New Internationalist

Kashmir-Palestine: the bond of solidarity

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Resistance and solidarity can make borders porous. © Ieshan Wani

A gritty black and white photograph shows a students’ protest rally in Indian-administered Kashmir’s capital Srinagar. It is winter of 1988. The marching students of Islamic Students League (ISL), a dissenting group formed in the 1980s, which revived student activism after a hiatus, head towards the office of the United Nations’ mission in Kashmir.

Clad in pherans (a traditional closed-cloak), they are marching for Palestine amid intense state surveillance. ‘It was raining and snowing, 29 February,’ recollects Shakeel Bakshi, an erstwhile ISL leader, who is now in his early fifties. Pointing to the photo, he recalls they were all wearing black and blue berets with union logos. ‘We called them Maqbool Bhat caps [named after a pro-independence leader who was killed in an Indian jail in 1984]’

In the photo, Bakshi – then a young man – is seen managing queues of marching youth. Armed struggle, as a mass movement, against Indian rule in the region is only a few months away. Some of the marchers went underground shortly afterwards and took to arms for Kashmir’s independence.

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It is the summer of 2014. A queue of vehicles, with young boys atop and inside, crosses Srinagar city in Kashmir. Tri-colour Palestinian flags flutter over cars, electric poles and shops. A teenage boy, surrounded by others atop a car, pierces the summer air with his Down with Israel slogan. In the same breath, he cries: ‘Go India! Go back’.

Kashmir children taking to the streets, protesting against Israel’s brutality and facing Indian armed forces cannot be baffling for the state. Resistance and solidarity can make borders porous; a source of paranoia for aligned oppressive states, India and Israel.

The Kashmir region has witnessed a series of spontaneous pro-Palestine protests and shutdowns since early July. India, like Israel, exhibited its military might – it opened fire on civilians, killing teenager Suhail Ahmad in southern Kashmir. Amid teargas shelling, firing, baton charges and pepper spray, youngsters pelted stones at government forces armed with sophisticated gear. Suhail is just another number for the state, which has ordered an investigation into his death to buy time.

Students from various academic institutions across the Himalayan region came out onto the streets in large numbers against Israel’s offensive. The Red Square in the summer capital city of Srinagar reverberated with ‘O warriors of Gaza, we are with you’ slogans.

A mammoth gathering of girls took to the streets expressing solidarity. Nineteen-year-old Munaza says she and her fellow students decided on a silent protest in her college. ‘We wrote slogans on sheets of paper and 16 of us gathered. Gradually, the crowd swelled.’ After a disagreement over the silent protest, girls began pro-Gaza chants and marched on the roads.

‘Demonstrations can’t stop the killings, but it reflects our belief… shows on what side we stand,’ says Munaza. The Indian government, fearing this solidarity, ordered educational institutions to shut for an untimely summer break. However, protests for Gaza continued.

On 28 July, during the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, congregations in different parts of the region said prayers for Gaza before government forces barred them from marching. There were clashes, and protesters torched Israel and Indian flags. Several resistance leaders were put under house arrest.

An amalgam of Kashmir entrepreneurs decided to boycott Israeli products and appealed to people to join them. The anti-Israel protests were not restricted to youths. Associations of lawyers, employees, and other groups also rallied for Palestine.

The government in response swooped down on young demonstrators and maintained tight surveillance using high-end technology. Police admitted using CCTV to track protesters. Several boys have been on the run for the past month; police raided their homes arresting their parents or relatives as intimidation tactics.

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The Kashmir and Palestine conflicts are over half a century old. India continues its military control over Kashmir; Israel continues its war on Palestine. There is a growing defence co-operation and strategic relationship between the two countries, with India becoming the largest buyer of Israel’s defence equipment. Tel Aviv has provided high-end defence and surveillance equipment, expertise in ‘counterinsurgency’ and intelligence to India.

On 15 July, as a show of support, India, led by the pro-Israel Hindu right, refused to pass a resolution condemning the Gaza offensive. While these two countries are related by a common desire of domination, Kashmir and Palestine share a bond of solidarity.

Pro-Palestine protests in Kashmir in recent years have a history. In the 1960s, protests rocked the region over the desecration of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, resulting in deaths and an unrelenting curfew.                                   

According to Dr Sheikh Showkat, a law professor in Kashmir, it is not a one-sided solidarity. ‘Resistance groups working at grassroots levels in Palestine have always supported the Kashmir cause’, he says.

