Solidarity-givers of India and destiny of the Kashmiri tehreek

Pothik Ghosh

“…a free multitude is guided more by hope than fear; a conquered one, more by fear than hope: inasmuch as the former aims at making use of life, the latter but at escaping death.”
– Spinoza (2004, p.315)

“…you Chartists must not simply express pious wishes for the liberation of nations. Defeat your own internal enemies and you will then be able to pride yourselves on having defeated the entire old society.”
– Marx (2001, p.118)

Kashmir is free and how

Kashmir is no longer a nation of oppressed individuals. It is an impersonal war machine of unremitting resistance and collective courage. The pronounced mass-insurrectionary turn that its 70-year-old national liberation movement has taken since the emergence of the everyman stone-pelter in 2010 is proof of that. The cyclical return of militant mass upsurges every summer with unerring frequency, and their steadily rising intensity, has revealed that Kashmiri society has, over the past seven years, become almost entirely insurgent.

However, last year’s mass uprising, which followed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s assassination by the Indian forces, marked an even more decisive shift in this mass-insurrectionary character of the tehreek. It demonstrated that the Kashmiri war machine was now on an unstoppable roll. And whatever little doubt there might have been on that score ought to be set at rest by the ongoing Valley-wide students’ revolts. These revolts have been triggered by a surge in coercive operations by the Indian security forces after an abysmally low voter turnout was recorded during a recent bypoll in the occupied territory.

The current revolts, not unlike the mass uprising last year, demonstrate that the security forces are in a situation of retreat. The way things played out between the insurrectionary Kashmiri mass and the Indian paramilitary contingents during the 2016 uprising showed the Kashmiri people had, through their fierce resistance, chased the forces back into their bunkers and barracks. In such circumstances, the rise in sub-human forms of coercion by the security forces was, contrary to established common sense, a measure of weakening of the occupation, not its strength. And that is also pretty much the case insofar as the response of the forces to the current revolts in the Valley is concerned.

The hitherto unparalleled levels of barbaric coercion perpetrated on the Kashmiri people by the Indian Army and paramilitary forces do not in any way demonstrate the tightening of India’s control on occupied territory. Such savagery is, instead, an indication of the anxiety of an occupation that is fast losing its grip. It is an expression of fear and desperation of the occupation forces confronted with the death-defying valour of an advancing multitude.

Kashmir is, indisputably, an insurgent society. It is, therefore, a free society! The occupation, and its apparatus of venial local collaboration, enjoys not even a shred of consent among the Kashmiri population – now more than ever. This is revealed, among other things, by how the occupation has of late been going about its business. The threats issued by a frustrated Indian army chief to the stone-pelting masses of Kashmir for coming to the aid of armed freedom fighters, every time the latter are engaged in skirmishes with the Indian forces, is a case in point. General Bipin Rawat’s threats, which have subsequently been made good on the ground by the Indian forces, underscore how armed struggle in Kashmir is, contrary to Indian propaganda, an organic extension of the mass movement: the two have more and more come to work in complementary tandem with one another. (This has ensured the Kashmiri movement is not militarised even as armed struggle remains one of its indispensable aspects.) General Rawat has admitted, in almost as many words, that Kashmiri people are hostile towards the army and the Indian nation-state it represents. His frothing-at-the-mouth statement is clear evidence of that.

And if that is not good enough one only needs to turn one’s attention to how some videos of abuse of Kashmiri youth by the footsoldiers of repressive state apparatuses have gone viral on the internet. Considering that such videos serve no other purpose than demonstrate the capacity of the occupation to humiliate the Kashmiri people and strike the fear of god in their hearts, their production and circulation is most likely the work of some or the other agency – official or otherwise – of the Indian state.

However, that has not, in any way, served to break the morale of the resistance. The current mass upsurges in the Valley continue undeterred. Clearly, the Indian state, and the occupation it helms, can now do little else than purvey and openly champion such savagery, even as such savagery continues to be rendered less and less effective.

A case of the missing counter-power

Kashmir is, for all practical purposes, free. However, it is this freedom wrested by the Kashmiri tehreek for itself that is also its greatest predicament. One that confronts the movement as a question it can no longer afford to either ignore or defer: how can the force that is this freedom break through the obstructive power of occupation, and in the process organise itself into a counter-power? For, until and unless that happens, the advancing multitude of Kashmiri resistance is bound to keep running into a wall of overt repressiveness. This is the only thing that now constitutes the power of occupation in the face of an insurgent everydayness, which is well-nigh unmanageable.

The seemingly unending cycle of ever-intensifying multitudinous resistance and its obstruction by increasing levels of coercive state power demonstrates the stalemate the Kashmiri national liberation movement is caught in. The Manichean form imposed on the movement by the occupation will have to be decimated if the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination is to break out of this stalemate, and fully realise itself.

In other words, what is unavoidable is the unraveling of the Indian nation-state, which imposes this Manichean form on the Kashmiri national liberation struggle by virtue of being the centre and source of the occupation. No serious strategic attempt has been made so far to effect such unraveling. As a result, the resistance stands condemned to be part of an ever-intensifying vicious circle of mass action and its suppression by the repressive apparatuses of the Indian state. In fact, the Indian state ‘legitimises’ and steps up the coercive might that animates such suppression precisely by imposing this Manichean form on the Kashmiri resistance. It accomplishes this imposition because by its very existence as a nation-state that occupies Kashmir it ensures the mass-insurrectionary resistance against it is eventually mediated, and thus captured, by the Hurriyat parties.

