a social revolution. But there was definitely a clash between authoritarian social forces, spearheaded by the Pasdaran and represented by Ahmedinejad, and others coalesced around a liberal reformist perspective represented by Mousavi. It was indeed a clash about the kind of "regime" in the sense of the pattern of political rule.

Mohamed El Baradei is a genuine liberal who wishes his country to move from the present dictatorship to a liberal democratic regime, with free elections and political freedoms. If such a vast array of political forces is willing to cooperate with him, it is because they see in him the most credible liberal alternative to the existing regime, a man who does not command an organised constituency of his own, and is therefore an appropriate figurehead for a democratic change.

Going back to your analogy, you can't compare him with Mousavi who was a member of the Iranian regime, one of the men who led the 1979 Islamic revolution. Mousavi had his own followers in Iran, before he emerged as the leader of the 2009 mass protest movement. In Egypt, El Baradei cannot play, and does not pretend to play a similar role. He is supported by a vast array of forces, but none of them see him as its leader.

The Muslim Brotherhood's initial reserved attitude towards El Baradei is partly related to the fact that he does not have a religious bent and is too secular for their taste. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood had cultivated an ambiguous relationship with the regime over the years. Had they fully backed El Baradei, they would have narrowed their margin of negotiation with the Mubarak regime, with which they have been bargaining for quite a long time. The regime conceded a lot to them in the socio-cultural sphere, increasing  Islamic censorship in the cultural field being but one example. That was the easiest thing the regime could do to appease the Brotherhood. As a result, Egypt made huge steps backward from the secularisation that was consolidated under Gamal Abdul-Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Muslim Brotherhood's goal is to secure a democratic change that would grant them the possibility to take part in free elections, both parliamentary and presidential. The model they aspire to reproduce in Egypt is that of Turkey, where the democratisation process was controlled by the military with the army remaining a key pillar of the political system. This process nonetheless created a space which allowed the AKP, an Islamic conservative party, to win elections. They are not bent on overthrowing the state, hence their courting of the military and their care to avoid any gesture that could antagonize the army. They adhere to a strategy of gradual conquest of power: they are gradualists, not radicals.

The Western media are hinting at the fact that democracy in the Middle East would lead to an Islamic fundamentalist takeover. We have seen the triumphal return of Rached Ghannouchi to Tunisia after long years in exile. The Muslim Brotherhood is likely to win fair elections in Egypt. What is your comment on that?

I would turn the whole question around. I would say that it is the lack of democracy that led religious fundamentalist forces to occupy such a space. Repression and the lack of political freedoms reduced considerably the possibility for left-wing, working-class and feminist movements to develop in an environment of worsening social injustice and economic degradation. In such conditions, the easiest venue for the expression of mass protest turns out to be the one that uses the most readily and openly available channels. That's how the opposition got dominated by forces adhering to religious ideologies and programmes.

We aspire to a society where such forces are free to defend their views, but in an open and democratic ideological competition between all political currents. In order for Middle Eastern societies to get back on the track of political secularisation, back to the popular critical distrust of the political exploitation of religion that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s, they need to acquire the kind of political education that can be achieved only through a long-term practise of democracy.

Having said this, the role of religious parties is different in different countries. True, Rached Ghannouchi has been welcomed by a few thousand people on his arrival at Tunis airport. But his Nahda movement has much less influence in Tunisia than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Of course, this is in part because Al-Nahda suffered from harsh repression since the 1990s. But it is also because the Tunisian society is less prone than the Egyptian to religious fundamentalist ideas, due to its higher degree of Westernisation and education, and the country's history.

But there is no doubt that Islamic parties have become the major forces in the opposition to existing regimes over the whole region. It will take a protracted democratic experience to change the direction of winds from that which has been prevailing for more than three decades. The alternative is the Algerian scenario where an electoral process was blocked by the army by way of a military coup in 1992, leading to a devastating civil war for which Algeria is still paying the price.

The amazing surge of democratic aspirations among Arab peoples of these last few weeks is very encouraging indeed. Neither in Tunisia, nor in Egypt or anywhere else, were popular protests waged for religious programs, or even led principally by religious forces. These are democratic movements, displaying a strong longing for democracy. Polls have been showing for many years that democracy as a value is rated very highly in Middle Eastern countries, contrary to common "Orientalist" prejudices about the cultural "incompatibility" of Muslim countries with democracy. The ongoing events prove one more time that any population deprived of freedom will eventually stand up for democracy, whatever "cultural sphere" it belongs to.

Whoever runs and wins future free elections in the Middle East will have to face a society where the demand for democracy has become very strong indeed. It will be quite difficult for any party––whatever its programme––to hijack these aspirations. I am not saying that it will be impossible. But one major outcome of the ongoing events is that popular aspirations to democracy have been hugely boosted. They create ideal conditions for the left to rebuild itself as an alternative.

Gilbert Achcar, who grew up in Lebanon, is professor of development studies and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, and author most recently of The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2010.

Farooq Sulehria is working with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen ( Before joining Internationalen, he worked for one year,2006-07 at daily The News, Rawalpindi. Also, in Pakistan, he has worked with Lahore-based dailies, The Nation, The Frontier Post and Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from Punjab University, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications in Europe and Australia.

PPSS Statement on POSCO


Villages Gadkujang, Nuagaon, Dhinkia; Erasama Block, Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa.

A "Green Signal" for The Rape of Justice and the People: Environment Ministry Decision on POSCO

Jairam Ramesh and the UPA government have shown their true colours with their decision today on the POSCO project. Ignoring the reports of its own advisory bodies and enquiry committees, violating its own orders and the laws of the land, this Ministry has shown that the naked face of corporate greed - not the "rule of law", the "aam aadmi", "inclusive growth" or any of these other lies - is what rules this country. The decision today can be summarised in one sentence:
"Repeat your lies, give us promises that we all know are false, and then loot at will."

