India and Israel have a lot in common with one another. Both are led by religious extremists and have also occupied the territory belonging to an indigenous Muslim minority, that too for more than seven decades now. Both, the Palestine and the Kashmir issues are recognized as two of the world’s longest running unresolved conflicts by the United Nations Security Council. As such, one would expect that both conflicts would be equally notorious in the international community, yet that does not seems to be the case. Almost everyone on the planet is aware of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet relatively few know anything about the India-Kashmir conflict other than the fact that it involves two nuclear armed neighbors, India and Pakistan.
While Israel’s reaction of discrediting all criticism against its misadventures as “anti-Semitic” hasn’t succeeded in getting many activists to self-censor, India’s use of this exact same technique has been much more successful in getting people to ‘shut up’ out of fear of being labeled India-phobic or worse still ‘Hindu-phobic’. Similarly, more people follow the Indian narrative and consider the Kashmiris to be ‘terrorists’ rather than ‘freedom fighters’ which is not the case with the Palestinians, who get more sympathetic labels. This dichotomy is perplexing at best because both Muslim minorities are in the exact same situation vis-a-vis their occupiers and in the eyes of international law until Monday, when India took the dramatic step of unilaterally revising the Kashmiris’ political status.
On Monday, 5th August, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, who also happens to be the president of the ruling BJP party revoked Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution. This act took away the autonomous status of the valley while at the same time invites non-residents to purchase property there. He also decreed that that the sparsely populated eastern region of Ladakh would become its own separate union territory. This move coincided with the imposition of yet another curfew in Kashmir, which also saw the banning of all political meetings, the arrest of the Kashmiri leaders, and the restriction of internet and phone services. Furthermore, amendments were recently passed to a security law allowing the government to label anyone a “terrorist”.
If Israel had dared to do any of this to Palestine, there would have been a global uproar today. Instead, there’s nothing but silence for the Kashmiris except for the political support that Pakistan has traditionally given them ever since its independence. Most Human rights organizations and activists don’t dare to speak up for the Kashmiris because they’re too afraid of being accused of ‘Hinduphobia’, supporting terrorism’, and ‘undermining’ the self-professed “world’s largest democracy” that Bollywood has indoctrinated them into thinking is a “paradise on earth”. Interestingly, when these same activists defend Palestine, they are not hampered by Israel’s accusations that these activists are “anti-Semitic”, “supporting terrorism”, and “undermining” the Mideast’s self-professed “only democracy”.
The most likely explanations for this blatant hypocrisy in supporting one Muslim minority while caring less about the second despite them both being in the same international legal situation is that there is sheer lack of knowledge regarding the Kashmir struggle. While Pakistan has been fighting the case for Kashmir for as long as its age, it has not been able to present the case in the numerus international forums, which was essentially the purpose of the National Assembly’s Kashmir Committee. Had the committee been active in its mission statement, it is highly likely that Kashmir would have gained the innumerable international supporters of the Palestine cause as well.
India’s latest moves, which continues to be the international headline will be extremely counterproductive. It will not only invite more people to study the basis and reality of struggle of the Kashmiris, but will also galvanize the international activist community against India’s soft power based on propaganda narrative.
If what India is doing in Kashmir had been replicated in Israel, i.e stationed more than half a million troops in the Palestinian Authority, imposed a curfew, arrested its leaders, removed its relative autonomy, unilaterally decoupled the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and invited unrestricted Jewish settlements in the region, there would have been a tremendous commotion. Yet few are saying anything about India actually doing the same to the Kashmiris in real life as part of its long-term plan to change the composition of the disputed territory.
The entire world was so worried about the so-called Deal of the Century’s possible consequences for Palestine that they barely paid any attention to India imposing its own terms on the Kashmiris, yet the international reaction to what New Delhi just did will directly influence Tel Aviv’s actions in the future.
If India gets a free pass and escapes from international criticism after taking serious steps to create its envisaged “Hindu Rashtra” of “Akhand Bharat” (a Hindu state of Greater India), then that’ll be the signal that its ally, Israel needs to do the exact same thing in Palestine with regards the spreading of Zionism across the territory of so-called “Greater (Promised) Israel”. It’s this strategic link between Kashmir and Palestine that their occupiers claim to deny.
The international community’s response to India’s latest moves in Kashmir will have a direct bearing on Israel’s forthcoming plans for Palestine. While much will depend on the determination of the Kashmiris and the Palestinians to liberate themselves off the stranglehold of their oppressors, an appropriate response from the world community on the Kashmir dispute will go a long way in determining the effectiveness of the Palestinian struggle. Countries of the world must do away with the pre-existing norms of condemning just for the sake of it and go beyond it to impose chilling sanctions on India along with an international campaign of rebuke as punishment for its violations and as a symbolic deterrent to Israel following in its footsteps. Activists all across the world must therefore, first rally in support of the Kashmiri cause, because if Kashmir is lost, then Palestine won’t be that far away too.