As the institutionalised leadership of the Kashmiri tehreek, the Hurriyat is, by default, the nascent Kashmiri state. It exists only to articulate the insurgent Kashmiri people by tending to represent them. The existence of such an institutionalised leadership is not a matter of choice, though. This has little, if anything, to do with whether or not – and to what extent – the Hurriyat leaders are personally incorruptible. It is ineluctable because, as we have observed, it is something that is necessitated by the fact that the geo-political entity, which is the centre and source of the occupation of Kashmir is invariably a nation-state – the Indian nation-state.

Be that as it may, the existence of this institutionalised leadership ensures the movement is etatised in form while it is still a movement. Not surprisingly, this enables the Indian state to step up its military might vis-à-vis the tehreek, and produce justifications for repressive manoeuvres against it. Worse, it shackles and undermines the multitudinous form the movement has assumed, and thus thwarts the generalisability of the non-Manichean politics of self-organisation and self-emancipation that is clearly, albeit incipiently, posited by this multitudinous form.

In an overall sense, all of this is tantamount to the appropriation of the Kashmiri war machine by the Indian state. It is precisely such appropriation that Deleuze and Guattari caution us against when they write (2004, p. 461):

“When the State appropriates the war machine, the latter obviously changes in nature and function, since it is afterward directed against…all State destroyers, or else expresses relations between States, to the extent that a State undertakes exclusively to destroy another State or impose its aims upon it.”

Internalised occupation, multitudinality and the proletariat-to-come

At this point, we would do well to grasp the precise sense in which the character of the Kashmiri resistance in its current insurrectionary expression is multitudinous. The various politico-ideological forms through which mass action organises itself on the ground in Kashmir are in a state of constant flux and mutation. Their discursive signification is also continually shifting. That is so because those forms are almost entirely a function of self-activity of the Kashmiri masses – a self-activity that has become nearly unharnessable.

This is the reason why the leaders thrown up in the process of mobilisation, activation and/or generation of those politico-ideological forms manage to acquire very little stability or institutional fixity. They are, obviously, as transient as the discursive forms they are concomitant with.

In other words, the mass-insurrectionary specificity of the current moment of the Kashmiri resistance lies in the fact that masses accept historically given politico-ideological forms of organising action only to constantly master and overcome those forms, and generate new ones. It is the structuring of the masses into such a movement – which, in turn, is the outcome of their own unrelenting self-activity – that has rendered them multitudinous. This multitudinality is nothing but the capacity of the masses to articulate the insurgency of their everyday existence in its ontological primacy.

Multitudinality is the sociality of segmentation and its constitutively Manichean political form existing in a state of unprecedented precarity and crisis respectively. The multitude, then, is a socio-political form that is an intimation of what it seeks to be but is not yet: sociality as a politics qua process of abolition of segmentation and its constitutively Manichean political form, precisely by working through that form. In that context, the proletariat as a political subject is, for us, nothing save the concrete articulation of this process – together with the struggle constitutive of it in it being in and against the systemically imposed Manichean form.

The way Hardt and Negri distinguish the “traditional modern conception” of insurrection from the one that is of a more recent vintage – arguably the type the Kashmiri resistance now incarnates – is instructive for our purposes here (2005, p. 69):

“The traditional modern conception of insurrection, for example, which was defined primarily in the numerous episodes from the Paris Commune to the October Revolution, was characterized by a movement from the insurrectional activity of the masses to the creation of political vanguards, from civil war to the building of a revolutionary government, from the construction of organizations of counterpower to the conquest of state power, and from opening the constituent process to establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Such sequences of revolutionary activity are unimaginable today, and instead the experience of insurrection is being rediscovered, so to speak, in the flesh of the multitude. It may be that insurrectional activity is no longer divided into such stages but develops simultaneously.”

The multitudinous war machine anticipates its own transformation into a proletarian political subject in this precise sense. In the absence of such transformation, it is condemned to be constantly captured by the state to be transformed into a cog in its repressive apparatus.

Now, to the extent that Kashmiri society is multitudinous in being insurgent, it reveals itself to be segmented precisely in demonstrating the hitherto unprecedented precarity of the segments that constitute it, and the chronic instability of the hierarchical relations among them. In other words, the Kashmiri movement in demonstrating its multitudinality reveals how the occupation of Kashmir has been much more than what it is in its immediate historical appearance – the workings of an externalised power of domination, and a Manichean struggle between this power and the force of resistance against it.

Historically speaking, the occupation, of course, began as an external imposition. But it then went on to become internal to Kashmiri society. It has, for a while now, been embedded in the very fabric of the occupied society. That is evident not only in the divide between the collaborator class and the rest of the Kashmiri population, but also in the differentiated ways in which the occupation has so far been experienced and resisted by different non-collaborating sections of Kashmiri society. That, needless to say, has been a function of the economic relations and attendant vectors of social power constitutive of that society. This shows the Indian occupation of Kashmir has reproduced itself precisely because it has functioned as a power that internally regulates the hierarchical intercourse among segments constitutive of Kashmiri society by virtue of residing in each and every transaction among those segments.

The multitudinous character of the resistance is a clear indication that this is precisely what is now breaking down in Kashmir. In being an expression of the instability of segmentation and hierarchy in Kashmiri society, this multitudinality demonstrates the crisis of occupation as a regulative power internal to that society.

It shows the dismantling of the occupation is now inseparable from the transformation of Kashmiri society into a non-segmental sociality. For that, the only thing anti-occupation politics now needs to do is fully realise its own pronounced tendency of becoming a rigorously articulated dynamic of de-segmentation. The current multitudinous character of the Kashmiri tehreek has been posing the necessity of generalising this tendency by virtue of being an expression of precariousness, and thus crisis, of segmentation.

