On August 5th, 2019, the Bhāratīya Sansad (the Parliament of India) passed the “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019“, which split the now former state of Jammu and Kashmir into an eponymous Union territory in the western half, and the territory of Ladakh in the eastern half.
Within the Indian federal structure, such a move effectively deranked the territory, losing some of its atonomous powers, namely the reduction of the Janmu and Kashmir legislature from a bicameral to a unicameral organ, increased role of the Central government, and in newly created Ladakh, direct rule through a Lieutenant Governor.
This legalistic change was the high point of weeks of unrest, protests, and violent repression by the Indian State in the region. Loss of autonomy was already the reality since the institution of “Governor’s Rule” in June 2018, as a result of escalating violence against the Indian occupation.
The history of Jammu and Kashmir, its relation to both the Indian and the Pakistani State, and the decades of both violent and non-violent resistence against capitalist repression are both too deep and to complex for a dutch organization to tell you about, and here we appeal to you to perform your own research, and to spread existing voices which are under the danger of being silenced by apathy or repression.
Despite this, at the height of Indian repression in 2019, severe lockdowns, accounts of violence, rape, mass arrests and accusations of prepare ethnic cleansing in the name of the Hindutva ideology abounded. During this period, Vrije Bond Amsterdam and Vrije Bond Ommeland had the chance to engage with an Indian activist in Europe raising funds, awareness, and international solidarity to the Kasmiri and their strggle.
Below is the interview we have performed, during the occasion of the 2019 Amsterdam Anarchist Bookfair, edited to protect the identity and the safety of the interviewed comrade.
VB: Can you please provide the reader with some background on the Kashmir region?
Kashmir is a region that is claimed by Pakistan and India to be their own territories and they’re been fighting for it for the last 72 years since the independence of India and Pakistan when they were split up when the British were leaving. Kashmir as a region has a history, a culture of people that is older than the states of Pakistan and India both but right now because India is powerful and on a global level especially as capitalists and because now we have a Hindu fascist extremist government in power who are rabidly Islamophobic. They have invaded Kashmir.
The reason Kashmir acceded to India at the time of partition and they were really not a part of India, they had a deal that, the military especially, would be the responsibility of the state of India. Until now, Indians couldn’t buy land in Kashmir and they did have the kind of constitution that the rest of India has. There was a separate constitution, they have a special status in the constitution of India.
What India has done on the 5th of August is completely go back on their word. They have overnight, without the consent of the people of Kashmir, removed this connection that Kashmir had with the state of India. They have claimed that “this land belongs to us”. What they’re doing now is displacing the people of Kashmir. Kashmir’s population is predominantly Muslim. 90%. No other region of India has that kind of Muslim population.
“They have removed their status, what they enjoyed under the constitution of India; they have treated Kashmir as a piece of real estate. They have invaded that land.”
They want to remove the population of Kashmir, populate it with Hindus, and give away chunks of land and resources to the Hindu Capitalist extremists. What is happening right now is a literal genocide.
For the last 3 months, they have shut down the internet, they have shut down foreign lines, the Indian media is reporting absolutely fabricated stuff about how Kashmir is normal and that there are still tourists going there, it’s a beautiful and peaceful and tranquil place, whereas currently people are being arrested in mass. Kids, the ages of 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 are being arrested, they’re being tortured, many of them have disappeared, around 15.000 have disappeared. Many of them are just dying of torture, people are not found at all.
In the past also it was not really peaceful. Under other governments, Kashmir didn’t really enjoy any kind of peace or tranquillity. There have been attacks and there have been multiple violations by the army of India. Women have been raped in massive numbers, but what’s happening right now is a little invasion. They have removed their status, what they enjoyed under the constitution of India; they have treated Kashmir as a piece of real estate. They have invaded that land.
If anybody wants to understand, deeply, about what the Kashmir conflict is they should read up sources which are more local, which are not aligned with the interests of the Hindu Fascist government right now. A lot of voices are being cut off and muffled by the Indian government. There are some sources, for example, The Caravan, Scroll, Wire. There’re some authors like very prominent Kashmiri writer in London called Mirza Waheed. They can find him online, follow his page on facebook and twitter. There is a page called Stand with Kashmir which has a decent following, roughly 50.000 followers, they are reporting on a daily basis about what’s happening in Kashmir. It’s an authentic local voice of the Kashmiri people.
