On K, the Left is Right

The fracas following the protest in JNU on the anniversary of Afzal Guru’s hanging has led to interesting revelations and, hopefully, some understandings on where the Indian political spectrum segues on Kashmir. The question is what should young Kashmiris now learn, and use that learning to inflect their understanding and arguments, from how varieties of political criticism and approbation of the JNU event progressed? That simple question, of course, is only seemingly so. Because the larger question is that of the Indian Left’s role on Kashmir, and why exactly it has so seamlessly been subsumed into nationalist-right wing discourses on what is patently the cornerstone of arguments on Indian nationalism, territoriality and democracy. The crisis of the Indian Left is only part, though a key one, of an answer to that question. The big, original split in the Indian Left, happened, fundamentally, on issues of locational politics and internationalism. Many sections now called the ‘mainstream’ Indian Left gradually, due to the exigencies of parliamentary politics, which basically meant their failure to navigate a new course of action given ‘Indian realities’ of caste and region, began to dovetail with, earlier, the Congress idea of the Indian nation and then only differing with the Hindu Sanghi idea of that entity in the domain of how that politics was played out. There was no genuine questioning the idea of territoriality.

In simpler language, it means that sections of the Indian Left began mimicking nationalism, while putting out student-level pamphlets in still-somewhat hospitable universities like JNU, on the need to question that nationalism. The claims of territoriality, patently false, either in Kashmir or the North East, were only questioned up to a point and then quietly, surreptitiously, a critique abandoned. Thus, the fact of student wings of the CPI or CPM, and even the CPI (ML-L), not even underlining what could and should – and certainly in the case of the (ML-L) – have been a fundamental theoretical underpinning, that of solidarity with struggles of national liberation and self-determination, began to be manifest, even in campuses like JNU.
In their place, new (through old in terms of existence) groups began to speak of Kashmir, with their own radical critique of nationalism’s territorial claims. These are still marginal groups, and hence the difference between the defence put up for their respective student members and those of the ‘mainstream’ Left, both so ridiculously targeted by the Indian state. But for Kashmiris this is a good opportunity to learn to differentiate between just who is a ‘comrade’ – in terms of genuine solidarity – and those who are now patent Indian nationalists