That is quite possibly why the tehreek’s institutionalised leadership – as in the Hurriyat – manifestly has very little say now on how anti-occupation militancy gets organised on the ground. The transience of politico-ideological forms – and the concomitant ephemerality of leadership – through which the Kashmiri masses have lately been organising their various actions against the occupation shows exactly why and how the larger movement is now beyond any significant control of a stable or institutionalised leadership. The only function that Hurriyat parties now evidently have is to put their seal of formal legitimacy on what is happening on the ground, or what has already been decided by the multitudinous resistance. This they do by periodically issuing official statements and/or making public announcements.

The Occupation’s Manichean trap

Yet, it is undeniable the Kashmiri resistance, its current multitudinous character notwithstanding, still needs such an institutionalised leadership, if only to confer formal legitimacy on its activities. This shows the function of the Hurriyat is purely statal, even if such statal functionality is for now nascent. Such mediation of the resistance by an institutionalised leadership ensures the former remains trapped in the Manichean political form, which makes it relatively easy, both logistically and strategically, for the occupation to target it coercively, militarily.

The statal form in which the movement comes to be articulated, thanks to it being represented by the Hurriyat, also ensures that the loosening segmentation of the sociality is once again tightly regimented. As a result, the multitude tends to lapse back into a cohesive order of social segmentation, instead of realising the non-segmented processual existence it so clearly posits. And tends towards. That, in turn, also tends to restore the occupation as the regulating power internal to the segmented society of Kashmir.

This then is exactly what Kashmir is now: a situation of constantly accelerating oscillation between the loosening and tightening of social segmentation, and thus the constantly intensifying precariousness of occupation.

But let us now be more accurate about all of this. It is not the existence of institutionalised leadership of the Hurriyat parties that makes it easy for the Indian state to unleash coercion on the Kashmiri resistance, albeit that is how it appears to be. It is, actually, the other way around.

The existence of the occupation now as a purely irrational and naked power of coercion, thanks to the multitudinous character of the Kashmiri resistance, compels this mass-insurrectionary movement to eventually seek representation through an institutionalised form such as the Hurriyat. In the process, the multitudinality of the resistance is captured and repressed.

Therefore, the Hurriyat, precisely in being the institutional leadership of Kashmir’s national liberation struggle, is, in the latter’s multitudinal moment, doomed to be mobilised by the Indian state as an instrument to better target its coercive and military manoeuvres against the resistance. Hence, it will not be incorrect to insist that this is, in fact, the reason why the state ‘allows’ for the existence of – and even reproduces – the Hurriyat as an institutionalised leadership of the Kashmiri national liberation movement.

The way out of this then is really quite simple. The military and coercive might, which is all that is left of the power of occupation, will have to be decimated for the Kashmiri resistance to realise the non-segmental sociality its current multitudinous character posits. And that, in turn, shall be achieved only through the unravelling of the Indian nation-state, and the power of political economy that necessitates its existence as also that of the geo-political configuration of South Asia constitutive of it as this nation-state. Only that would accomplish the end of occupation, both in form and substance, and simultaneously amount to Kashmir attaining its goal of full self-determination.

Kashmiri self-determination and unravelling of the Indian nation-state

In fact, so crucial is the unravelling of the Indian nation-state for Kashmir that were the latter to gain national independence formally without the former unravelling, such independence would amount to nothing save the perpetuation of Indian occupation by other means. Therefore, as long as the Indian nation-state exists, formal separation of Kashmir from its forced incorporation into the so-called Indian Union will not automatically translate into decolonisation.

Decolonisation, after all, is not merely the end of formal colonisation. It must also be the end of occupation in substance – that is, it must amount to thwarting all possibility of post-colonial neo-colonisation. The Indian nation-state will, without doubt, resort to such neo-colonisation of Kashmir if it gains its national independence without extinguishing India.

This it will do by instrumentalising the ruling classes of the formally free Kashmiri nation in much the same way it now instrumentalises the institutionalised leadership of its national liberation movement. Its very existence as the kind of nation-state it is, destines India to do nothing else but this in a scenario where Kashmir is formally free.

That such a scenario is now not entirely implausible is something the Kashmiri resistance, and all those who claim to be in solidarity with it, must seriously reckon with. In the face of uncontrollable multitudinalisation of the Kashmiri national liberation struggle, which reveals the social-revolutionary orientation it has almost nearly acquired, the Indian state could well employ the strategic ruse of formally granting Kashmir national independence in order to regiment this multitudinality and, thereby, nip the impending social revolution in the bud.

After all, the sovereign state of the new Kashmiri nation would, by virtue of coming into existence, necessarily tend towards containing this multitudinousness by structuring it into a national society. And that would be crucial for the continued survival of India. The social-revolutionary upheaval that the increasing multitudinisation of the Kashmiri movement portends for the entire subcontinent, threatens the Indian nation-state with inevitable extinction.

The unravelling of the Indian nation-state is, clearly, the destiny of the Kashmiri national liberation movement. Its multitudinous character indicates that with great acuity and accuracy. That is the only way for the Kashmiri people to really end the occupation, and achieve their goal of national independence and self-determination in any substantive and meaningful sense.

Settling for formal national independence in the absence of such unravelling of India would mean, as we have already observed, that Kashmir is trapped by the Indian nation-state in a renewed bout of occupation in the form of neo-colonisation.

Is Kashmir a case of classical colonialism?

To properly understand why that is so, one needs to rigorously inquire into the substance of the Indian occupation of Kashmir. It has historically been a colonial occupation. And even now that is the discursive form in which the relationship between India and Kashmir manifests itself. Yet, if we were to look through this discursive appearance to grasp how it is articulated within the larger structure of hierarchised socio-economic relations that are concretely indexed by this entity called the Indian Union, we will realise the Indian occupation of Kashmir is far from classical colonialism.