Hajj Amin el-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 and an important Muslim leader during the Second World War, was a key figure of the Palestinian movement; he was also vocal against India’s stance on Kashmir.

A Palestinian man called Mahmoud travelled to Kashmir at the onset of insurgency in 1987 and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group to fight India. He was arrested in 1993 and died of an illness while in prison.

Save Gaza graffiti dots walls in Kashmir and thousands of miles away a wall in Gaza speaks loudly: Save Kashmir.

This article is part of our mini-series on Palestine.

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  1. #1 Bharat 19 Aug 14

    One common bind: jehadis are leading the protests in both regions. The only solution: bomb those islamists back to the stone age. Let's finish them once and for all. If they want freedom, let they have it in hell.

  2. #2 Nikhil Kumar 22 Aug 14

    What a piece of absolute garbage that has found place here on your portal! Problem in Kashmir is about Islamists like Geelani can’t reconcile to the fact that a Muslim majority state had decided to stay with state of India. Margaret Bourke White while reporting for Life magazine and later in her book on India-Pakistan, had reported as early as 1948 that Pakistan was sending Jihadi-fighters to wrest Kashmir from Indian control. Since then Pakistan has waged wars, sponsored terrorism in rest of India, tried to influence Western public opinion by funding likes of Ghulam Fai to further “case” of Kashmir.
    Kashmiri- Islamists’ hypocrisy can be understood by dichotomous stance over sympathy with Palestinian’s claim to home land on one side and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, who were as much sons of Kashmiri soils on other hand. About 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits were ordered to leave Kashmir ,convert or face death! Murders, rapes and kidnappings were methods of terrorizing their fellow Kashmiri citizens. Religious places were used to give marching orders to Kashmiri Pandits and now they are talking victimhood and trying to associate themselves with Palestinians cause! The auther of this piece would do well to read Rahul Pandita’s “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” on ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir.
    It is only their bigoted ‘Ummah’ affiliation which is making Kashmiri seperatists to align with Palestinians right to homeland whereas India has always taken principled position. India did not have any diplomatic relation with Israel as late as 1992! On numerous occasions Indian Parliament passed resolutions in support of Palestinian cause and has urged Israel to leave. India has never ever voted with Israel over over occupation issue at any global forum.
    The auther herself, as name suggests is a Muslim and her taking up cause of Palestine and Islamists of Kashmir can be understood. She would do well to rise above parochial thinking.

  3. #3 Ahmad 22 Aug 14

    Excellent piece about occupation, resistance and solidarity in Kashmir and Palestine.

  4. #4 Sudhama 28 Aug 14

    This makes me think of something Israeli professor Ilan Pappé said about how this conflict started. He said, “When you listen to mainstream media coverage of the situation in Gaza, you get the impression that it all starts with an unreasonable launching of rockets into Israel by Hamas. And two very basic historical kind of backgrounds are being missed. The very immediate one goes back to June this year, when Israel decided, by force, to try and demolish Hamas politically in the West Bank and foil the attempts of the unity government of Palestine to push forward an international campaign to bring Israel to justice on the basis of the agenda of human and civil rights.
    “The deeper historical context is the fact that ever since 2005, the Gaza Strip is being—or people in the Gaza Strip are being incarcerated as criminals, and their only crime is that they are Palestinians in a geopolitical location that Israel doesn’t know how to deal with. And when they elected democratically someone who was vowed to struggle against this ghettoizing or this siege, Israel reacted with all its force. So, this sort of wider historical context, that would explain to people that it is a desperate attempt to get out of the situation (they are in), is at the heart of the issue, and therefore it is soluble. One can solve this situation by lifting the siege, by allowing the people of Gaza to be connected with their brothers and sisters in the West Bank, and by allowing them to be connected to the world and not to live under circumstances that no one else in the world seems to experience at this moment in time.”
    You're not a racist, anti-Semite or self-hating Jew to disagree with Israel, just a person of morals, a conscience, and compassion.

  5. #5 Dannista 26 Mar 15

    The difference between Palestine and Kashmir is that the israelis are stealing land, Kashmir is a part of india for 1,000s of years and been in control of both hindu and muslim leaders in a Unified India, Pakistan was created to destabilise India and the fact most muslims live in India with more security than any muslim in paksitan should be proof that normal non-extremist muslims in kashmir would prefer Indian Government to take them to a more free and open society or we can give all to Pakistan and military rulers will take yoru freedom overnight!

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