By P. Sudhir
It has become a crime in New India to observe Children’s Day by remembering the Palestinian children killed in Israel’s war on Gaza. This is what happened on November 14 in Mumbai when a few score people, including minor girls, held a silent prayer in Juhu beach. 17 of them were arrested by the police and kept in the police station till the evening. All of them belong to the minority community. For the BJP rulers, death of 5,600 children in Gaza is of no consequence.
On the same day, the Delhi police sent out a notice to Imams of various mosques warning them not to mention Palestine or the attack by Israeli forces in Gaza during prayers or sermons. Even a prayer in memory of the thousands who have died in Gaza is prohibited. This is an attack not only on the basic right of free speech but on religious freedom.
In Srinagar, the administration ordered the Jamia Masjid, the main mosque in the city, to be shut for Friday prayers on October 13 and all successive Fridays. The step is being taken to prevent any gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza during prayers.
In all BJP-ruled states, any protest or demonstration in support of Palestine is prohibited or prevented by the police. Even in Delhi, students and other protestors were rounded up while protesting at Jantar Mantar.
All these actions stem from the BJP-RSS outlook which lionizes Israel and depicts the Palestinian struggle as terrorism. This is also reflected in the complete shift that the Modi government has effected of outright support to Israel and refusal to support the call for ceasefire in the war against Gaza which is demanded by the entire global south.
Hindutva and rightwing Zionism are ideological brothers. VD Savarkar, the originator of the concept of Hindutva wrote as early as 1923 that he supported the setting up of a Jewish State in Palestine. Savarkar consistently supported Zionism as he saw it as anti-Muslim. In stark contrast, Gandhiji was equally firm in supporting the Palestinian cause. He wrote in 1938 that: “It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct”.
The Modi government’s reversal of India’s stand on Palestine is the culmination of the strategic relations forged with Israel by the first BJP-led Vajpayee government. LK Advani, then deputy prime minister, had visited Israel in 2000, the first high ranking Indian government leader to do so. This resulted in various military and security relations. Subsequently, the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who represented the Zionist rightwing, visited India, the first Israeli prime minister to do so.
Narendra Modi has deepened this strategic relationship further along with his rightwing counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has become a key supplier of technology and equipment for the internal security apparatus of the Modi government. One such technology is the Pegasus spyware, which was supplied by an Israeli company with the approval of the Israeli government.
The genocidal attack on Gaza has evoked worldwide protest and condemnation. Even in countries where the governments are fully with Israel, tens of thousands of people have come out on to the streets to demonstrate their support and solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine. In Britain, where the Conservative government and the opposition Labour party leadership are both fully backing Israel’s aggression on Gaza, hundreds of thousands of people have been demonstrating every Saturday. Protests were held in Paris and Berlin where the French and German governments had prohibited such protests or the display of Palestinian flag.
The announcement of a four day truce and exchange of 50 women and children held hostage by Hamas for 150 Palestinian women and children in Israeli prisons is a temporary respite. Netanyahu has made it clear that the war will go on after the truce period. That is why it is important to mount pressure for a permanent ceasefire till a political solution is found.
In India, there are big solidarity meetings being held involving thousands of people in all the districts of Kerala. There has been a big demonstration in Kolkata organised by the Left parties. The Left parties are also organising solidarity actions and meetings in different states.
But given the dominant communal narrative put out by the BJP and the corporate media portraying the Palestinians as “Muslim terrorists”, the other secular opposition parties have remained passive on the issue. This makes it all the more important for the Left forces to take up a widespread and sustained campaign in support of a permanent ceasefire, for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and for setting up of an independent Palestinian State. They must draw in other secular and democratic forces in this mobilisation and foil the BJP’s plan to make this into an Islamophobic issue. (IPA Service)