[Marxism] Indian Leftists and Kashmir (response to Marla)

Nagesh Rao ngsh_rao at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 21 23:59:24 MDT 2005

Vijaya Kumar Marla's response to my critique of his
argument demonstrates with even greater clarity the
implicit national chauvinism of his position.

Let me repeat the basic argument that I put out in my
critique. I don't think that we should praise the
Indian military's "efficient" response to the
earthquake disaster without at the same time
highlighting the fact that Kashmir is a region under
occupation by the Indian military. The military's
ability to respond to the disaster cannot be
disconnected with its role as occupier.

Marla says: "Do you deny the fact that in India ...
the military does not interfere in state affairs and
the Indian democracy is strong enough to prevent the
military from taking over the government."

This is a very narrow view of the relationship between
the military and the "state." The state ("bodies of
armed men") is nothing without its military, and the
Indian state and its military have been complicit in
denying self-determination not only to Kashmiris but
to various peoples of the Northeast. A democracy, as
the U.S. has so often proved to us, is as capable of
undemocratic militarism as the worst dictatorship.

He then writes: "India is a vast country with many
races, tribes, languages, ethnic groups - with
regional disparities, gross government neglect and
vested interests playing havoc with the nation's

Why should "the nation's integrity" be the yardstick
here? "National integrity" is precisely the blind spot
of the Indian Left. Unless we can champion the right
to self-determination of oppressed nationalities
within our own borders, then all our socialist
rhetoric is useless, as we fall back on what is
essentially a bourgeois nationalist position. Why do
Marla, and so many others on the Indian Left,
fetishize "national integrity" and "national unity"? I
think that this is what fundamentally leads the Left
to downplay the legitimate demands of Kashmiris for

One way that this is done is to suggest, as Marla
does, that it is only the fundamentalists who are
"stoking" conflict in Kashmir. By this argument, the
Indian military is justified in "securing" the region.
By doing this, though, he erases the history of the
tens of thousands of ordinary Kashmiris (not
fundamentalists, or jihadis, or terrorists, but
ordinary Kashmiris) who have been murdered, raped and
maimed by this occupation.

Standing against the fundamentalists does not mean
that we deny the widespread desire for independence
that exists in Kashmiri popular consciousness. The
vast majority of Kashmiris, particularly in the
valley, are not fundamentalists. This is why they
support someone like Yasin Malik, who stands for
Kashmiri self-determination, but from a secular,
democratic position.

Marla's "solution" proceeds along the same
national-chauvinist lines. He writes: "The solution
does not lie in the further disintegration of the

So the right to self-determination, which Marxists
have recognized as a basic democratic right, must be
jettisoned in the interests of "national unity". I
would insist that if we cannot support oppressed
peoples in their struggle for self-determination, we
are aligning ourselves with our own rulers. Period.

Marla continues: "... but  only in the emergence of a
socialist society that can recognise the inelianable
rights of every ethnic group over their land and their
right to their due share of the nation's resources."

So his solution is to tell those who are oppressed
under military occupations to put their demands on
hold until the "emergence of a socialist society."
This "emergence" can only happen, in the first place,
if the working classes develop an internationalist
consciousness, and there is no way you can be an
internationalist on the one hand, and on the other
hand tell a people who are oppressed by your
government to not fight for their own liberation.

Marla says that a socialist society (which it seems
would magically emerge without struggles against
national oppression) would grant ethnic groups their
"due share of the nation's resources." But this is
again based on an implicit chauvinism. For it assumes
that the only legitimate national unit here is "India"
as it exists today. Within this "strong, united India"
(Marla's words) oppressed nationalities would have to
simply shut up and take what the Indian Left decides
is their "due share" of "the" nation's resources. In
other words, Marla cannot even begin to view India as
anything other than a single, undivided nation, even
in a socialist future. But how can he, when in the
present, he refuses to acknowledge that there are
legitimate claims of self-determination among several
oppressed groups in our so-called democracy?

Marla writes: "Yes, I want a strong united India,
whose progress is not hampered by religious
fundamentalists creating trouble by exploiting the
dissatisifaction of the people of Kashmir."

Typically, the Indian Left manages to sound
"sympathetic" to the Kashmiris, but ends up denying
their status as an oppressed nationality.
"Dissatisfaction"??! Isn't that trivializing the
trauma of living under military occupation? I wonder
how many Indian Leftists have actually been to Kashmir
and seen the utter devastation in the valley. Or
talked to people there, and heard their stories of
women and children being raped, old men being
murdered, young men being kidnapped and tortured by
the Indian military.

Do I want to see a socialist society, where people
would live free of oppression? Of course I do. Do I
want to call for a "strong united India"? Of course
not. And that is precisely what being a socialist is
about, I think.

Let's make no mistake about it: India is a regional
hegemon, aspiring to become a player on the world
stage. A "united, strong India" is exactly what the
Indian ruling class is building. You cannot be a
socialist while at the same time lending support to
their dreams of national glory. I believe that it is
our duty as Indian Leftists to reject this aspiration
for a "strong united India" and instead to fight for
solidarity among workers and peasants in the region,
regardless of nationality. That means that we have to
necessarily raise the demand for the liberation of
those areas that are occupied by our state, our

This is not "rubbish," Marla. I would argue that it is
a defining weakness among many Indian Leftists. We
cannot hope to fight Hindu fundamentalism at home
without opposing the single most egregious example of
the oppression of Muslims--the occupation of Kashmir.
And we cannot build anti-communal solidarity across
national borders if we continue to bask in the glory
of a strong, united Greater India.

If you find critiques of the Indian military and its
occupation of Kashmir offensive (that was, after all,
the subject of my post), then I think you cannot
escape the charge of national chauvinism.


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