The main purpose of this occupation, unlike classical colonialism, is not extraction of Kashmiri resources for Indian industry. Nor is it about opening up markets for absorbing commodities overproduced by industry in the Indian mainland. Of course, both do, in some measure, still happen – actually quite a bit when it comes to something like hydroelectricity. But that is not the central point of the occupation.

The whole purpose of Kashmir’s occupation is the securing of geo-political hegemony of India in South Asia. In this context, the de-development Indian occupation wreaks in Kashmir is neither for extraction of indigenous resources nor is it for opening up consumption markets for commodities overproduced by industry in the Indian mainland. It is, instead, a necessary part of an attempt to ensure the perennial subservience of the occupied population while guaranteeing the effective operation of various patronage networks run by the occupation in order to make the subservient population even more dependent on the Indian state so that it is completely at its mercy. That is the occupation’s way of ensuring its own longevity.

India’s geo-political hegemony, which its occupation of Kashmir asserts and maintains, is absolutely crucial for the nation. For, it is precisely through such regional hegemony that the Indian nation-state is able to produce and shore up nationalist consensus in its mainland. That is important because only by producing and reinforcing such consensus can the Indian nation-state – which is nothing but a concrete historical index of social labour organised into a systemic regime of differentiated or segmented necessity – maintain and reproduce itself.

The Indian nation-state is like every other nation-state, which is constitutive of the capitalist world-system as the basic unit of organising international division of labour. It, therefore, concretely indexes the organisation of social labour into a regime of differential dis-privilege and differentiated necessity. In other words, it is a concretely-indexed system of transfer and extraction of surplus labour-time.

Nationalist consensus, in such a situation, is the ideological form constitutive of this materiality of segmented organisation of social labour in its different and differentiated, but mutually combined historical contexts. It is a form that is constitutive of different segments of social labour representing their everyday struggles in terms of rights. Consequently, this form, in being bolstered, reinforces such juridical representation (and distortion) of the everyday struggles of social labour. As a result, the strengthening of this form enables the reproduction of the capitalist system and the nation-state that is its concrete index.

Now, as far as India’s socio-historical specificity is concerned, it can bolster this nationalist consensus – its register preponderantly Islamophobic and brahminical – only by asserting its hegemony in South Asia, primarily through the occupation of Kashmir. In fact, this is the specificity of India occupied Kashmir (IoK), wherein it serves to preserve capital by reinforcing the power of political economy in its concrete South Asian regionality and, thereby, in its particular global conjuncturality. It is in this precise sense that India is an imperialist entity. Here, once again, is evidence – this time perhaps even more conclusive – that there can be no real freedom for Kashmir without the unravelling of the Indian nation-state.

India’s mediatic solidarity-givers and the missing proletarian revolution

Of course, it is very important that this is registered by the Kashmiri resistance at the level of its collective intelligence. But it is even more important the solidarity-givers of Indian mainland grasp this. For, it is in the Indian mainland that the final battle for the liberation of Kashmir will have to be fought and won.

It is here the unravelling of the Indian nation-state will have to be ultimately effected by shattering the nationalist consensus. And this will only be brought about through militant interventions that foreground the counter-tendency of rupture inherent in the quotidian nature of the struggles of different segments of ‘Indian’ social labour vis-à-vis their default tendency of juridical representation and systemic subsumption.

But for that, solidarity-giving Indian mainlanders need to realise the question that has been driving their enterprise is thoroughly misplaced. In giving such solidarity to the Kashmiri tehreek, they have always asked: ‘What can we do for Kashmir and its struggle against occupation?’ But solidarity is not a sentiment to be abstractly expressed and extended. It is a politics that has to be produced as a concrete strategy and materiality.

In order to produce such a strategy mainland solidarity-givers would do well to invert their question. What they need to ask, instead, is the following: What is the Kashmiri movement against Indian occupation doing for the everyday struggles of the working people of mainland India?

The answer to that is something they need to build on. Only then will their sympathy for the suffering people of IoK cease to be the abstract charity it currently is, and become a concretely-grounded empathy for the sufferings of comrades with whom they share a concrete horizon of internationalism of struggles.

In other words, one cannot produce such a politics of solidarity unless one recognises that the challenge the Kashmiri movement poses to India’s geo-political hegemony in South Asia favours and advances the everyday struggles of working masses in the Indian mainland. Such a challenge, needless to say, tends to concomitantly weaken the Indian nation-state as a concrete historical index of organising labour into a sociality of capital.

In such circumstances, unravelling of the Indian nation and its constitutive state is absolutely indispensable for the emancipation of mainland India’s social labour from the regime of differentiated necessity it is imprisoned in. Once this is recognised, all the confusion, equivocation and bad faith, which have recently come to the fore, thanks to some Indian leftists distinguishing between “azadi in India” and “azadi from India” so that they can comfortably ride both horses, will vanish like camphor.

The everyday struggles of the masses inhabiting the Indian mainland are nothing but struggles of various segments of social labour to emancipate themselves from the necessity constitutive of their differentiated quotidian existence. However, the systemic regime within which such struggles emerge to challenge that regime in its concrete specifications tends to register, articulate and situate those struggles as demands for rights placed on the system. That amounts to the fetishisation or mystification of those struggles and their everydayness into juridicality. And this is precisely the reason why disaffection with the system often adopts nationalism and other related reactionary ideological forms to represent itself as an everyday experience. This is how different segments of social labour come to be organised into a hierarchy of biopolitical identities.

For this reason, mainland Indians committed to forging an effective politics of solidarity with the Kashmiri national liberation struggle must necessarily double up as militants of proletarian-revolutionary politics. They need to intervene in the various everyday struggles of different segments of social labour – including their own – to demonstrate through militant inquiry and self-inquiry how those struggles are actually system-unravelling, and are rendered juridical only on account of being counted and placed by the system. Only through such interventionist demonstrations can those everyday struggles be impelled to generalise what they ontologically are: basic units of a movement that will negate the Indian nation-state as a historically indexed regime of capital.

