The story of 19-year-old Ishaq Ahmad Parray (known as Ishaq Newton), the Kashmiri man shot dead by Indian soldiers last week in a shootout, raises the issue of guerrilla warfare as a political strategy. According to the story, he was a serious-minded, scholarly, pious young man who joined the guerrilla group called Hizbul Mujahideen to fight the Indian military. He wasn’t a delinquent youth or criminal in any way & it stunned his family & those who knew him that he would join a guerrilla group.
Those who came of age politically in the 1970s well know the phenomenon of inspired youth, just like young Ishaq, all over Latin America & elsewhere (notably Northern Ireland) joining guerrilla groups to fight occupation, military dictatorships, & repressive regimes. It was a disastrous strategy, especially since those juntas were backed by the military arsenal & training of the US Pentagon. Tens of thousands of young people were disappeared, tortured, murdered in unspeakable ways.
Serious-minded political people around the world had to debate the strategy of guerrilla warfare & come to terms with its political failures–primarily that armed struggle by small, even committed groups, is not the solution for the oppressed. The struggle against oppression is politically organizing working people to stand united, not military training for what is usually small numbers of students & rookies.
The strategy of political organizing is frustrating for many young people because of contending currents of thought in broad movements & the political debates, even wrangling often involved. In social movements there are conservatives who compromise or drag their asses; there are impetuous who want trashing actions; & there are sectarians who want things done their way or they will be divisive & not cooperate. There are all kinds of competing perspectives that have to be debated out, often under repressive conditions. Some lose patience with all that & turn to guerrilla strategy as a shortcut past the frustrations of movement building.
This is not to fault those who choose guerrillaism but to remove their perspectives from the realm of criminality & explain why pious young people would opt for not just a misguided but a dangerous choice against repression & occupation. Most young people in Palestine & Kashmir have charted the harder strategy of Intifada or unarmed struggle against military occupation–which is why international solidarity is essential to their struggles. It is also why Israel is so hellbent to associate violence & terrorism with Palestinians–as in the trumped-up rubbish about a “knifing Intifada”–& why the Indian government justifies summary executions of ambushed Kashmiri youth.
Our support for those struggles is unconditional. We don’t demand first that activists conform to our specifications nor do we turn on them if they do use a knife or pick up a gun. We understand the impatience & desperation of some youth against brutal tyranny. The criminals are not those who oppose occupation; the criminals are the occupiers.
This is a photo of Ishaq Ahmad Parray whose funeral was attended by thousands of Kashmiris chanting pro-freedom slogans. We honor him as they do. We honor all those who have died in the struggle against tyranny. May they Rest in Peace.
(Photo from Greater Kashmir)