Silver lining in Kashmir elections

By Lal Khan Most people voted for better living conditions and an end to suffering. While doing so they made no secret of their aliena...

By Lal Khan

Most people voted for better living conditions and an end to suffering. While doing so they made no secret of their alienation from New Delhi either

In the current epoch, the most deceitful form of elections and democracies is to be found in those countries that are either directly or indirectly under military rule and/or world and regional imperialist powers. We have witnessed this farce in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indian held Kashmir is no different as it is under the direct boots of Indian imperialist military aggression, an occupation enforced by the so-called “largest democracy” in the world with one of the largest military deployments and draconian laws like The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) infringing the basic rights of the Kashmiri oppressed masses.

The current sorry state of Kashmiri nationalists and separatists is entirely due to their erroneous policies, strategies and, more importantly, reliance on US imperialism and its concubine, the UN.

These leaders capitulated to capitalism and laid bare the fact that independence for Kashmir on a bourgeois basis is sheer utopia. The ebbing of the Kashmir uprising in the early 1990s and the machination of the Pakistani state resulted in pushing the nationalist movement aside and the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalists further damaged the quest for Kashmir’s independence. 

This proved very convenient for the Indian state to intensify state terrorism against Kashmiri freedom fighters on the alibi of the war against terror. The right wing semi-religious tendencies that called for Kashmir to become a part of Pakistan also drove a wedge in the struggle for national liberation.

The betrayal and impotence of Kashmiri nationalist leaders and the weakening of the nationalist struggle, the new generation of the Kashmiri youth on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) had no choice but to find a new path of struggle for their social and economic demands. Some of this struggle of the youth is being expressed through the Marxist tendency, which is trying to forge a link between the struggle for nationalist emancipation and the class struggle following Lenin’s position for carrying out a victorious socialist revolution. 

However, Kashmir’s masses in general have been left with very few avenues of struggle and have tried to voice their struggle through the recent elections in Kashmir, taking on the Indian oppressor bourgeois in its own game. The reactionary Modi regime, intoxicated with its newfound power, tried aggressively to force its writ on the people of Kashmir but the corporate bigots’ rhetoric of development was resisted and had to adopt sublime pretence.

As with previous rulers, the Modi regime also tried to placate the Kashmiri elite of its sinister designs. However, due to the pressure of the Kashmiri masses from below, the wealthy and corrupt political leaders did not and could not dare to openly side with the reactionary Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Those who did were considered traitors. 

This created two types of polarisations in Kashmir. One was to bifurcate Kashmiris on the basis of religion more than ever before and, secondly, the resolve of the Kashmiri masses against any subservience to Delhi has sharpened and radicalised. This deceit of ‘development’ and bringing more investment to the state by the demagogic Hindu right wing failed as the Kashmiri masses saw through this false development and exposed that the real intentions of Modi was to expropriate Kashmiri land by diluting the Land Acquisition Act for corporate vultures and rendering ordinary Kashmiris deprived of the very rights that their ancestors had fought the maharajah over in the 1920s when they won this act.

However, in Jammu, Modi exploited old complaints of ‘discrimination’ and succeeded in winning 25 seats out of a total of 37. In the valley, the BJP lost its deposit in 35 of the 36 seats it contested. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won 28 seats of which three came from the Muslim majority areas of Jammu, and became the largest single party. The Sangh Parivar has fostered this religious polarisation since 1947. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) demanded trifurcation of the area on religious lines not realising this would yield it only two and a half of Jammu’s former six districts. The BJP got in all some three percent of the valley’s total vote. This is the net result of its trifurcation of frontier efforts.

Most people voted for better living conditions and an end to suffering. While doing so they made no secret of their alienation from New Delhi either. Whatever rotten coalition takes place it is likely to be unstable and cannot end the exploitation and oppression of the Kashmiri masses. These festering wounds on the body politics of the subcontinent cannot heal within the confines of the system. Yet there was a silver lining in the dark clouds that have blanketed Kashmir for three quarters of a century in these elections.

Mohammad Yousaf Tarigami, the state secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist), won the election in Kulgam constituency for a fourth consecutive term. Kulgam is located on the northern foothills of Pir Panchal and has been a strong bastion of the fundamentalist politico-religious organisation the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Tarigami contested for the first time in 1996 when Kashmir was in the grip of fundamentalism, polarisation and religious militancy. He retained the seat in 2002 and 2008 and fought the elections again in 2014 on the ticket of the CPI (M). 

The PDP rhetorically promised to fight the BJP’s Hindutva but also played a communal card in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley. In Kulgam it also campaigned against the Communist candidate in the name of Islam and its workers tried to present the election as a battle between Islam and kufr. The big contractors, drug smugglers and JI activists supported Tarigami’s opponent in a big way with money and manpower.

The main focus of the CPI (M) campaign was on protecting the rights of the working class and all oppressed classes including low paid employees and temporary daily wagers. Universal health, education and benefits for the old, sick and the destitute, and demands of the peasants were highlighted in the election manifesto. The revolutionary struggle in Kashmir was emphasised as part of the universal fight against the anti-people capitalist system. While campaigning it was also clarified that the parliamentary path was not the only way to fight and defeat the exploitative system; it was only an opportunity to boost the struggle to overthrow imperialism, capitalism and ruthless exploitation.

The revolutionary poems of Faiz and the famous Kashmiri revolutionary poet Abdul Ahad Azad were sung in the campaign meetings. The symbol of the party — sickle, hammer and star — was distributed among the voters and pasted on walls in every town and village. The communist campaign did not feel shy about publicising the aims and objectives of the communist ideology and its revolutionary struggle for the transformation of society. In a telephonic message to the Pakistani Marxists, Tarigami said, “It is not just my victory, it is the victory of the revolutionaries of the subcontinent and the whole world.” - DAILY TIMES 

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at


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