Such a movement in the mainland will significantly undermine the hegemony of the Indian nation-state. That will, in turn, enable the Kashmiri national liberation struggle to advance further. What we shall have, in such circumstances, is the dialectical unfolding of the Kashmiri resistance enabling the everyday struggles of the working masses in the Indian mainland, even as the latter enable the former’s advance by being the generalisation of their own revolutionary ontology.

The Indian solidarity-givers – most of them ‘radicals’ of some sort or the other – have made no serious attempt to envision their politics of solidarity in those concrete terms. Theirs has mostly been a ‘solidarity’ of self-aggrandising display of bravado and social-mediatic spectacles of abstract heroism. In this context, the criticism Fanon levelled against those “French intellectuals and democrats” who sought to be in solidarity with the Algerian national liberation struggle becomes quite pertinent (1988, p.80):

“…French intellectuals and democrats have periodically addressed themselves to the FLN. Most of the time they have proffered either political advice or criticisms concerning this or that aspect of the war of liberation. This attitude of the French intelligentsia must not be interpreted as the consequence of an inner solidarity with the Algerian people. This advice and these criticisms are to be explained by the ill-repressed desire to guide, to direct the very liberation movement of the oppressed.

“Thus can be understood the constant oscillation of the French democrats between a manifest or latent hostility and the wholly unreal aspiration to militate ‘actively to the end.’ Such a confusion indicates a lack of preparation for the facing of concrete problems and a failure on the part of French democrats to immerse themselves in the political life of their own country.”

‘Political equality of nations’: the burden of an abstract schema

This failure of our solidarity-giving mainland ‘radicals’ – leftists or otherwise – to envisage their solidarity with the Kashmiri national liberation movement by way of “immers(ing) themselves in the political life of their own country” stems from the strategically flawed manner in which they approach and champion the cause of Kashmir’s national independence. So far they have, to all intents and purposes, been guided in this by the abstract schema of political equality of nations. A hoary Leninist dogma now, it was meant to do no more than fulfil the specific revolutionary-tactical requirements of Lenin’s own conjuncture.

As a Naxalite/Maoist articulation in the Indian context, political equality of nations implied federal equality of nationalities. It was meant to be a tactical manoeuvre to democratise the Indian Union by way of deepening its federalisation. Now it must be clarified here that separation of a nationality/nation from the Indian Union is not necessarily a break with this process of federalisation. In fact, it can very well spell its continuity. That is because one can quite legitimately raise and articulate the question of formal separation and national independence from the Indian Union by employing this federalising approach. All one needs to do in such a situation is change one’s articulation of the territorial form of federalism from the national to the regional/subcontinental. India’s politico-economic relations with Nepal and Bhutan – or, for that matter, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar –, or even Pakistan, arguably testify to that.

Such a federalising approach to the question of national independence of Kashmir – or other occupied territories in the so-called Indian Northeast – is bound to continue placing the Indian Union at the geo-political centre of things, implicitly or otherwise. That is because such an approach to the question of separation and national independence necessarily presupposes the continued existence of the Indian nation-state.

Not surprisingly, the politics of solidarity-giving, which is either deliberately or unreflexively informed by this bourgeois republican conception of political equality of nations, contributes to both reinforcing India’s position as a regional hegemon and its continued Manichean domination of Kashmir.

In fact, it is on account of this approach that Indian radicals, who support the Kashmiri national liberation struggle, have proved to be, in effect, no different from those sections of the Indian left, which pose the question of Kashmir as nothing more than a human rights issue. Arguably, the former, just like the latter, have no real socio-political programme for unravelling the Indian nation-state through a praxis of concretely-grounded post-national revolutionary internationalism. Hence, their support for Kashmir’s azadi has meant no more than placing it as a demand on the Indian state. Such an abstract politics of demand, not unlike the left-liberal politics of human rights, confers legitimacy on the Indian state and is, in essence, both reformist and nationalist.

Of course, some among those solidarity-givers are participants in, or ideological supporters of, the armed struggle being waged by the Indian Maoists in the geographic heart of this nation. But to the extent that the Indian Maoists’ ‘revolutionary’ programme is that of democratising the Indian nation in the process of seizing its state apparatus, and not of effecting its unravelling, they are, at best, reformists with guns.

The short point here being almost all our solidarity-giving mainlanders have proved incapable of envisaging their solidarity with the Kashmiri tehreek in terms of a concrete, mainland-based praxis for unravelling the Indian nation-state. This incapability stems from their failure to accurately grasp and concretely analyse the political-economic specificity of the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Relative surplus population: the political economy and biopolitics of occupation

We have already seen how the main purpose of occupation of Kashmir is to bolster nationalist consensus in the Indian mainland by asserting India’s subcontinental hegemony. But in the process of accomplishing that the occupation has also rendered Kashmir a reserve of “relative surplus population” (Marx, 1986, pp. 589-599).

That part of the population, which does not directly participate in industrial production at any given moment of development of capital, is relative surplus population. This population, it must also be clarified, keeps burgeoning as increasing levels of automation – or organic composition of capital (c/v) – tend to expel more and more living labour from the circuit of industrial production.

That does not, however, mean this surplus population is dispensable for capital, and is its absolute outside. The productive internality of relative surplus population to capital lies in the fact that capital must necessarily produce it in order to raise the productivity of its industrial economy. It is also productively internal to capital because precisely in being outside the latter’s circuit of industrial production it is systemically functionalised to both subsidise and regiment the labour that is productively employed.