On the 27th of October, just last Sunday that went by, they organized a vigil worldwide, including one in Amsterdam itself that I was at. People showed up in solidarity, people showed up asking other people around to raise their voice against this brutal oppression of Kashmiri people by the state of India.
And I’m… In solidarity with Kashmir and absolutely opposed to the government of India… and if anybody wants to understand and learn more about Kashmir, follow the page Stand with Kashmir and also follow the page of Mirza Waheed, who is a Kashmiri also living in London. He’s an author, an accomplished writer, and very renowned voice of Kashmir.
“They have now claimed a big region of India, which is now known as Red Corridor. And this… it’s militant.”
VB: Could you, if it’s possible, describe the current state of the anti-capitalist or the anti-authority movement in India so people know who is the opposition to the Indian government? Is that something you feel up to for Kashmir specifically or India in general?
As far as, anti-capitalist movements taking place in India there is a movement which is known as Naxalism. Naxalites, who are Maoist in ideology they’ve been raging a war against the state of India since 1967. It’s one of the most well-known movement against the oppressive state of India which is taking place in India. They have long been branded terrorists. They have been persecuted on a level which is unprecedented.
They have now claimed a big region of India, which is now known as Red Corridor. And this… it’s militant. There has been a conflict with the government for quite a while now, people dying on both sides.
Other than this, there are various separatist movements going on in India against the government of India. They may not be anti-capitalist, but they’re definitely nationalistic, although on a different level Hindu nationalism is right now. They’re just seeking their freedoms, for example, one of the most well-known movements is the Khalistan movement which has regained fervour after what the Indian state has done to Kashmir.
It became a little dormant in the recent years but now seeing that they are, the state of India is going to do this to many other people also, they have come back so, they have gained a voice again and more vigour online. The state is called Punjab.
Punjab is a fairly prosperous state of India, which is populated largely by the people of the religion called Sikhism, the ones where the men wear turbans. They are the Sikh people. The Sikh religion began, essentially, in opposition to the principles of Hinduism: the Caste system, if you’ve heard of it. It grew because it opposed the oppressive hierarchy inbuilt within Hinduism and in the 80s and 90s there was a movement that Punjab wanted its own autonomy and wanted to be a sovereign region.
In fact, after what happened to Kashmir on the 5th of August, separatists and secessionists from Punjab have expressed solidarity with the people of Kashmir but whether there are protests happening right now, it’s in the US or in the UK, where the diaspora of Punjab and Kashmir are protesting, and conducting vigils, and raising voice, they are together. It’s beautiful to see this kind of solidarity.
The Naxalist… sorry, the Naxalite movement, which is taking place in a whole different region of India, which, by the way, is anti-capitalist, has also expressed solidarity with the people of Kashmir in light of what’s happening them right now. It is, it is not as democratic as, say, an anarchist organization would be because they are Maoist. They have a leader; they have a hierarchy.
They have a vast influence now, surprisingly I’ve learned very recently, the fact that this movement has sustained in India where people are largely submissive and passive. I was just happy to know that this… that what I thought were terrorists are actually raging a war against capitalism. They are mostly indigenous and travel in communities whose lands have been stolen, whose people have been brutalized very badly… They are inspired by Mao so they’re called Maoists.
“If I said this right now, I would be in jail. Absolutely.”
Most of Indians don’t even know what Maoism is, they don’t even know what they’re going for, why they are fighting but everyday their lands are stolen, their people are brutalized, their women are raped. Not their women, women are raped and people don’t realize that if this were happening to them, and by people I mean the people who believe they’re terrorists, they don’t realize that if this were happening to them they would also react in the same way. If you’re left with nothing, if it comes to… such kind of war being inflicted upon you and your family and your community, you would organize and fight it.
So, these solidarities are ideological, I don’t know how far they will go to share resources and come together to fight but in principle and morally, they are together at the moment.
And there are other voices, in other regions of India who have expressed displeasure in what… in the agenda of India, the government of India, is pursuing which is ethno-nationalist, hindu-fascist, backed by the capitalist extremists of India. They’re not Naxalites, in fact the only elected communist government in the world right now is in a province of India called Kerala.
And are they Maoists, also?
No, they’re not Maoists. They’re not Maoists, in fact even though they’re called communists they’re not practically communists but they are pretty left-wing. Pretty leftist.
