Bullets, teargas, shelling: Kashmir's stand in solidarity with Palestine

Bullets, teargas, shelling: Kashmir's stand in solidarity with Palestine
In-depth: Indian-administrated Kashmir and Palestine share parallel stories of oppression, resistance, injustice and military occupation, writes Aamir Ali Bhat.
5 min read
12 February, 2018
Protesters during solidarity demonstrations in Srinagar, in Indian-administrated Kashmir [Muzamil Mattoo]
Decades ago, the process of decolonisation in Asia dismantled imperial rule, but subsequently left many intractable territorial disputes which later burst into major conflicts.

Among them, the most prominent conflict regions, Palestine and Indian-administrated Kashmir (IAK) share parallel histories of oppression, resistance, injustice and military occupation.

The problems of both Kashmir and Palestine date back to 1947. Israel maintains its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, and Kashmir continues to be one of the longest unresolved conflicts - with India and Pakistan, both nuclear states, claiming the region in full and fighting three wars over it.

Although the origins of the ongoing deadly conflicts in these regions is different, the way people in Palestine and Indian-administered Kashmir are engaging in the struggle for indigenous freedom reflects a similarity between these two globally recognised disputed territories.

Both Palestine and IAK are the site of deadly conflicts between armed fighters and occupying forces, and during the past couple of decades both have seen long and popular uprisings against military occupation.

Separated by thousands of miles, Kashmir and Palestine are connected by the bond of resistance, rebellion and mutual solidarity

Following the killing of a student-turned-rebel commander in July 2016, Kashmir observed a five-month shutdown, following in the footsteps of the six-month strike in Palestine against British colonial rule in 1939.

Likewise, the regular popular protests in both Palestine and Kashmir are always met with brute, and often deadly, force.

Separated by thousands of miles, Kashmir and Palestine are connected by the bond of resistance, rebellion and mutual solidarity.

Kashmiri graffiti artists express solidarity with Gaza
[Aamir Ali Bhat]

Whether it was Israel's attack on Gaza in the summer of 2104 or recent US decision to recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel, people in Kashmir always stand in solidarity with Palestine.

The Kashmir region has witnessed a cycle of spontaneous pro-Palestine protests and shutdowns during the past couple of years.

Solidarity of Kashmir with Palestine

Faisal Khan, a Kashmir-based freelance photojournalist still remembers the love and affection Palestinians showed him when he visited occupied Jerusalem in 2014.

"I will never forget the Palestinian hospitality, nor will I forget the ill-treatment meted out to Palestinians by Israel occupation forces every day," said Khan.

"The moment is still fresh in my mind - when on my way to al-Aqsa mosque, a Palestinian hugged me and kissed my forehead when he came to know that I am from Indian-administrated Kashmir."

Although the people of Kashmir have for decades been expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause, during the past couple of years they have set notable examples of sympathy and solidarity with Palestine.

In December 2017, when the US president made a contentious decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, massive protests were held across Kashmir.

Holding banners and placards that read: "Jerusalem, eternal Capital of Palestine", "Long Live Palestine" and "Down with Trump", scores of people - including secessionist leaders - in almost every district took to the streets shouting pro-Palestine and anti-US slogans. Angry protesters in Srinagar, IAK's summer capital, burned an effigy of Trump.

Almost every segment of society - from secessionist leaders to students, lawyers, social activists, clerics, academics and religious scholars - condemned the US decision on social media. 

Back in the summer of 2014, when Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip led to the death of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 557 children, people in Kashmir rose up against Israel "aggression". Every college, university and school held protest rallies.

While protesting against Israel, one teenage boy was killed and another injured by troops firing in Qaimoh, a village in south Kashmir's Kulgam district.

Back in November 2012, when then Israel waged war against Palestine, people in Kashmir also held massive protest rallies, burning Israeli flags.

According to Umair Gull, assistant professor of international relations at the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Kashmir, the Muslim-majority population in both territories, and the presence of Islam's third holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem are some of the reasons behind the solidarity of Kashmiri people with Palestine.

Protesters wave a Palestinian flag towards Indian forces during pro-Palestine protests in Srinagar
 [Muzamil Mattoo] 

"The mutual solidarity between the people of these two territories has very long history," said Gull.

"When Kashmiris identified themselves with the world Muslim community in the early 1970s, they became very close to Palestine - and even some students from Palestine who came to Kashmir in the early 1980s attended seminars here organised then by Muhammad Ayyub Thakur, who was a Kashmiri political activist and founder of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement.

"Palestinian students interacted with the student body of Kashmir Jamiat-e-Talaba in such seminars."

The struggle for freedom from brutal military occupations and quest for remedying historical and continued injustices are the ideals that underpin both Palestinian and Kashmiri causes

Solidarity is not limited to protest rallies, but people in IAK take their stand for Palestine through other forms of resistance. From narrow lanes to large streets, Kashmiri graffiti artists have scribbled in big and bold letters on walls and shop shutters slogans that read: "Free Palestine", "Kashmir Stands for Gaza", "Death with Israel" and "Freedom from Palestine to Kashmir".

Risking their own lives, these artists mostly write these famous slogans in the dead of night.

Many writers and journalists in Kashmir dedicate their craft to reporting on the suffering of Palestinian people, and it has become a trend among the new generation of Kashmiris to share the stories related to Palestine struggle on social networking sites.

The struggle of Palestinians against Israel military occupation is a heated discussion in Kashmir.

Umar Misgar is an independent political analyst from south Kashmir. He told The New Arab that the struggle for freedom from brutal military occupations and the quest for remedying historical and continued injustices were the ideals that underpin both Palestinian and Kashmiri causes.

So, naturally, there are regular exchanges of solidarity between the two peoples. "There is also a growing exchange of art and academic work between Palestinians and Kashmiris, both online and offline," said Misgar.

"Besides," Misgar added, "when it comes to the occupation of Jerusalem, including the regular Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque, opposition to which is widely viewed as a pan-Islamic cause, Kashmir, being a Muslim-majority region, doesn't hold back."

But when Majid Khalidi, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, announced this month's visit of Indian President Narendra Modi to the occupied Palestinian territories, people in Kashmir expressed a deep anguish - because the Palestinian hosts called it an historic visit.

Aamir Ali Bhat is a Kashmir-based freelance journalist who reports on human rights abuses, culture and the environment. He regularly writes for The New Arab, Kashmir Ink and Free Press Kashmir.

Follow him on Twitter: @Aamirbhatt3

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