Kashmir: Socialists organise anti-war demos

The 13 December attack on the Indian parliament, alleged to be the work of the Islamic group, LET backed by the Pakistani military and security services triggered off the largest military build-up since the 1971 war between the two nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. This happened firstly on the dividing Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir and then on their international borders.

Both countries have amassed their armed forces, with over half million Indian soldiers on the Indo-Pakistani borders which has now become the biggest ‘mine zone" border in the world.

According to media reports, over 100,000 people have been forced to migrate from the LOC alone. In the three districts in IOK (Indian Occupied Kashmir), including Jammu, Poonch and Rajoori, over 36,000 thousand school children after their holidays found their schools housing refugee families according Kashmir Times (13 January 2002).

In POK(Pakistani Occupied Kashmir) districts of Poonch, Kotli, and others have too seen thousands of people migrating to safer places. Muslim Conference government Prime Minister stated here that 28,000 people have been displaced, while unofficial figures are double that, since the 13 th December attack. Many of the houses of internal refugees have been mined.

A witness described how after taking his family to safety, he returned to get his belongs including bedding etc he found armed guard and told that his house was mined all around with a total of 39 mines. He said that the prices of rent have rocketted up to 3500 Rupees. Hundreds of villagers observed a strike a few days ago against the Muslim Conference government demanding housing, food and other basic needs. No concrete steps have yet taken by the government in POK to help thousands of families, with no shelter particularly during the winter since the outbreak of renewed military tension between the two countries.

On 25 December, activists of NAP-Kotli and NSF-Kotli, held an anti-war demonstration and a public rally in district council hall, led by NAP president Anwar Khan, NAP-Kotli district president Ali Asghar, Amar Hussian and Yahssar Malik, president and secretary general of NSF Post Graduate degree college to protest against the ‘imminent’ a clash, between the two nuclear rivals.

One banner read, "Down with US Imperialism, Down with IMF, World Bank and WTO" and "No to POTO (Prevention Of Terrorism Ordinance- bulldozed by the BJP and accepted immediately by the Farooq Abdullah National Conference led cabinet of IOK). Other slogans also read: "No Ordinance 2000" (The Pakistani Musharaff regime’s latest anti-worker legislation).

Another banner read: " Fight for Free Education". Speaking at a rally Anwar Khan said that US imperialism have imposed another war over the poor masses of this region after its attacks, which began on 7 th October, on Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world.

He said: " We had said fifteen years ago that, if capitalism was not uprooted, the oppressed classes in the world would continue to be dominated by the big powers. The Indian and Pakistani ruling classes are bent upon destroying the peace in this region."

He appealed to the youth, workers and peasants of Kashmir, India and Pakistan to come forward and struggle against the capitalist system and liberate the oppressed classes from the clutches of this exploitative system.

He explained: "The two nuclear powers of this region and their respective ruling classes have brought the masses of Kashmir, India, Pakistan and whole of the region to the brink of a catastrophe. The working class and the poor masses of the sub-continent are paying the cost for this arms race. Millions of people in this region are denied their basic needs, that of health, education and employment and clean drinking water."

Anwar Khan congradulated the NSF-Kotli youth for launching a "Fight for Free Education" campaign and termed it as bold step. He said free education was one of the basic rights and criticized the policies of globalisation dictated by the financial institutions of capitalism like the IMF and World Bank which have led to the destruction of the lives of millions of youth, workings class and poor masses in neo-colonial countries and world at large.

While Yahssar Malik, read out the main demands of the "Fight for Free Education" and welcomed the launching of the International Socialist Resistance, the international youth organisation at this critical juncture which affects the future of all youth under the exploitative system of capitalism.

The following resolution was passed at the rally:

  • No to War- For an immediate end to the on-going US Imperialist led attacks on Afghanistan and expressed solidarity with the youth, workers and peasants.
  • Condemned the imposed war situation and massive military build up of forces of India and Pakistan on the LOC and international borders and appeal to the trade unions youth, working class and the peasants of POK, IOK, Pakistan and India, to express unity solidarity. It called for action to demonstrate collectively against this imminent war, and demanded that the money spent on the arms race be spent on the basic needs employment, health, education housing and clean drinking water etc.
  • Scrapping of POTO and Ordinance 2000 and Special Power Act (POK).
  • Condemning the policies of IMF in POK, and anti-workers policies, all public sector working outstanding salaries be paid immediately
  • All the people displaced on the LOC be given immediate relief, of housing, food, cloths, and allowances.
  • Demanded the lifting of the ban on trade unions and students unions.

12 January demo

On 12 th January NSF-Kotli and activists of NAP-Kotli again held a demo against the war on the eve of General Perviaz Musharaff much publicized speech. Niaz Khan was the main speaker at the public rally held at the main crossing in Kotli. Around 50 youth were there.

This demo took place when, a day earlier the Indian army chief, remarked in a press conference that they were "ready for war". The press did not respond apart from few Urdu newspapers. The Muslim Conference government in Pakistani Occupied Kaashmir was criticized for not paying any heed to the plight of the displaced people from LOC.

The use of the Special Powers Act where a number of teachers, including district president of AJKTO (Azad Kashmir Teachers Organisation-largest public sector union) amongst others, was forcibly retired on charges of corruption and not attending his duties has caused further anger amongst the masses. This Act would be used against other workers and some protest is being seen in form of statements by the AKTO.

The threat of a war has not receded, after the Sunday speech of Musharaff, where he announced the banning of 5 main, Jehadi and sectarian organizations including JEM (Jaish –e- Mohammad), and LET (Lishkar-E- Tayuba – blamed for attack by BJP government over the 13 th December attack on the Indian parliament).

The clampdown on sectarian Jehadi organisation had led to arrests of hundreds of their activists. While the Muslim Conference toed Mush raff’s line and also announced a ban on LET and JEM. All the mainstream Islamic groups and jehadi groups have rejected the banning of these organisations as against the "freedom struggle in Kashmir".

Today the Defense Council for Afghanistan and Pakistan (DCAP), Jamiat Ulma – Pakistan, all pro-Taliban Islamic organistaions, announced a day of protest on Friday and police have been ordered to stand by and record Friday’s speech prayers of different Mosques and take strict actions against anyone indulging in "politics".

Colin Powell’s tour of India and Pakistan has been described as a ‘peacekeeping mission’ to reduce Indo-Paki tensions.

While the Musharaff regime has said that " As long as that Indian Capability remains there, Pakistan would be constrained to keep what it had deployed close to the border’. While Indian government said that, it would keep its armed forces on the borders until Pakistan stops ‘cross border terrorism’.

Musharaff’s speech has been hailed by US, UK and other capitalist powers as ‘historical". The Indian and Pakistani armies stay put on ‘alert’ and clouds of war still hang over the workers and the poor masses. According to Pakistani press reports, (Dawn, 15 January 2002) the cost of deployment of Pakistani armed forces on the LOC have a price-tag of ‘R2-3 bn and another R5-7 bn on the international borders. This will cripple the already debt ridden economy of Pakistan, after the 13 th September attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.Indian workers and masses will be burdened with paying for the cost of R15 bn for the deployment by the Indian armed forces.

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January 2002