Left leaders hit the streets in rain to protest Kashmir bifurcation
Top leaders of Left parties joined cadres in a protest in the rain on Monday as the debate in the Rajya Sabha raged over the Narendra Modi government’s decision to scrap the special status that Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed under Article 370.
Left groups have called for wider protests across the country on Wednesday.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who took part in the protest on Parliament Street, warned the government of a people’s backlash if it did not start a political discussion.
“To strengthen unity you have to win the trust of the people. Without taking people into confidence, without political consultation, the government has brought such a law surreptitiously and suddenly after deploying 45,000 more troops in Kashmir,” Yechury said.
“If you want to keep the country united, you have to make the people of India stakeholders. Today, you have done the opposite. Even now you can start a political discussion and end this illegality. If this is not stopped, then people will come on to the streets to protect the unity and integrity of this country against these fascist ideas of the government.”
Five Left parties — the CPM, CPI, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc and the CPIML-Liberation — issued a joint statement condemning what they called an “assault” on federalism.
“The special provisions guaranteed by the Indian Constitution to the state of Jammu & Kashmir were the result of the princely state signing the Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union in the face of Pakistani invaders. By the current measures, the Modi government has completely negated the assurance made by the Indian government to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. This is an assault on federalism, a fundamental feature of the Indian Constitution,” the statement said.
CPI general secretary D. Raja said the state of Jammu and Kashmir “must be restored by the government” that has proposed bifurcating it into two Union territories.
“If numbers were the criteria, Hitler would have become a democrat in the history of the world. This is what is happening in India. What is the big difference between Modi and Hitler?”
CPIML-Liberation politburo member Kavita Krishnan told The Telegraph: “I would like to tell (Delhi chief minister Arvind) Kejriwal that today the Centre has arbitrarily dissolved a state. You demand full statehood for Delhi. Tomorrow, if Modi and (home minister Amit) Shah merge Delhi with Haryana or Uttar Pradesh, would you not consider it a violation?”
Kejriwal has backed the decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. His party spokesman Saurabh Bharadwaj has said the AAP had supported the move as Pakistan and China occupied two-thirds of Jammu and Kashmir and because of infiltration by insurgents.
Krishnan said abrogation of Article 370 was as much a solution to the Kashmir dispute as the demonetisation was to the problem of black money. “The economy is still reeling under the impact of that decision. By abrogating Article 370, you are weakening our position and telling the world that you don’t give a fig for democracy.”
On Jantar Mantar street nearby, several Leftist mass organisations, as well as CPIML-Red Star cadres, protested eyeball to eyeball with a small group that held a banner with the words Azad Hind Fauj and orange flags.
The Left cadres did not respond to jibes from the little-known Hindutva group. One of its members even pushed a laddoo into the mouth of a Central Reserve Police Force officer who was keeping the two groups apart.
Gautam Mody, general secretary of the Left-leaning New Trade Union Initiative, told this paper: “There is no significant history of Jammu and Kashmir rejecting important, progressive and forward looking legislation passed in Parliament — under the special status it had under Article 370…. Removal of the special status should have at least been preceded by wide debate in Jammu and Kashmir and in Parliament, and not muscled through with the Chairman saying there is a need for speed. Speed for what?”
Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu had in the House used the word “urgency” while responding to Opposition MPs who had likened the government’s move to the imposition of the Emergency.
Economist Jean Dreze said it was the “end of hope” of the people of the state. “They are mainly asking for freedom from repression and if the Centre had given reasonable concessions, then this could have been resolved. Further totalitarian measures will be counterproductive.”