One of the closest parallels the struggle in Kashmir has to do with is, what was for long, called the ‘Irish question’. Which is similar in its imputed enunciations to Kashmir being called a ‘dispute’. There can, politically, morally, and ethically, be no question or dispute; the people’s right to freedom, by any covenant with God or even just a state (which could be called a social contract) is paramount. But, faced with the sort of obduracy and denial and violence that Kashmiris face, the Irish, on their part, came up with a slogan: “You may kill the revolutionary but never the revolution. By ballot or gun, our day will come.” The Irish republic was formed, though Northern Ireland remains a bit of a sticking point. That presupposes a belief in the ballot, under a genuine democracy. What of us, under a regime that is genuinely undemocratic while parading its claims of being the largest democracy in the world? How does one articulate, and differentiate, between the elements within that so-called democracy which can, keeping faith with their own ideological tenets, support our just and genuine claims and those that only ostensibly offer, albeit conditional, support?
Following the fracas in JNU and some other universities in India, where students, admirably, stated their support to the cause of Kashmir’s freedom, a few things rapidly became clear: the mainstream Left in India is but a handmaiden to the ideas of nationalism and territorial integrity; the larger colonial practice, imbibed by even the Left, of treating Kashmiris like ones uninitiated in the subtle intricacies of the workings of state, capital and nationalism, remains unabated. Reversing the diatribe, one can argue that once a Left party in India is subsumed into parliamentary politics, and Indian politics being what it is — an instrumentality for identity politics – the supposed inclusion of Kashmiri slogans for genuine territorial freedom (Azadi from India) can be mutated into something closely resembling liberal assumptions (Azadi within India). This is, of course, a tactical rather than a principled approach to fundamentally radical, national liberation movements.
It must be clear by now to Kashmiris that one must, counter to much of the Indian Left narrative – that of seeking wider solidarities of class and labour –, seek a grounding in absolute commitment to a struggle for national liberation, first and foremost. Other solidarities can stem from that, but that commitment has to be non-negotiable. That is the sole relationship the Left in India and Kashmir can have.