Replicating the fascist measures straight from the Israeli playbook, Hindutva fanatics are leading the world’s so-called biggest democracy, threatening the religio-cultural identity of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and oppressing the minorities within India.
Despite what we’ve been told all our lives, opposites do not attract – at least when it comes to ideologies and the weaponization of those ideologies. This becomes especially dangerous when those ideologies are based on religious and ethnic supremacy coupled with the demonization and dehumanization of the ‘enemy’, then it is only logical that the proponents of such would consider each other brothers in arms and, indeed, learn from one another.
And so, we see that the ideologies of Hindutva in India, and of Zionism in Israel are becoming mirror images of one another, and given that both are being projected and implemented with the full force and support of the respective states of India and Israel, then it is only natural to see that the tactics are being exchanged and borrowed, even as the states of India and Israel deepen their ties. Here, we must note that a condemnation of Zionism does not equate to a condemnation of the Jewish faith, nor should the condemnation of fascist Hindutva mean that Hinduism itself is being condemned, even though the proponents of Zionism and Hindutva take great pains to draw these false equivalences, thus writing off any legitimate criticism as antisemitism or Hindu phobia. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We see that the tactics used against Palestinians –enforced apartheid, targeted killing, harassment and demonization have been applied not only in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), but increasingly across the length and breadth of India, most prominently in the states controlled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Of course, the demographic situation in Israel is quite different than in India, and this does necessitate a change in tactics. Consider that the area encompassing Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is home to about 6.8 million Jewish Israeli citizens and also around 6.8 million Palestinians. This presents a demographic challenge to Israeli authorities who, in the words of Human Rights Watch, “...methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” In effect, Israel’s solution is to contain the Palestinian population in what are effectively open-air prisons where Israel can control virtually every aspect of their lives.
In IIOJK, the demographic situation has historically favored Kashmiri Muslims, and the Indian authorities have responded to this by enacting a variety of measures aimed at marginalizing and eventually eroding the status of the majority population. The latest such measure is the revocation of Article 370, which revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, thus paving the way, as rightly feared by Kashmiris, to changing the demography of that region and turning them into minorities in their own land. This was the manifestation of long-held plans by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, and the bill passed the Indian parliament with a resounding majority. Since then, tens of thousands of non-Kashmiris have been granted domicile certificates in IIOJK coupled with increased repression and over-policing of the native Kashmiris. In addition to this, the Indian central government has offered up to 15,000 acres of prime land to ‘outside’ investors. One Srinagar resident interviewed by Al Jazeera rightly pointed out, “This is the beginning of Kashmir becoming another Palestine.”
He was by no means the only one to see the parallel, and in February 2020, the Palestinian Boycott, Disinvest and Sanction movement noted, “The Modi government recently amended India's citizenship law, expediting it for non-Muslims from neighboring countries, closely mirroring Israel's 'law of return'. Abrogation of Kashmir's special status paves the way for Israel-style settlements in the valley, as recently publicly stated by an Indian diplomat. The arms trade between India and Israel has reached $1 billion each, under this government. This collaboration goes further, towards an exchange of methods of repression and ideological collaboration. People's struggles, together, can challenge this collaboration and work towards freedom, justice and equality.”
There’s an even darker dimension to this: soon after the revocation of Article 370, pro-Hindutva YouTube and social media channels exploded with glee at the thought of having access to the Kashmiri women. This is not something to be taken lightly, as the Indian occupation forces in IIOJK have a long history of sexual violence against Kashmiri women and while many horrific examples abound, none can match the atrocity carried out in Kunan and Poshpora in 1991, where Indian forces of the 4 Rajputana Rifles’ 68 Brigade raped over a hundred Kashmiri women, including children and grandmothers in an outrage that no one has ever been held accountable for.
In Israel, sexual harassment and indeed rape is also used as a weapon to break the spirit of Palestinians. Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl who was 16 years old when she was arrested for slapping an Israeli soldier after her 15-year-old cousin was shot in the head by occupation forces, was sexually harassed by Israeli interrogators. This is by no means an exception: Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer (the Arabic word for conscience) – a prisoner support and human rights group, says that Israeli interrogators use sexual harassment as a tool to put pressure on female prisoners. “The verbal sexual abuses are part of an organized policy to infuse humiliation and torture against all Palestinian detainees especially against women and children,” says Francis.
In India, the recent case of Bilkis Bano stands out as the most reprehensible example of the willful use of state power to shield Hindutva-allied murderers and rapists. One of the many victims of the Gujarat massacres of 2002, Bilkis Bano was gang raped by a mob that murdered 14 of her family members, including her 3-year-old daughter in front of her eyes. Her rapists – who were serving life sentences – have now been released on the express orders of the Modi government for good behavior and were garlanded and celebrated on their release. Make no mistake, this is no simple miscarriage of justice; it is a clear message to the minorities of India that they exist only at the sufferance of their cruel, Hindutva supremacist overlords.
Recently, we saw images of masked Israeli settlers brutalizing Palestinians and uprooting centuries-old olive trees – an aspect of economic warfare – while being supported by Israeli police and forces. This sort of state cover for criminal action is also widespread in India where, during the latest Delhi riots, police in fact registered cases against the targeted Muslims, while ignoring the Hindutva mobs that were the actual aggressors. So, in both Israel and India, we see that fanatical supremacist ideologies have seeped in, not only in the public, but also in each and every branch of the state.
And they brook no dissent, even from their co-religionists. In both countries, we are seeing a systematic campaign by the state and non-state actors to weed out those they consider ‘traitors to the cause’. In Israel, this is the already marginalized Left and the peace activists who stand in support of the Palestinians’ right to live. Just recently, in the aforementioned attack, one target of the settlers was 70-year-old Hagar Gefen, a Jewish Israeli who was brutally beaten by settlers. Similarly, in India, those critical of the Modi regime are routinely harassed, abused and –in the case of Gauri Lankesh –murdered by Hindutva linked terror organisations who enjoy the de facto patronage of the state.
It is no wonder then, that India is borrowing tactics from Israel, such as the demolition of the homes of Muslims as an intimidation tactic and to disenfranchise them economically and relegate them to a sub-class beneath the bottom rung of the caste system. We see this in the repeated calls by the BJP leaders and even members of the public to boycott all Muslim businesses and vendors. We see this in repeated campaigns of lies on the Indian media weaponizing fake news against Muslims, in an advanced version of how Israeli media demonizes Palestinians.
But perhaps more dangerous than all of this is how the international Hindutva lobby has aped the tactics of the Zionist lobby in making inroads into the political structures of Western countries, using the diaspora to further their aims and even supporting key political candidates who are sympathetic to their cause. Activist Peter Friedrich has conducted an in depth research into this topic and while space does not allow me to list his findings, I would urge anyone interested to hear what he has to say.
I will leave you with two examples: the recent RSS-inspired riots in Leicester, UK, and a parade in New Jersey featuring the same bulldozers that are used to demolish Muslim homes, is a clear example of how the Hindutva Hydra is spreading its hateful tentacles across the world. Don’t expect the Western world, otherwise the torchbearers of tolerance, to raise a voice against this either because, as we know all too well, their economic and strategic interests trump any and all moral considerations. Like the Palestinians, the Muslims of India are children of a lesser god, and very much on their own.
The writer has worked extensively in Pakistan's print and electronic media and is currently hosting a talk show on a private TV channel.
E-mail: [email protected]
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