There are also other communist parties of India, who have enjoyed power but they are very oppressive and they’re not really true to the essence or ideology of communism but they get by and they are, like centrists or maybe left of centre, but they’re not really opposed to oppressive hierarchies and… because many of them, many members of those parties, are from the oppressive communities, you know?
So, there are 28 provinces in India now, not counting Kashmir unfortunately whose statehood has been snatched. The elected leaders of Kashmir are still under arrest, by the way, it’s been 3 months. They are still in… under arrest, so yes there are regions in India other than Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, I’ve not even spoken about Assam yet. 2 million muslims have lost citizenship in Assam.
That’s a whole other issue on the same scale as Kashmir’s. To imagine taking away the citizenship of 2 million people who have been living there all their lives. There are concentration camps being built all over India right now. I think 16 already? Many are under construction, many more are planned, this government is actively pursuing the purging of Muslims from India. Muslims right now are in a situation with the presence of this government in India.
So there are states like Tamil Nadu, like Kerala who have resisted this imposition of Hinduism by the current government and they’re doing ok for now but not all regions are doing so well. They’re under threat, their autonomies are under threat, their culture, their languages, their identities are under threat. Very tangible proper threat.
There are many fascist governments everywhere now, especially in the west, and most of them are Islamophobic. In fact, most of those fascist Islamophobic governments are friends with Indian’s state at the moment. So, for something to happen people have to mobilize and raise their voices in big numbers, and put pressure on governments in such a way that something positive happens. How can Americans, for example, push for something positive in Kashmir? When you have Trump and these people in power? People have to mobilize. People have to mobilize in big numbers and put pressure.
In fact, if in the west there are people who mingle with Indians… Indians are pretty much everywhere now. 1 out of 7 people on planet Earth are Indian, that’s how many we are, many of the diaspora are supporters of this government. They support the invasion of Kashmir, they support the genocide of Muslims, so, if anybody meets an Indian who supports this name and shame them on the spot. It may not be the safest thing to do but in the west it is, of course in India it would be more difficult to do it where violence now runs rampant but say, the Netherlands or UK wherever you see Indians supporting this: they must be shut down.
They must be shut down, you must speak against them, you must shame them, you must openly voice your displeasure against this happening and, if possible of course, pressure your government to put pressure on the Indian government. Raise funds for organizations that are… yeah, organizations that are fighting for separation and autonomy. Raise funds and send them the money.
If I said this right now, I would be in jail. Absolutely.
Of course, I plan to go back to India. I don’t wanna live here, I wanna go back to the people of India, mobilize somehow, and I wanna open up a school. A school where I can teach the under-privileged, the ones persecuted by, you know, the current government/the ruling class who are pretty oppressive and start some kind of consciousness amongst those who lack resources.
I come from a privileged family and I want to transfer all my privilege to them. I was passing by this organization called Vredes Bureau bureau, a little… I would not call it an office but, a place in Eindhoven and I saw the flyer for anarchist book fair… the first thing I did was get in touch with them and I asked them if I can volunteer, they were happy to have me volunteering, they sent me pamphlets, stickers, posters which I tried to put up in Eindhoven and I spoke to people at my workplace to please come.
Nobody did, but I did my best, I’m happy to be at the anarchist book fair, I’ve met a lot of people. Beautiful day and people expressing solidarity with each other, fighting all kinds of oppression and hierarchies. Oppressive, brutal hierarchies. I hope to play a larger role with or without the organization to spread the word, help people, be more free in whatever way possible.
Note from the Vrije Bond:
Since this interview in 2019, the situation in the Kashmir has not significantly changed. Repression, censorship, the rise of the COVID crises have not brought succour to the region. Solidarity and vigilance against Indian fascist rhetoric is the minimum we can ask from so far away. The elevation of voices from the region is also a constant need, so below you can find two of the sources our interviewee wished to signal boost:
A word on anarchism and National Liberation
The ultimate goal that the mass-movement known as Anarchism strives towards is the end of oppression. The liberation of all from all coercive forms of rule, be it social, religious, economical, sexual, etc. The role of nationalism, specifically nationalism of groups struggling against imperialist aggression, is one that has not been without contention. Anarchists naturally reject nationalism: the creation of arbitrary, top-down lines of separation between people, lines which many times do not respect the nuances of history and ethnicity of the groups they claim.
