Violence continues in Jammu and Kashmir

NEW DELHI, India – Violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), one of the Indian states, seems to have no end. Lives of innocent people, mainly from the working class of Kashmir Valley, are still held at gunpoint. The last major incident, which took 28 lives, was in Rajiv Nagar, Jammu, July 12. Pakistan-based Lashkar-E-Toiba took responsibility. In 2002 alone, 456 civilians and 195 security personnel were killed in the valley. Each and every day gun batteries shadow over the people of J&K.

The right-wing Indian government and the state government of J&K remain idle. There are forces within J&K that seek independence, as well as extreme forces that back Pakistan’s attempt to take over the majority Muslim J&K.

The issue of religious communalism is fueling the policies. Pakistan, an Islamic state, and their ruling elite utilize this to rationalize taking over J&K. To further complicate matters, India’s present national government, led by the Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seeks to overturn Indian secularism and establish a Hindu country. Because of this and the state-sponsored pogroms against the Muslim minority in Gujarat, another Indian state, the actions and policies of the Indian government are not trusted by the Muslim majority in J&K.

The BJP-led Indian government and the J&K secessionist forces refuse to seriously discuss Article 370 of the Constitution which provides maximum autonomy to J&K, while remaining in the Indian union. Many agree there can be no genuine political solution to the problem in Kashmir unless the issue of autonomy is taken up seriously.

Jammu and Kashmir provincial elections will be held in three months. Some moderate secessionist political parties have indicated their willingness to participate in the poll process. This invited the anger of the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC), which is supposed to be the main coalition of all terrorist organizations operating in Kashmir valley. UJC called for a boycott, but the call has received little response.

Chances for more attacks and violence are expected in the days leading up to the polls. If the elections go smoothly it will create political problems for the terrorist organizations and their sponsors. An elected government in the J&K secretariat will show the world community that the people of the Valley want to participate in Indian politics. Pakistan, with a clear interest in taking over the majority Muslim J&K, wants to avoid such a situation.

Pakistan’s foul play in Jammu and Kashmir has been clearly established, but the U.S. Bush administration, which is acting as a mediator between India and Pakistan, is ignoring this for their own aims. The Bush administration’s imperialist interest in oil-rich Central Asia is compelling them to keep mum, although they are conducting a “war on terrorism.” Infiltration from Pakistan by terrorists through the “Line of Control” continues unabated, admitted the Indian Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. Advani and other Indian government officials are staunch allies of the Bush administration.

The U.S. military and corporate interests have stepped up their involvement in South Asia. Colin Powell visited India, July 27, to try to mediate a U.S. solution. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will come in August and Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca will come in September.

But world imperialism and its supporters, like Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Gen. Musharraf, are lacking the political will and the class interests to end this problem. They want this issue to be alive to gain some political mileage and further corporate interests, from the arms lobby to coffin manufacturers.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org