This shows capital is a system that productively includes precisely through hierarchical exclusion. It also reveals that capital as a system – political economy to be precise – is much more than industrial production and wage-labour, albeit the latter is undoubtedly its organising centre. In such circumstances, the existence of relative surplus population itself constitutes a segmented economy of its own reproduction, which is an economy of production of surplus labour-power.

But what of the population of Kashmir? How exactly does it qualify as an economy of relative surplus population? How does its military occupation by India, which marks it as an outside of the Indian mainland and the nationalist consensus constitutive of it, at once also internalise it into the capitalist economy and sociality that is concretely indexed by this Indian nation-state?

For one, the living human bodies that comprise this population exist, and are reproduced, only to be tortured and/or killed. In this they are typically “homo sacer” (Agamben, 1998, p. 82): “Life that cannot be sacrificed and yet may be killed….” This is integral to securing, as we have earlier observed, the power of political economy in its regionality by enabling India to assert its geo-political hegemony. For another, the occupied territory with its population is one of the many laboratories of capital qua the Indian state where the latter sharpens various modalities of command and coercion for them to be subsequently deployed at different controlled levels of intensity in the Indian mainland in order to enhance extraction and/or transfer of surplus labour-time. This is the biopolitical crux of the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

But the thing with relative surplus population is that it is internal to capital by virtue of being outside its productive circuit. This renders it the immanent crisis of capital. One that always threatens to run amok and unravel the system, and yet something that capital cannot do without.

For this reason, capital as a system is, in Marx’s words, a “moving contradiction” that always tends to allay and manage, and even productivise, the experience of alienation constitutive of the process of subjectivation concomitant with the production of relative surplus population. But in doing that it invariably tends to intensify the crisis embodied in the surplus population, which it once again seeks to manage, etc. And thus unfolds this centrifugalising dialectic till the crisis becomes so completely unmanageable that it unravels capital and tends towards instituting a new, post-capitalist duration.

Clearly, once we begin to see the people of occupied Kashmir as relative surplus population we become theoretically capable of knocking the bottom out of the specious argument – articulated by a section of Indian left-liberals – that the unrest in Kashmir is due to lack of employment opportunities. The relative surplus population, and its economy, is always linked to provisioning of productive employment insofar as the latter is constitutive of the industrial economy that necessarily produces and mobilises this surplus population in the course of its development or expanded reproduction.

In such circumstances, the suggestion that requisite employment opportunities could address the concerns and anger of the insurgent Kashmiri masses, which constitute a reserve of surplus labouring population, is fallacious. The process through which a certain mass of people is rendered relative surplus population is that of progressive increase in the organic composition of capital. And that, contrary to liberal apologetics, leads to “no corresponding rise in the general demand for labour” (Marx, 1986, p.599). Marx writes (1986, pp.598-599):

“…if through the introduction of new, or the extension of old, machinery, a portion of variable capital is transformed into constant, the economic apologist interprets this operation which “fixes” capital and by that very act sets labourers “free,” in exactly the opposite way, pretending that it sets free capital for the labourers. Only now can one fully understand the effrontery of these apologists. What are set free are not only the labourers immediately turned out by the machines, but also their future substitutes in the rising generation, and the additional contingent, that with the usual extension of trade on the old basis would be regularly absorbed. They are now all “set free,” and every new bit of capital looking out for employment can dispose of them. Whether it attracts them or others, the effect on the general labour demand will be nil, if this capital is just sufficient to take out of the market as many labourers as the machines threw upon it. If it employs a smaller number, that of the supernumeraries increases; if it employs a greater, the general demand for labour only increases to the extent of the excess of the employed over those “set free.” The impulse that additional capital, seeking an outlet, would otherwise have given to the general demand for labour, is therefore in every case neutralised to the extent of the labourers thrown out of employment by the machine. That is to say, the mechanism of capitalistic production so manages matters that the absolute increase of capital is accompanied by no corresponding rise in the general demand for labour. And this the apologist calls a compensation for the misery, the sufferings, the possible death of the displaced labourers during the transition period that banishes them into the industrial reserve army! The demand for labour is not identical with increase of capital, nor supply of labour with increase of the working class. It is not a case of two independent forces working on one another. Les dés sont pipés.”

In this context, the left-liberal contention that lack of proper employment is the source of mass unrest in Kashmir is, of course, theoretically erroneous. It is politically disingenuous too. This suggestion, implied or otherwise, of creating requisite employment opportunities for the Kashmiri population is meant to enable further segmentation of the economy of the surplus population in Kashmir so that its current multitudinality is dissipated and its mass-insurrectionary character rendered diffuse. This shows how such a liberal argument is steeped in nationalism and ensures liberalism remains the obverse of reactionary nationalism.

Now the surplus population is structurally internal to the productive-industrial economy of capital on account of its experience of being outside the latter. It is, therefore, a contradiction at the heart of capital the latter needs to manage, and leverage as a regimenting and thus productivising force vis-à-vis productively employed labour. Surplus population is, therefore, also the force that can unravel the economy of capital.

Such a situation arises when the capitalist social system can no longer manage the surplus population it is compelled to produce in order to reproduce itself by increasing productivity. Then the subjective experience of being alienated from capital tends to institute its own duration and become its own material ground. This is the tendency of subtraction from capital that is also simultaneously the tendency of its negation. Any intervention that strives to be radical should seek to sharpen this tendency of subtraction qua negation, which is inherent in the subjective experience of alienation constitutive of the production and mobilisation of relative surplus population. ‘Bifo’ Berardi helps us theorise such politics when he writes (2009. pp. 45-46):

“Labor is an activity estranged from the existence of the workers that is imposed on everyday life by the construction of disciplinary structures created over the course of the entire history of modern civilization. Only the estrangement from labor makes liberatory dynamics possible, shifting the flow of desire from (industrial) repetition towards (cognitive) difference. The concept of estrangement implies an intentionality that is determined by an estranged behavior.