Nationalism is, for us, nothing but a form of control, a tool to standardize and enforce the co-optation of different forms of alienation into a pre-made form from which conformism could be enforced.
National liberation, or the awakening of group identities separate from what imperialist authorities attempt to enforce, however, is a nuance which we cannot so readily discard. But what is it? As Lucien van der Walt describes:
“In short, these (National Liberation) struggles are struggles against the domination of one people by another. They are struggles centred on questions of equal language and cultural rights and recognition of local cultures. They are struggles for political and social equality. They are struggles for equal access to resources, to welfare, to jobs, all jobs, to land. Above all, they are struggles which address concerns specific to an oppressed nationality, and they are struggles which centre on a particular territory, fought by the distinct and oppressed nationality which lives in that territory under conditions of oppression and domination. As national liberation struggles grow and gather strength, they became mass movements, drawing in people from across the class and social spectrum in the oppressed nationality.
Mikhail Bakunin, the great anarchist revolutionary of the 1860s and 1870s, a lifelong advocate of the right to self-determination of oppressed nationalities declared “strong sympathy for any national uprising against any form of oppression,” for every people “has the right to be itself… no one is entitled to impose its costume, its customs, its languages and its laws.” It was “shameful,” Bakunin added, to ignore national liberation struggles, for it meant, in practice, siding with States and empires that practice imperialism or national oppression. “
Anarchism itself has had a rich history of fighting for National Liberation; from Peter Kropotkin:
“True internationalism will never be attained except by the independence of each nationality, little or large…. If we say no government of man by man, how can [we] permit the government of conquered nationalities by the conquering nationalities?” (quoted in McKay 2014; 45–46)
“We are internationalists…so we extend our homeland to the whole world…and seek well-being, freedom, and autonomy for every individual and group….Now that today’s Italy invades another country [Libya—WP]…it is the Arabs’ revolt against the Italian tyrant that is noble and holy….We hope that the Italian people…will force a withdrawal from Africa upon its government: if not, we hope that the Arabs may succeed in driving it out.” (In Turcato 2014; 357)
Further, in Wayne Price’s pamphlet on National Liberation:
“After World War II there was a national liberation war waged by Algerian rebels against the French empire. French anarchists gave concrete aid, and various forms of support, to the Algerian forces. As an anarchist “public intellectual”, Daniel Guerin expressed his solidarity with the Algerian people in insurrection. He was for the Algerian organizations when they fought against the French state—which is not the same as endorsing their nationalist politics, which he did not. (Price 2013) (For the record of anarchists’ attitudes towards the Vietnam war and more recent wars between imperialist powers and oppressed nations, see Price 2006; 2005.)
Bonanno, an influential italian comrade, concludes on his own tract on the issue:
“Anarchists should give all their support, concrete regarding participation, theoretical concerning analyses and study, to national liberation struggles. This should be begun from the autonomous organisation of the workers, with a clear vision of class counter-positions, that is putting the local bourgeoisie in their correct class dimension, and prepare the federalist construction of the future society which should rise from the social revolution. On this basis, which leaves no room for determinisms and idealisms of various species, any fascist instrumentalisation of the oppressed people’s aspirations can easily be fought. It is necessary though that in the first place we become clear among ourselves, looking forward and building the correct analyses for an anarchist revolutionary strategy.”
It is thus realized, admitted, and also understood that even in these struggles, a class-analysis must not be abandoned. Imperialism and colonialism are tools of Capital. The struggle against the empire is also the struggle against Capital.
We must not, however, forget the role of cooptation within these movements, but should not let us use this as an excuse to turn a blind eye to those who are, in theory and in practice, fighting for their liberation. The independence of Brazil from the Portuguese Empire was a step forward, even if today the colonial white elites maintain a second era of colonialism on the black and pardo population. The liberation of India from the British Empire, likewise, was a necessary step forwards to further breaking apart a reactionary force, even if today we must contend with Hindutva nationalism as a new beast. There are no easy answers, and no quick solution, but solidarity must be unambiguously, ethousiastically provided to all those who ask from below.
The Vrije Bond stands by our comrades in thought and in action: The destruction of imperialism and colonialism worldwide is our goal, here in the Low Lands, and in all lands where oppression casts its shadow on our siblings.
All for all!
This interview was made possible with the assistance of the Amsterdam Anarchist Bookfair. In 2020, again there will be one.
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