Kashmir and Palestine share the struggle for self determination against colonial occupation

kashmir protest

Mondoweiss, a progressive Jewish media, Friday published a researched article by Zainab Ramahi, a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, comparing the struggle of the people of Kashmir and Palestine.

Zainab Ramahi argues that reviewing the literature on the Indian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and its origins, it is not hard to draw the connection to Israel’s justification of the use of torture and indefinite detention against the Palestinian population by declaring the areas in which it is applied to be in a state of emergency, remaining so for decades.

Kashmiris and Palestinians are sharing the same struggle which is the struggle for self determination against colonial occupation, Rahami says, adding Israel is an oft-cited example of an ethno-nationalist political configuration “rooted in colonial narratives that dictate a racial hierarchy of belonging in which the subordination of some members of the population, the out-group, is structurally entrenched and often backed up with physical violence.”

“As per its Nation State Law, Israel is not a state of its citizens, but rather belongs to Jewish people that have membership and belonging in the state. The full privileges of membership in Israel are extended exclusively to its Jewish population.”

India’s neocolonial relationship with Kashmir is brilliantly illustrated by laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which grants special powers to Indian Armed Forces in so-called “disturbed areas,” a category of which Kashmir has been a part since 1990, Zainab Ramahi said.  “AFSPA grants the Indian military sweeping powers to arrest without warrant, shoot-to-kill, and destroy property. Characterized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination,” AFSPA also handily provides immunity for military personnel who conduct extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and mass disappearances.”

Zainab Ramahi pointed out that reviewing the literature on AFSPA and its origins, it is not hard to draw the connection to Israel’s justification of the use of torture and indefinite detention against the Palestinian population by declaring the areas in which it is applied to be in a state of emergency, remaining so for decades.

Hindutva, a form of Hindu nationalism, is the official ideology of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its followers claim that Muslims and secularists have undermined the strength of the Hindu nation. Hindutva nationalists and Zionists often try to reframe the conflicts not as ones over human and political rights, sovereignty, consent, and self-determination, but as being caused by irrational and implacable Muslims and Islamists who if not confronted and stopped will take over the world. In this context, all the repression and state violence to which millions of people are subjected is justified in the name of fighting terror and defending democracy and civilized values.

The frame of “terrorism”, which legitimizes global silence on the issue of Kashmir and the ongoing violence against the population, supports an economy of arms trade between India and Israel. In this context, the aggressive religious nationalisms of Zionism and Hindutva are neutral shared security interests. Kashmiri and Palestinian quests for self-determination are reduced to neighboring Muslim or Arab states causing unrest.

The writer also highlighted the strategic partnership between India and Israel.

Suggesting that the two nations are not un-self aware of their close ideological ties, India and Israel have fostered political and military links in recent years, including arms sales, joint intelligence operations, trade agreements, and cultural exchanges. Since 2003, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon signed an agreement with the Indian government declaring that India and Israel were “strategic partners,” “Israeli technology and tactics have been deployed regularly by Indian forces occupying Kashmir. The Shin Bet and other Israeli agencies responsible for human rights abuses and killings of Palestinians have provided training and advice to India on how to suppress the people of Kashmir. Today, India is the largest buyer of Israeli arms a nd Israel is training Indian military units in “counter-terrorist” attacks and urban warfare to be used against Kashmiris and resistance groups in northeast and central India.

Zainab Ramahi pointed out ghat India and Israel both try to minimize attention to their violations of human rights.

Hindutva groups have tried to minimize attention to human rights violations in Kashmir, the conditional annexation by India in 1947, or the right to self-determination, by limiting the discussion on Kashmir to the issue of displacement and killings of the upper caste minority Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in the late 1980s, and by insisting that Kashmir is not an international issue.

Similarly, Zionists seeking to draw attention away from Israel’s abuses of Palestinians’ human rights often focus exclusively on suicide bombings or the rule of Hamas. Their aim is to silence any discussion of the historic Palestinian demands for the implementation of the refugees’ right of return, an end to the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and equality for Palestinian citizens in Israel.

Kashmiris are held hostage by larger post-colonial turned neo-colonial states of India and Pakistan that have competed to claim them in the name of religion and nationalism. So too are Palestinians caught between peace process after peace process while the number of illegal settlements increases unabated.

