This article delves into the parallel quests for freedom, comparing the Palestinian plight with the struggles faced by the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Examining historical contexts, human rights violations, and the impact of ideological motivations, the writer provides a comparative analysis that underscores the commonalities in these two movements for sovereignty.
While there is a growing concern of the international community to call for de-escalation of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in the Middle East region, the conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocents in the Gaza Strip, with more than 8,000 children among 20,600 people, as of December 26, 2023.1 According to United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), 1.93 million people are now internally displaced in Gaza.2
Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Gaza (as of December 11, 2023).3
As the Palestinians are currently facing ethnic genocide at the hands of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and struggling to reclaim their motherland, the story of people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) also reflects their parallel struggle for freedom to live with self-determination. The Modi regime in IIOJK is orchestrating a systematic campaign of extrajudicial killings, primarily targeting the youth, as reported by the Kashmir Media Service. The report claims that over 800 people have fallen victim to the brutal actions of Indian troops since August 5, 2019. Shockingly, the total number of Kashmiris killed by Indian troops has reached 96,233 since January 1989 to August 31, 2023.4
Challenges to Self-Determination: The Enduring Struggle for Palestinian and Kashmiri Freedom
Israel consistently disregards the rights of Palestinians and portrays itself as a victim under the cover of anti-Semitism. The recent Palestine-Israel outbreak of war in Gaza clarifies the notion of Israel’s actions as extremely violent, eventually turning the situation towards a potential genocide of the Palestinians.5 According to the International Criminal Court (ICC), genocide involves actions aimed at intentionally destroying, wholly or partly, a specific national, ethnic, racial, or religious group through killing, severe harm, mental suffering, conditions leading to physical destruction, measures preventing births, or forcibly transferring children.6 On November 2, 2023, seven UN Special Rapporteurs expressed their continued conviction that the Palestinian population faces a serious risk of genocide.7 This development followed the resignation of Craig Mokhiber, the Director of the UN's New York office, who characterized the events in Gaza as a "textbook case of genocide" with the intent of expediting the eradication of the remaining indigenous life in Palestine.8 The status quo of Israel in the position of occupation over Palestinian territories has been retained since 1967’s Arab-Israel War. Since then, the Palestinians have stood more upright for their freedom.
Their struggles in the form of Palestinian Intifadas (uprisings), along with the development of numerous groups to employ any means necessary against Israel, have never been diminished. Whether there is a violation of international law by Israel in its pursuit of prohibited settler colonialism of Jewish population across Palestinian lands or in blockading the Gaza Strip, the potential resistance of the Palestinian cause has always persisted.
On November 2, 2023, seven UN Special Rapporteurs expressed their continued conviction that the Palestinian population faces a serious risk of genocide. This development followed the resignation of Craig Mokhiber, the Director of the UN's New York office, who characterized the events in Gaza as a "textbook case of genocide" with the intent of expediting the eradication of the remaining indigenous life in Palestine.
Kashmiris have been engaged in a longstanding struggle for self-determination, with historical roots dating back centuries. The revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status in 2019 is seen as a continuation of imperialist actions. The occupation since October 7, 1947, has been marked by violations of international obligations by India, including demographic changes and human rights abuses. Despite the ongoing repression, Kashmiris remain steadfast in their commitment to self-determination. The Kashmiri people, after over 76 years, await the promised right to self-determination, facing intensified repression since August 5, 2019, with urgency for a global response to settle the dispute according to UN resolutions and Kashmiri aspirations.
According to the report by Kashmir Media Service, Indian troops are accused of engaging in staged encounters with innocent Kashmiri youth for cash rewards, enjoying impunity under draconian laws in the region. The relentless killing spree is perceived as an attempt to instill fear among the Kashmiri population, but the report emphasizes that the resilience of the people in their pursuit of freedom remains unbroken.
As of December 24, 2023, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Pakistan condemned the heinous custodial killing of three Kashmiri civilians in the Poonch district of IIOJK. This incident starkly illustrates the brutality perpetrated by Indian security forces against innocent Kashmiris.
The deliberate formulation of policies and strategic approaches that equate these self-determination movements with acts of terrorism serve as a catalyst for the expansion of India-Israel’s strategic collaboration and the multi-billion-dollar bilateral arms trade.
