Palestine and India’s Fading Anti-Colonialism stand

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India has historically been a champion of anti-colonialism and the Palestinian cause, but its position has shifted in recent years towards greater alignment with Israel. It established formal diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992. Bilateral trade has expanded to over $12 billion in merchandise and services in 2022-2023 as per PTI report. India is now the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment, a major shift from its past policy of avoiding arms deals with Israel. This represents a betrayal of India’s foundational principles and values. In fact, many of the Asian and African countries once under the colonial rule now have established diplomatic and trade ties with Israel including Muslim Arab countries.

As a former colony India suffered greatly under British imperialism. According to many estimates, British colonialism killed over 100 million Indians. These deaths during the British colonialism surpass combined deaths of the two world wars, which includes the Holocaust committed by the Nazis. Given such a genocidal experience in the very recent past of our history, it is highly troubling to witness a significant softening of its stance regarding colonization of Palestinians by Illegal state of Israel.

It is worth mentioning that for greater part of its history after independence India was a leading voice in the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, refusing to align with any major power bloc. India supported decolonization movements across Asia and Africa. India was an early supporter of Palestinian self-determination. India recognized the state of Palestine in 1988 even before its official declaration of independence. This reflected India’s commitment to Palestinian statehood and rejection of Israeli occupation. This anti-colonial stance was the bedrock of India’s foreign policy even today albeit with lip service. This is clear from the Indian government’s silence and lack of active efforts to raise a voice to stop the massacre of colonized Palestinians and return their homeland.

This softening stance of India in on the continuing colonization of Palestine and closer alignment with Israel can be understood with the rise of Hindu majoritarianism at home. The relationship between India and Israel has been described as natural allies since Modi government came to power in 2014. While India, under a rightwing ruling government, officially recognizes an independent state of Palestine for geopolitical and economic reasons, its core supporters are busy dehumanizing Palestinians in their worst form, with an appreciation for the colonial Israeli state raining bombs on civilians in Gaza.

Hindu nationalism has fueled this ethical U-turn within India. Right-wing ideologues envision Israel’s crackdown on Palestinians as a model for India to emulate in Kashmir and its own Muslim-population. Majoritarianism at home is thus enabling this tremendous support from India for Jewish colonial state.

While majority Indians abandon Palestine under the rising Hindu nationalist ideology, they continue invoking anti-imperialism rhetoric when politically expedient. The same people who condone Israeli colonization never forget to question the moral authority of Western powers criticizing discriminatory policies at home. They point to Europe’s bloody colonial history to deflect such criticism.

Though, it is also ironic and interesting to know that they themselves aligned with the British colonial masters when the Indian freedom fighters were attempting to liberate India from the British imperialism. Moreover, you will be shocked to learn that MS Golwalkar, the RSS’s founding ideologue, was an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. In his seminal book “We or Our Nationhood Defined,” Golwalkar argued that India should be a country for Hindus only, with minorities either subjugated or expelled, similar to how Hitler treated Jews.

While contemporary BJP leaders including RSS distance themselves from such rhetoric publicly when questioned, the same sentiment exists latently among the Hindu right grassroots. Disturbingly, calls for violence and genocide against Muslims and other minorities have become more explicit and shriller in recent years by local Hindu right politicians, monks and vigilantes. The call for genocide and extermination of minorities especially Muslims are accessible in abundant on the internet.

The irony is that the same groups now stand in solidarity with the colonial Jewish state of Israel as it displaces and occupies Palestinian Muslims and Christians. The descendants of those who admired Hitler’s Final Solution are now staunch supporters of Israel against the Palestinians. This hypocrisy exposes the moral bankruptcy and ethical nihilism at the heart of Hindu nationalism.

It is worth observing that RSS and other right-wing groups have always stood on the wrong side of history. In its history. The RSS has consistently sided with those who wield power rather than the powerless. During India’s independence movement, the RSS failed to join fellow citizens in resisting British rule. Now, they are failing India’s anti-colonial legacy by explicitly aligning with colonial state of Israel. This pattern reveals the regressive ideology of Hindu nationalism. It has always opposed emancipatory struggles, whether at home or abroad.

Sadly, India’s anti-colonial history ,clear and firms anti-imperial stance is being undermined  and perverted by these divisionary communal forces. India would still be under Britain’s boot if not for inclusive, secular nationalism that united its diverse peoples against the common imperial enemy. Hindu nationalism distorts that unifying legacy into a divisive, communal doctrine.

India’s growing intimacy with Israel does not just betray Palestine. It betrays the memories of countless Indian independence leaders and freedom fighters who were inspired by the moral dimension of their struggle. It abandons the legacy of Gandhi, Nehru and Azad who advocated non-violent protest for human brotherhood.

Abdul Moid is a PhD Scholar at Maulana Azad National Urdu University in the Department of Political Science. His area of research interest is in the field of Gender,Identity politics and and Minority rights. He holds a postgraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Hyderabad and a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University. Prior to his university education, Abdul Moid received his early education in the Madrasa system.

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