We repeat: we will not give up our lands, our forests and our homes to this company. It is not the meaningless orders of a mercenary government that will decide this project's fate, but the tears and blood of our people. Through the road of peaceful demonstrations and people's resistance we have fought this project, in the face of torture, jail, firings and killings. If this project comes it will come over our dead bodies.

We note the following about today's decision:

The Orissa government has been asked to give an "assurance" that the people of the area are not forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, after which the "final forest clearance" will be granted. The Orissa government has already lied on this count on numerous occasions. Indeed, the majority report of the POSCO Enquiry Committee said "The Committee finds that the government's own records such as census reports and voters list confirm that there are both other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) and forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes in the project area and the statement of the District Collector of Jagatsinghpur to the contrary is false" (para II.1, Conclusions and Recommendations). Even the dissenting member agreed that the Act had
not been implemented. The same finding had been reached by the subcommittee of the Saxena Committee earlier. After the Ministry's own enquiry committees have found the Orissa government guilty of lying, what is the meaning of saying the project can proceed if the liars repeat their lies?

This Ministry has earlier made a song and dance of respect for people's views and environmental laws. Under the Forest Rights Act, the consent of the gram sabhas of the area is an essential requirement, and this was confirmed by the Ministry's own order. Three different committees - the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the Ministry's own Forest Advisory Committee - all therefore said the clearance should be withdrawn. The Minister today claims that the project can go ahead if he and the Orissa government decide they want it to. So much for the law and for people's rights.

On the environment clearance, we recall again the words of the majority Enquiry Committee, which said "Potentially very serious impacts ...have not even been assessed, leave alone planned for.... The cavalier and reckless attitude of the concerned authorities to such potentially disastrous impacts is horrendous and shocks the collective conscience of the Committee....There appears to be a pre dominant belief that conditionalities in the EIA/ CRZ clearances are a
substitute for comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the environmental impact by the authorities. Imposing vague
conditionalities seems to be a way out for the various agencies from taking hard decisions on crucial issues." Again, it is not us who said this - it is the Ministry's own Committee! And yet this is exactly what the Minister has chosen to do.

Independent reports and studies by reputed academics have confirmed what we have always said - this project will be of no benefit to anyone except POSCO's profit margins. But yet we find this being called a project of "strategic importance." To whom?

Today the veil stands ripped open; the government stands exposed before the nation, a mercenary willing to put its regulations, officials and security forces at the disposal of the highest bidder. Let the UPA and the Central government answer: where is the rule of law today, in the name of which you crush struggles across the country? Where is your much vaunted love for the people and for the environment? What do you stand for if not for corporate greed?

Prashant Paikray

Spokesperson, PPSS


Samir Amin on Egypt

Egypt at crossroads

Samir Amin
(Reproduced courtesy Viewpoint Online)

In case of "success" and "elections", the Moslem Brotherhood will become the major parliamentary force. The US welcome this and have qualified the MB of being "moderate", that is docile, accepting the submission to the US strategy, leaving Israel free to continue its occupation of Palestine. The MB is also fully in favour of the ongoing "market" system, totally externally dependent.

Egypt is a corner stone in the US plan of control of the Planet. Washington will not tolerate any attempt of Egypt to move out of its total submission, also required by Israel in order to pursue its colonization of what remains from Palestine. This is the exclusive target of Washington in its "involvement" in the organization of a "soft transition". In that respect the US may consider that Mubarak should resign. The newly appointed Vice President, Omar Soliman, head of the Army Intelligence, would be in charge. The Army was careful not to associate with the repression, thus preventing its image.

Baradei comes in at that point. He is still more known outside than in Egypt, but could correct that quickly. He is a "liberal", having no concept of the management of the economy other than the on going, and cannot understand that this is precisely at the origin of the social devastation. He is a democrat in the sense that he wants "true elections" and the respect of law (stop arresting and torturing etc), but nothing more.

It is not impossible that he would be a partner in the transition. Yet the Army and the Intelligence will not abandon their dominant position in the ruling of the society. Will Baradei accept it ?

In case of "success" and "elections", the Moslem Brotherhood will become the major parliamentary force. The US welcome this and have qualified the MB of being "moderate", that is docile, accepting the submission to the US strategy, leaving Israel free to continue its occupation of Palestine. The MB is also fully in favour of the ongoing "market" system, totally externally dependent. They are also, in fact, partners in the "compradore" ruling class. They took a position against the working class strikes and the peasants struggles to keep their ownership of land.

The US plan for Egypt is very similar to the Pakistani model : a combination of "political Islam" and Army intelligence. The MB could compensate their alignment on such a policy by precisely being "not moderate" in their behavior towards the Copts. Can such a system be delivered a certificate of "democracy"?

The movement is that of urban young, particularly holders of diplomas with no job, supported by segments of the educated middle classes, democrats. The new regime could perhaps make some concessions – enlarge the recruitment in the State apparatus – hardly more.
Of course things could change if the working class and peasant’s movement moves in. But this does not seem to be on the agenda. Of course as long as the economic system is managed in accordance with the rules of the "globalization game", none of the problems which resulted in the protest movement can be really solved.
Samir Amin is an Egyptian economist. He currently lives in Dakar, Senegal. He has written more than 30 books including Imperialism & Unequal Development, Specters of Capitalism: A Critique of Current Intellectual Fashions, Obsolescent Capitalism: Contemporary Politics and Global Disorder and The Liberal Virus. His memoirs were published in October 2006.