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Co-Written by Dr. P.S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal

As part of worldwide demonstrations for freedom of Palestinians over a thousand Muslims assembled at JantarMantar, New Delhi, India on 31 May, 2019 in solidarity with and support of the struggling people of Palestine. It was a two hour long protest dharna (sit-in) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. under scorching heat with the day temperature hovering around 46.2°C. Delhi was actually reeling under a heat wave with a ‘red warning’ having been issued on Friday by the Indian Metrological Department. The protesters – men, women, children, teenagers – had come in buses from all over Delhi after offering the Friday afternoon Namaz (prayers) at their respective mosques. The Protesters were observing Roza (fasting) throughout the day. It was a well-planned protest and the entire space earmarked for protest at JantarMantar got filled up. Volunteers carrying walkie-talkie ensured that batches of protesters reaching the venue site walked to the space where they could sit on chairs or stand. Ironically the program started fifteen minutes ahead of time! There was heavy deployment of police and para-military forces at the protest site; a water canon vehicle was on standby. The whole area was cordoned off by Delhi Police road barriers.

The demonstration took place in the backdrop of a new government in the process of being installed in India for the next five years; this government is largely seen to be pro-Israel. Besides it is the first time in Israel’s history that the Prime Minister designate has failed to form a coalition government and fresh elections are to be held in September. Ironically Israeli Parliament had passed a controversial law characterizing the country as principally a Jewish state in 2018.

This was the first major demonstration at JantarMantar in which such large number of people participated after the results of the General Election in India were announced on 23 May, 2019 followed by a deathly silence in public spaces.

The protesters were carrying placards bearing messages written in Urdu, English and a few in Hindi language:

  1. From the river to the sea; Palestine will be free
  2. Death to Israel
  3. Death to America
  4. “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”, Nelson Mandela
  5. Stand Against Israeli Occupation
  6. Tell us who is terrorist; Tell us who is oppressor
  7. Each one is more degenerate than the other; America and Israel

After the introductory speech a Dua (prayer) for Palestinians was recited in solemnity. Later several speakers highlighted the following points:

  • Conscious attempt being made by vested interest to have the Palestinian problem out of the world gaze
  • Palestine has been converted into a prison
  • Palestine will eventually get freedom and its land back
  • This generation of ours will see the freedom of Palestine; Israel will be wiped out in twenty-five years
  • Confidant of eventual success
  • Seventy years of exploitation by Israel will end
  • The killing of Palestinian children by Israeli army will end
  • The Israeli political establishment will cease soon
  • India has always supported the cause of Palestinians
  • Appeal to Government of India and the United Nations to impose sanctions on Israel
  • If sanctions are imposed against Israel, it will go out of existence in seven days
  • There have been violation of human rights of Palestinians for seventy years, can we forget Palestine?

Near the end of the protest program an effigy of Israel and its flag was lit on fire. Posters of Netanyahu were stomped upon by protesters.

The following slogans were shouted with either the protesters having both hands raised or waving the National flags of India and Palestine. It was an emotional sight to watch:

America Murdabad (Death to America)

Israel Murdabad (Death to Israel)

Palestine KeMajroohmon, Hum TumhareSaathHain

(The Wounded and hurt people of Palestine, We are with you)

Hindustan Zindabad (Long Live India)

AttankvadMurdabad (Death to Terrorism)

The protest ended with the participants walking in a rally along the length of the protest site raising slogans and waiving flags.

As we left the protest site we remembered the 1999 poem titled “We Were Without a Present” by Mahmoud Darwish, poet of Palestine and the world.

[Dr. P. S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal are members of PIL Watch Group. Email: pilwatchgroup@gmail.com]


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