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ZIONISM AND HINDUTVA, TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

Hindutva and Zionism share a common passion to build ethnonationalist states, making them two sides of the same coin.

TW/CW: This essay contains descriptions Zionism, Hindutva, anti-Kashmiri and anti-Palestinian rhetoric and violence, and mentions r/pe.

By Rimsha Syed

Friends, family, and comrades:

It is with great devastation that I must share the details of two brutal occupations in an effort to recenter the global discussion around self-determination, freedom, and justice for the Palestinian and Kashmiri people. 

While Israeli security vehicles storm the streets of a small town known as Birzeit, using jackhammers and weapons to demolish homes under the guise of “order,” footage has circulated in Delhi of Hindu cops shouting jai sri ram [a hindu nationalist slogan] at bloodied Muslim bodies that lay alongside the rubble of a former mosque. 

Right now, 7 million people in the valley of Kashmir, the majority of whom have family members who fought for decades for their right to self-determination, are existing in an open-air prison. 2 million more in Assam, home to many Bangladeshi-Muslim immigrants, are holding on to their citizenship by a thread ever since their names have disappeared from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), all while their neighbors are in BJP funded detention camps. 

Along the same vein, Israeli state-sanctioned violence against Palestinians has risen in the aftermath of the Trump-Netanyahu “peace deal,” a deal that formalizes Israel’s historic settler-colonial project. Emboldened by the political atmosphere, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), has taken every opportunity to shoot Palestinian children with rubber-coated steel bullets, detain people at random and set Mosques on fire. These are just a few examples of legalized violence deployed by tools of a fascist state.

Modi has stationed at least 48,000 troops in Jammu and Kashmir in addition to the 700,000 that have already declared Kashmir the most densely militarized zone on earth. Between a total security lockdown and special instructions to shoot any Kashmiris seen in the streets past curfew, it is clear that the neo-colonial relationship between India and Israel will become increasingly interdependent.

Hindutva and Zionism share a common passion to build ethnonationalist states, making them two sides of the same coin.

Settler-colonialism

Revoking articles 360 and 35A paves the way for a full settler-colonial project in Kashmir by allowing the Indian state to rule Kashmir directly, likening its racist regime to that of the occupation in historic Palestine. Furthermore, it continues the process of altering the demographic make-up of Kashmir by legitimizing Hindu Indians to purchase property and settle under the protection of Indian military presence, much like how the demographic make-up of the West Bank continues to be replaced by Jewish-only settlements. 

As the BJP sees it, flooding Kashmir with Hindu Indians would somehow solve the Kashmiri problem. In other words, it would dictate a racial hierarchy absent of any empathy for Kashmiri lives and secure Modi’s legacy and Hindutva.

Aside from the parallels in policy objectives, both Israel and India claim to be exceptional democracies, despite their intentionally inhumane treatment of the population of oppressed people. Both Zionists and Hindu Nationalists claim that the mere existence of Muslim majority countries necessitates a Jewish and Hindu state, respectively — even if that means creating a colonial machine. 

Recommended: SILENCE IS COMPLICITY: U.S. HINDUS MUST DENOUNCE MODI AND ISLAMOPHOBIA

Oppressors-in-arms

When Hindu-nationalist politician and life-long member of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party, Narendra Modi, became India’s prime minister, he had no intention of keeping up the facade of solidarity with Palestinians. 

Instead, the Israeli-Indian relationship turned into a bromance — each drawing inspiration from their fascist rulers and developing a partnership based on strategic (imperialist) interests. The BJP and other Hindu Nationalists are eager to replicate the Zionist project in turning a secular India into a Hindu ethnocratic state. 

India remains as Israel’s biggest arms exports clients, spending as much as $10 billion over the past decade. Israel continues to collaborate with India to ensure that Kashmiris remain subjugated, welcoming the Indian police force to join the IDF in “anti-terror” training sessions known as “The Blue Flag” drill. The Blue Flag drill is a 22-month long phase that teaches security forces the basics of bringing death and serious injury to occupied people. Joining the trifecta, American police forces have also received private tutoring lessons in Israeli execution tactics, framing zionist ideology as a “campaign of law and order” for U.S. law enforcement to emulate. Torture, rape, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings are widespread. These human rights violations are intricately linked to the denial of political sovereignty for Kashmiris and Palestinians. What they are living through is not identical, but their occupations certainly feed off one another.  

