Umar Misgar on the lessons India is learning from Israel
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in one of his recent chest-thumping speeches, compared the Indian forces with that of the Israeli ones. Modi’s comparison came within the context of Indian Army claiming to have carried out “surgical strikes” across the LOC and dismantling the launchpads used by the “Pakistani-sponsored militant groups to infiltrate across the De Facto border.” Now, if we bend-over backwards and accept the Indian claim while dismissing the scepticism that various international media agencies like CNN, BBC and Washingtonpost- establishments that usually spare no chance of portraying Pakistan as a virtually rogue state- expressed over these strikes, the question that still begs an answer is that, even from the Indian point of view, did this act induce any substantial change in the vexing political scenario of Kashmir?
Coming back to Modi’s Freudian slip, the Israeli treatment of Palestinians might serve as an ideal vantage point to scrutinize the Indian rule over Kashmir. Besides being one of Israel’s largest defence customers, Indians, in the past, have sought Israeli expertise to quell the mass street protests in Kashmir.
While there is a near unanimous stand within the international community over the nature of Israeli rule in the post-1967 West Bank- a pervasive military occupation that needs to end for any sustainable peace, Kashmir does not hold the same designation. However, in recent days, powerful voices, across the ideological spectrum, have not shied away from assigning a similar label to Indian reign in Kashmir. Whether it be the liberal corporate Time Magazine that, in a recent commentary, called Indian rule over Kashmir a De Facto military occupation or far-left public intellectuals like Tariq Ali of the New Left Review and Vijay Prashad of Dublin’s Trinity College. The counter-argument that can be advanced against this stand is that Kashmir has an “elected civilian government.” However, elections do not always equate to a just arrangement. The Judenräte or Jewish Councils in Nazi-occupied Europe were elected bodies too. So is the Palestinian Authority in Occupied West Bank. Plus, the military occupiers in modern times prefer to project a civilian face and steer clear of their responsibilities under international law. Also, if a ruling dispensation survives 115 days of widespread protests and all-encompassing strikes, it is safe to conclude that they derive their legitimacy from a source other than people. In the case of Kashmir, the source of course is the metropole of New Delhi.
The Isreali treatment of its Palestinian (Arab) citizens is often compared with the South African apartheid system. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Richard Falk and even the US Secretary of State John Kerry has made this analogy. In the light of AFSPA and other discriminatory, rights-robbing legislations, Indian conduct in Kashmir has to be probed within the same framework. However, since the racial factor doesn’t apply between India and Kashmir, the situation can be described as a more subtle, undetectable form of apartheid. A system of neo-apartheid.
The 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine and subsequent formation of the state of Israel is viewed as a massive catastrophe (Al-Nakba) in the entire Arab world. In recent times, even the Israel’s so called New Historians like Avi Shliam and Illan Pappe have written authoritative accounts on how Israelis expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, destroyed the Palestinian towns, villages and constructed their Zionist project on the ruins of historic Palestine. Kashmir’s “accession” to India, validity of which remains hotly disputed, was also surrounded by a ferocious intensity of death and displacement. While the Indian narrative maintains that its troops landed in Srinagar to “rescue Kashmiris from the destruction unleashed by tribal raiders from Pakistan,” the reality presents a different picture. The Indian intentions, at best, look more likely to be the preservation of the tyrant Dogra regime and, at worst, a straightforward territorial assimilation.
If the Indian government of the time would have been genuinely concerned about the safety of Kashmir’s people, the troops should have landed in Jammu, not inside the valley because Jammu was the focus of a virtual genocide through the Autumn of 1947. The Dogra Maharaja’s troops, in tacit collaboration with RSS goons- the same organization that forms the ideological backbone of India’s currently ruling BJP party- killed an upwards of 237000 Muslims in Jammu according to various international newspaper reports of the time. Around 123 villages were completely depopulated of Muslims, thereby altering the region’s demography. Pertinent to mention here is that while the Kashmiris observe 27th October, the day on which Indian troops landed in Srinagar, as a black day every year, numerous groups in India celebrate it. Not unlike the 15th May Israeli celebration of Al-Nakba as Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day).
Kashmiri and Palestinian condition can also be correlated on a host of other matters like military checkpoints, cultural assimilation, appropriation of land and denial of free cross-border movement etc.
While the resistance leadership, during the current phase of mass-uprisings, has come-up with ingenious ways of protest like using the post 5 PM break in general strike or “normalcy” as an expression of dissent, we surely can take away multiple lessons from the Palestinian experience.
On the diplomatic front, while far from being successful, Palestine is eons ahead of Kashmir. Despite the obvious shortcomings of Oslo and Camp David, acquiring a non-member observer state status in UN against such heavy odds is no less an accomplishment. Kashmir, however, remains to be on the backburner in the international diplomatic scene. Having a strong diplomatic outreach shall not only prevent Kashmir from regularly turning into a cold conflict that unworthy of a permanent resolution but also allow us to be relatively flexible and not entirely dependent on a group of countries whose own human-rights records do not even present a decent, let alone an ideal picture.
While it is impossible to entirely ameliorate the effects of geopolitics, an indigenous diplomatic front shall ensure that Kashmiris do not wholly depend on the whims of powerful states like Russia, who has left a trail of murder from Grozny to Eastern Aleppo, China, whose abuses from Tibet to Eastern Turkestan are no secret and United States, the mothership of domestic police abuses and international war crimes.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is another powerful mode of protest that can be applied to the Kashmiri setting. Since India immensely values its international market value, lobbying businesses to divest from Indian economy, while highlighting the state abuses in Kashmir, will surely help in putting pressure on the country’s ruling elite to find a sustainable political solution to Kashmir’s long-pending dispute. Similarly, encouraging educational and cultural boycott of India can prove to be helpful to buttress the non-violent resistance.