Comparative Analysis of Freedom Movements in Palestine and IIOJK
When drawing a parallel between the Palestinian struggle against illegal Israeli occupation and the Kashmiris’ movement for freedom in IIOJK, several indicators emerge, allowing for a reasonable and unbiased evaluation. The similarities between these two struggles for freedom stem from their historical context. The primary source of the dispute stems from India's military occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. Similarly, Palestinians faced a comparable situation when 700,000-750,000 Palestinians were forcefully evicted in the violent and unfortunate events of Nakba, orchestrated by Zionist militants and extremists.9
Both movements, originating in Muslim-majority regions, confront hate, xenophobia, and racism rooted in Islamophobia, often being unjustly labelled as terrorists. They steadfastly exercise their legal and moral rights to resist unlawful occupations, actions fully supported by the United Nations Charter and International Humanitarian Law.10
Kashmiri and Palestinian movements for self-determination have both been consistently subjected to oppressive state measures under the guise of anti-terror operations, including efforts to eliminate, silence, or detain freedom fighters and activists associated with their respective causes. The deliberate formulation of policies and strategic approaches that equate these self-determination movements with acts of terrorism serves as a catalyst for the expansion of India-Israel’s strategic collaboration and the multi-billion-dollar bilateral arms trade.11
The rape of Arab women in the Dhier Yassin region of the occupied Palestinian territories by Zionist militants serves as a grim illustration. Similarly, the Konan-Poshpara incident showcases the ruthless targeting of Kashmiri women with sexual assaults and mass rape by the Indian BSF and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), underscoring the harrowing experiences endured by women associated with these movements.
Numerous deliberate massacres have occurred in the history of the struggles in both regions. For instance, the Kafr Qasim Massacre of 1956 stands out as one of the infamous events in the Palestinian freedom struggle. During this tragic incident, Israeli border police opened indiscriminate fire near the border of the occupied West Bank, resulting in the brutal slaughter of around 50 Palestinians, including 23 children.12 Tragically, such events find a poignant parallel in the Kashmiri movement for self-determination, as exemplified by the incident of Bijbehara in 1993. Documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW), this event involved the 74th Battalion of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) opening fire on protesting Kashmiris, leading to the indiscriminate massacre of 51 individuals. Moreover, the hidden chapters of history also reveal disturbing incidents of rape perpetrated against Palestinian and Kashmiri women. For instance, the rape of Arab women in the Dhier Yassin region of the occupied Palestinian territories by Zionist militants13 serves as a grim illustration. Similarly, the Konan-Poshpara incident showcases the ruthless targeting of Kashmiri women with sexual assaults and mass rape by the Indian BSF and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF),14 underscoring the harrowing experiences endured by women associated with these movements.
A key aspect to consider when comparing these two freedom struggles is how governments in Israel and India construct their own justifications for their actions in Kashmir and Palestine. They base these justifications on what can be seen as unrealistic and unfounded beliefs and ideologies. On one side, the dominance of Theodore Herzl’s (father of modern political Zionism who formed the Zionist Organization and promoted Jewish immigration to Palestine in an effort to form a Jewish state) Zionism perpetuates the concept of a Jewish homeland superseding Palestinian lands, often manipulated to support the notion of ‘Greater Israel’. On the other extreme, BJP-RSS (Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)-inspired Hindutva ideology seeks to establish a Hindu Rashtra (nation) or Akhand Bharat (undivided India), drawing its motivation from the xenophobic teachings of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. These ideologies have not only yielded consequences for the Palestinian and Kashmiri freedom struggles but also carry the potential to engender harmful geopolitical outcomes in their respective regions.
Israel consistently intervenes in the affairs of the Palestinian Authority and, in violation of international law, permits the establishment of illegal settlements of Jewish citizens within occupied Palestine. Similarly, following the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the Indian government implemented policies that have contributed to settler colonialism in IIOJK. These measures, including the reorganization of the state into two union territories and the introduction of a domicile law, were formalized under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act. Consequently, these policies have resulted in demographic changes, and institutionalization of Hindutva ideology. For example, the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Article 370 would have a significant impact on the country’s socio-political fabric. The underlying objective on both sides appears to be consistent: to engineer demographic changes and undermine the struggles of Palestinians and Kashmiris.
The writer is a graduate of Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defense University, Islamabad.
E-mail: [email protected]
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