Islamophobic Nationalism

Like the Israeli government has done since the inception of Zionist ideology, the Indian government continues to frame its exclusivist, ethno-nationalist agenda as a religious issue, quickly resorting to Islamophobia. To manufacture international consent of an illegal occupation, the discourse around Kashmir and India is routinely reduced to “security” and “counterterrorism.” Indian security forces are able to invoke state-sanctioned violence while their jingoistic media conflates Kashmiris with “radical jihadists.” 

Perhaps worse is when Palestinian and Kashmiri emancipatory cries are painted as extremism, ultimately obscuring the reality of hyper-militarization, detention centers, and bullet holes, further stripping agency from people resisting their oppression. The genesis of solidarity between Kashmir and Palestine is not new; many use stone-throwing at their oppressors as a collective form of protest. It is no longer accurate for Palestinians and Kashmiris to view Israel and India as separate oppressors, but as partners in occupation. 

India’s Hindu nationalists and the Israeli right have a remarkable mutual affinity. When bombs rained down on Gaza in 2014, Israelis were seen famously picnicking on hilltops, smoking shisha, taking selfies, and cheering on the mass destruction of Palestinian lives and land. We need not look any further than fascist-supporting Bollywood celebrities, like Priyanka Chopra — who ​had Narendra Modi as a guest at her wedding and endorsed the Indian army, ​calling for an escalation of violence against Kashmir — to understand how deep anti-Muslim rhetoric runs in both nations. 

Recommended: ISRAEL IS NOT A DEMOCRACY, IT IS AN APARTHEID STATE

The U.S. is complicit

The USA is no stranger to fascism, but that is a discussion for another time. Perhaps it’s silly to think that a nation built on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples would ever be on the right side of history. 

In September of 2019, 50,000 Indian Americans gathered in Houston for the “Howdy, Modi” event to celebrate an authoritarian leader who has actively condoned the violence against thousands of people in their homeland. Modi and Trump stood side by side and hand in hand over a crescendo of drumrolls and constant cheering. Meanwhile, news outlets ignored the thousands of people, including myself, protesting outside the stadium. 

At the same time, the significance that the USA plays in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine should not be ignored. The US administration has historically empowered the most extremist Israeli policies, continuing to enable human rights abuses under the guise of democracy. The Trump administration alone has recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and has withdrawn funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Formidable Alliance

A decolonized Cuba created a pathway to help Mandela’s South Africa break the cycle of apartheid, which then supported Yasser Arafat’s combat for a free Palestinian state. This trend lives on for Kashmiris, Palestinians, Black and Indigenous people in America, Tamils in Sri Lanka, and so forth. 

All that is left to the conflict-marred people living under occupation, and those who stand in solidarity, is observing the global consequences, for dismantling the Israeli-Indian oppressors in arms will require a worldwide confrontation. 

Part of that work starts here; understanding these long-standing “conflicts” for what they are: colonialism. Only then can we push the boundaries of our political consciousness and work towards collective liberation. 

In the words of Arundhati Roy, “What we need are people who are prepared to be unpopular. Who are prepared to put themselves in danger. Who are prepared to tell the truth. Brave journalists can do that, and they have. Brave lawyers can do that, and they have. And artists – beautiful, brilliant, brave writers, poets, musicians, painters and filmmakers can do that. That beauty is on our side. All of it.”

Rimsha Syed is an Austin-based Pakistani Muslim daughter of fierce immigrants. In Urdu, her name means a bouquet of flowers. Rimsha is a freelance journalist, community organizer, and creative who hopes to disrupt imperial influenced media and re-write history from the perspective of all those oppressed by systems of power meant to exploit working-class people of color globally. Rimsha is currently working with APALA, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. She lives off of samosas and tears of patriarchy. You can follow her on instagram/twitter @sassysamosa and reach her at rimshansyed@gmail.com.

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