“Estranged from what? From all forms of labor dependent on capital.

“Workers do not suffer from their alienation when they can transform it into active estrangement, that is to say, into refusal.”

Kashmiri migrants, financialisation and the economy of surplus(ed) population

On this count, things are turning out to be no different with regard to Kashmir. The subjective experience of alienation produced by the military-coercive power of the occupation among the population in the Valley is what has always threatened the existence of the Indian nation-state, and the capitalist social power it has indexed. This is best exemplified by the multitudinous, mass-insurrectionary form the Kashmiri resistance has come to assume of late.

That, however, is only one part of the story. The other part is how de-development being wreaked by the occupation has been compelling sections of the occupied population – mainly cognitarians such as higher education-seeking students and young professionals of various kinds – to come to the mainland in search of better livelihood opportunities. That has provided the Indian executives of capital –the various governments that have manned the Indian state from time to time – with the opportunity to integrate this section of the occupied population, and through them produce and strengthen consensus in its favour in the occupied territory. Programmes such as Operation Sadbhavana are only the most blatant and overt attempts by the executives of Indian state to leverage this opportunity.

They have, however, failed to achieve anything of significance. In fact, the presence of Kashmiris – cognitarians but also some non-cognitarian working people – in the Indian mainland has only served to worsen the occupation’s crisis of legitimacy in the Valley. The Indian occupation of Kashmir is, without doubt, a politico-military fact insofar as the occupied territory is concerned. But for that very reason, it also functions as an ethno-nationalist, and/or ethno-religious and Islmaophobic ideology in the mainland.

This ideology – embodied by significant sections of non-Kashmiri and/or non-Muslim working people in the course of their everyday social operations – serves to regiment the migrants from the occupied territory into yet another category of relative surplus population.

In fact, it is by regimenting this section of Kashmiri migrants through the agency of other, more ‘mainstreamed’ non-Kashmiri and/or non-Muslim Indian working people that capital seeks to manage the overall increase in precarity of Indian social labour due to an unprecedented level of same-skilling having been effected by a qualitative leap in productive forces.

In this situation, migrants from IoK are no longer the only people who constitute relative surplus population. Considering that the overall increase in precarity of social labour on the Indian subcontinent, together with the world at large, has resulted in near complete disappearance of permanent productive employment, what we have now is a situation, wherein almost the entire working population has become surplus.

In such a scenario, productive employment is almost entirely temporary in nature, and is a constantly revolving door of entry and exit that serves to manage and regiment this surplus population by enabling its hierarchical, though precarious, economy of reproduction. Therefore, what we arguably have here is no longer simply an economy that produces surplus population and serves to manage and reproduce it. Rather, it is now an economy constitutive of surplus(ing) of the entire population. This is a qualitative shift in the economy of relative surplus population – a change that is characteristic of our late-capitalist, or neoliberal, conjuncture.

What such an economy of surplus(ing) does is it steps up the tendency of capital accumulation to entirely financialise itself. As a result, the process of capital accumulation becomes more and more speculative (M-M’) while the centrality of industrial production (valorisation through creation of use-values or M-C-M’) is progressively diminished. This shift has, in turn, obviously further entrenched the economy of surplus(ing) of the entire population. As far as mainland India is concerned, this has been evident in the increasing casualisation and contractualisation of so-called productive employment in almost all sectors of the economy.

In such circumstances, the ‘mainstreamed’ sections of non-Kashmiri and/or non-Muslim Indian working people seek to cope with this intensifying precarisation, which is imposed by the system, by socially regimenting the Kashmiri Muslim migrants. They become the systemic agency of such regimentation because by actively inflicting such regimentation on the Kashmiri migrants at the system’s behest they seek to somewhat assuage the subalternisation they experience on account of increasing socio-economic precarity. The ethno-nationalist/ethno-religious ideological register in which the Indian occupation of Kashmir operates as a form of socialisation in the Indian mainland ensures that.

This demonstrates, as we have insisted, that the Kashmiri migrants are now a segment of the almost entirely surplus(ed) population of working masses in the Indian mainland. The implication being that they are differentially integrated into the economy of capital – which in its objective existence is concretely indexed by the Indian nation-state – precisely on account of their subjective experience of being alienated from both that geo-political entity called the Indian Union, and the sociality of mainland India.

It also shows that the privilege enjoyed by the ‘mainstreamed’ sections of surplus(ed) population of mainland India vis-à-vis the segment of migrant Kashmiri Muslims is nothing but a socially embedded ideological form that serves to entrench them further in the system. It enables those who articulate it, to do no more than merely cope with the effects of their precarity and subalternisation by way of socially oppressing and regimenting others, and, thereby, acceding to their own continued precarisation and domination by the system.

Such ‘privilege’ then is a mechanism constitutive of the politics and economy of segmentation of the entire surplus(ed) population through which capital manages and controls this population, and thus ensures its own continued survival as a process of exploitation and deepening precarity.

Barbaric fascisation and a militant inquiry of hope

Of course, the progressive deepening of such precarity will enhance the probability of weakening the grip this ‘privilege’ has on the ‘mainstreamed’ sections of Indian working people. But that is only a probability and there is nothing predetermined about it. What is, at this point, certain is that such deepening of socio-economic precarity will be politically reflected in an even greater intensification of the barbaric fascisation we currently confront in this part of the world.

What is needed, in such circumstances, are interventions that demonstrate through a ceaseless process of militant inquiry and self-inquiry how the Indian occupation of Kashmir, among other such apparently archaic forms of socio-economic domination, functions as a socially-embedded ideology that enables capital to perpetuate itself as the exploitative and precarity-inducing system it is.