Both Kashmir and Palestine must be re-centered in the global discussion around self-determination and the demands of the people who have lived for so long under colonial military occupation regimes. Much of that work can begin in exposing and resisting the lure of ethno-nationalism and racial supremacy, placing Hindutva and Zionism in this context, and understanding these long-running “conflicts” for what they are: colonialism.

Many have written about an imminent ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. As anthropologist Patrick Wolfe has noted,  “the question of genocide is never far from discussions of settler colonialism.” As a Palestinian and Kashmiri there is little escape from the violence of the colonial machine.

Hindutva ideology

Hindutva ideology is defined amorphously as Hindu cultural nationalism, or “the essence of being Hindu.” Hindutva ideology demands the assertion of India’s national identity as a Hindu state. It demands that India’s minorities — numbering about 150 million Muslims and several million Christians, among others —reconfigure their beliefs, espousing Hindu values and considering themselves part of an overarching Hindu culture.

In 2015, the vice-president of the Hindutva organization All India Hindu Assembly (Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha  or ABHM in Hindi) Sadhvi Deva Thakur said that the population growth of Muslims and Christians in India need to be controlled by forcibly sterilizing them. ”The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre  will have to impose emergency , and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilisation so that they can’t increase their numbers

Sadhvi Deva Thakur also urged Hindus to have more children to increase their population. Ruling Bhartia Janta Party  MP (member of parliament) Sakshi Maharaj said that every Hindu woman must have four children. ”The time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion.”

Zainab Ramahi sees Hindutva and Zionism as the two faces of the same coin.

The long-term aim is a Hindutva version of Israel

Not surprisingly, Achin Vanaik, the author of The Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy in India and The Rise of Hindu Authoritarianism, says the long-term aim is a Hindutva version of Israel.

Writing in June 2019 in The Wire, Vanaik argued that the longer-term aim is a Hindutva version of Israel. Some observers, such as Christopher Jaffrelot, have recognised this. But they have accepted the dangerously misleading term “ethnic democracy” coined by Professor Sammy Smooha to rationalize and basically provide an excuse for Israel’s existence as a Jewish state with formalized second class citizenship for its Arab Palestinian population.

So yes, “ethnic democracy” means there are undemocratic features in Israel, but overall it can pass off as a democracy; a view supported by many pro-Israel liberals and of course by many Western and other governments keen to consolidate relations with the apartheid and therefore anti-democratic state of Israel. It should not be forgotten that apartheid South Africa was held by many Western democracies to be the only democracy in Southern Africa even as they lamented its treatment of non-whites as second class.

A Hindu Rashtra will be a fundamentally undemocratic state and society but with various democratic features certainly for the religious majority and even extending somewhat beyond. But like Israel, which does not have a caste system requiring internal structures supporting ruthless repression by upper castes, it will not be a democracy, according to Vanaik who is also a former fellow of the Transnational Institute.

No matter which party in Israel comes to power through the electoral process – whether it is considered Left, Right or centrist –  this will not change the fundamental character of Israel as a Jewish state. Hindutva too will strive to create a similar political reality no matter which other party ascends to New Delhi.

For both the Israeli and Indian political classes, “land is more important than the people”. Brutality over a deeply alienated people will reign. While Israel can offer varying degrees of autonomy – always retractable – in place of the international law obligation to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and even contemplate annexation of larger and larger swathes of this land, the BJP will seek to eliminate the two articles of the constitution that give legal expression to J&K’s accession – Section 35A and 370.

Second, Israel has the ‘right of return’ for Jews all over the world as an integral part of its citizenship law. Similarly, the BJP is pursuing through the Citizenship Amendment Bill the initiation of a similar ‘right of return’ for non-Muslim Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Afghans and may eventually expand this to include persons of ‘Indic’ religions from outside the South Asian region too.

“There is, of course, one basic difference between these two viciously exclusivist and undemocratic projects. Zionism is happy to ride piggyback on current Islamophobia. However,  its fundamental enemy is not Islam but Palestinians – regardless of whether they are atheists, Muslims or Christians. It is, therefore, a more tolerant religious state. For Hindutva, however, anti-Muslimness is foundational and the Hindu Rashtra will be an intolerant religious state,” Vanaik concluded.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com




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