Such investigations will have to continuously demonstrate to the ‘mainstreamed’ sections of Indian working people how their ‘privilege’ vis-à-vis the Kashmiri migrants is something that concretely renders them complicit in their own systemic domination, exploitation and precarisation too. That is crucial if those ‘mainstreamed’ sections of the working population in mainland India are to turn away from their ‘privilege’ – qua socialised regimentation of Kashmiri migrants – and focus on negating the Indian nation-state as the concrete regional index of capital in this part of the world. This, as we have seen over and over again, is both the source of occupation of Kashmir and regimentation of the surplus(ed) population of mainland India.

Such inquiry and self-inquiry-driven militant interventions is exactly what mainland Indians claiming to be in solidarity with the Kashmiri resistance need to engage in, particularly with regard to their own more ‘mainstreamed’ locations. Only then will they come to practise solidarity as a politics of concrete heroism.

Those interventions on their part will make it easier for the Kashmiri migrants to compel the ‘mainstreamed’ sections of Indian working people to grasp how Indian occupation of Kashmir is the system’s instrument to regiment not only Kashmiris but the ‘Indian’ working people as a whole. The migrant Kashmiri cognitarian is likely to accomplish that by way of militating against concrete forms of social regimentation imposed on him/her in mainland India through operationalisation of the occupation as a socially-embedded ideology. That is important if his/her subjective experience of alienation is to really become its own material ground. Something that can only be achieved in the process of abolishing the objectivity of the economy, which integrates him/her precisely by producing this experience of alienation.

This is how the struggle against Indian occupation of Kashmir also becomes a working-class question internal to the everydayness of social labour in its different moments in mainland India. A necessary moment, therefore, in the constellation of struggles that will negate the Indian nation-state, and in the process tend towards transforming South Asia into a post-national geo-polity.

Let us try and illustrate this empirically. One of the more serious and chronic problems the migrant Kashmiri Muslims – particularly the cognitarians among them – face in mainland India is the accessing of liveable rented accommodation. The functioning of the occupation as an ethno-nationalist/ethno-religious, Islamophobic ideology in mainland India ensures that. As an ideological register embedded in the form of everyday socialisation, it is embodied and animated by the ‘mainstreamed’ sections of working people of mainland India. It is they who hugely contribute to this difficulty of the Kashmiri Muslim migrant in the process of compounding the precarity of his/her livelihood and life.

And yet, it is this same occupation as a politico-military fact that serves to regiment those ‘mainstreamed’ sections of Indian population. The migration from the Valley to mainland India has obviously made it easier for rent-seeking landlords to push up house rents, particularly in those urban areas that are inhabited by not-too-insignificant chunks of Kashmiri migrants. This is due to the additional demand for housing in such areas. Such rent hikes obviously affects all, Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris alike, even while there is a social differential at work in terms of ease of access to rented accommodation. Such rent hikes imply an across-the-board cut in social wages – and intensification of work both in the reproductive and the so-called productive realms.

The occupation of Kashmir stands revealed here as something that clearly enables rent-seeking sections of capital to extract more rent from all house-tenants in mainland India. It, therefore, also reveals itself as a mechanism by which capital as a socio-economic system regiments all the working people – or the entire surplus(ed) population – in the Indian mainland by compelling them as a collectivity to do more labour – both unproductive and productive.

Here then is a concrete instance of how the occupation of Kashmir is an instrument through which capital seeks to regiment Kashmiri masses in the Valley, and migrant Kashmiri cognitarians and non-Kashmiri working people in mainland India as various segments of a constantly surplus(ed) population.

Interventions in the form of militant inquiry in mainland India can go a long way in uncovering more such concrete examples. And only through such uncovering can a concretely internationalist politics of solidarity be forged between the Kashmiri resistance against Indian occupation and the everyday struggles of social labour in mainland India.

Let us then hope a concrete-utopian hope for a perpetual machine of insurgency, which will not rest until it has radically re-ordered all of South Asia into an ever-expanding, post-national and non-statal horizon of revolution. That is what the Kashmiri tehreek is fated to achieve. And so are we, if we care to take note of things.


Agamben, Giorgio, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, tr. Daniel Heller-Roazen [Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1998]

Berardi, Franco ‘Bifo’, The Soul At Work, trs. Francesca Cadel and Giuseppina Mecchia [Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, California, 2009]

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix, A Thousand Plateaus, tr. Brian Massumi [Continuum, London, New York, 2004]

Fanon, Frantz, Toward the African Revolution, tr. Haakon Chevalier [Grove Press, New York, 1988]

Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio, Multitude [Penguin Books, New York, 2006]

Marx, Karl, ‘Speech at the International Meeting held in London on November 29, 1847 to mark the 17th anniversary of the Polish Uprising of 1830’. In On the National and Colonial Questions: Selected Writings of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ed. Aijaz Ahmad [LeftWord, Delhi, 2001]

Marx, Karl, Capital, Volume I, tr. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, ed. Frederick Engels [Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1986]

Spinoza, Benedict de, A Political Treatise in A Theologico-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise, tr. R.H.M. Elwes [Dover Publications, New York, 2004]


  1. Thanks for writing this exciting piece.

    I’ll drop a mention of something that came to my mind about the last two paragraphs, particularly “cognitarians or non-cognitarian working people.” Among the latter, the mention of artisans or sales workers from Kashmir seems fitting, who leave in large groups seasonally to spread over in the subcontinental market with wares from artisanal networks in Kashmir. There are many among them operating at larger-scales who visit other countries routinely, having a marked presence in the exotic goods industry in the world. Compare this with a perhaps more stark demise of artisanal activity (perhaps only felt more starkly) in the rest of the subcontinent, which may also add to the sense of estrangement between the working men and women of the so-called mainland with those of Kashmir.

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