Kashmir & Palestine: A Similar Account Or Merely A Mirage

The issue of drawing a parallel between the situations in Kashmir and Palestine has been a bone of contention among the scholars for decades. While some scholars have opined in the affirmative, others have vehemently denied any resemblance between the two regions. This segment of article attempts to present an unbiased view in order to understand whether there exists any similarity between the situation of Kashmir and Palestine, by broadly deliberating upon two grounds: control over land, and the quest for self-determination.

Understanding The Contours Of Territory And Occupied Land

For the people who favour the existence of Palestine as a different country, claim that Israel has taken over the land in a gradual manner. In their language the whole history of this mayhem caused to the Palestine, relies on the replacement of Palestine by the Israel. If this is true, it means that people of Palestine have been displaced in order to create a space for the Jews around the world to live there.The best example in this support (which most of the Palestine favouring nation have agreed to) lies in the division which was prevalent in 1970s and 1980s whereby a part of the central country to the west bank of Jordan river was to remain Palestine along with some part of the Gaza Strip in Southwest corner. The remaining part was assigned to Israel. But as expected, the problem lies in the fact that Jewish settlers looking for land have forcibly taken the control over a substantial part of the above-mentioned portions.

The land of Jammu and Kashmir (which is governed by Indian side) has been protected by certain safeguards whereby the migration from rest of the country to this part was banned. Article 35-A of the constitution prevented anyone residing in rest of the India from purchasing the land or getting employed there. According to the recent laws also, a person should have lived for 15 years minimum to buy a property in the region. Therefore if someone tries to compare the issue of Palestine and Kashmir on the basis of occupied land, it would create fundamental fallacy. Kashmir’s situation in the past (presently the situation is on a complete different track since the Abolition of article 370 by Government) can never be drawn parallel to Palestine since there is no forcible eviction or land takeover scenarios present in the Indian state. There might be other different categories where the issue of Palestine might be compared to that of Kashmir (for ex- one being the response of a powerful state in both the states while dealing with the matters of residents there and the locals claiming the process to be against Human Rights Law) but the land settlement and occupation do not qualify to become the said scenario.

The Quest for Self-Determination

Scholars have, for long drawn a parallel between the situations of Palestine and Kashmir, the two quintessential limbs of the nations that they fall within- Israel and India respectively. Among the many similarities that these two states, the foremost one is their struggle for self-determination, which has been accompanied be unparalleled bloodshed and mass lynching, primarily due to sectarian, ideological and ethnic violence. Despite the similarity of objectives, the narrative of their historical backdrop stands poles apart, which we shall be dissecting briefly, in order to understand the nature of their protest and subsequent reactions from their governments.

i. Understanding the Historical Fabric of Palestine and Kashmir

Israel is a predominantly Jewish state situated amidst hostile Arab nations. Battling for survival in the neighborhood, it fortified the military hold with the objective of overpowering the surrounding nations in terms of its military prowess. The occupation of Gaza and West Bank has enabled it to protect itself from invasion, apart from providing it additional strategic advantages. However, this also opened the floodgates of ethnic intermingling, since these areas are dominated by Arabs, who, since the very inception have been against the idea of formation of Israel. Their quest for self-determination has been brutally silenced by arms and ammunitions, which has resulted in further annihilation of the entire Palestinian community. Israel has been constantly justifying its oppressing actions by playing the victim of hostile neighbours, which according to her is the reason for not recognising the self-determination movement of Palestinians.

India, on the other hand, presented a similar struggle as regards the question of plebiscite and self-determination in the Valley. Kashmir, until 2019, had been the bone of contention in the entire sub-continent owing to the “special status” granted to it by the Indian Constitution. However, the reason for crushing the self-determination movement in the valley had more to with the objective of maintaining territorial integrity and sanctity of the Indian diaspora, which categorically de-recognises the right to internal self-determination. The greater threat, perhaps, could be one of similar demands by other groups across India sharing the same ethnicity, religion and linguistic characters, which could make the nation vulnerable to the threat of absolute disintegration, owing to its diversity. Nevertheless, the government has thwarted any further demands of self-determination by passing the 2019 resolution revoking the special status of Kashmir, and further deploying the army to maintain peace and security.

ii. The Government Reaction- Silencing The Protests

Prior to 2019, clashes between militants, common protestors and military in Kashmir were a common phenomenon, and the present status remains uncertain, credits to the central government which has curbed freedom of press amid other fundamental rights in Valley. Violence has flown through the veins of Kashmir, often induced by rebels and terrorist-sponsored militants using arms and weapons against the army. Sadly, innocent life and property is often caught in crossfires, and the number of casualties surge astronomically high. The Indian government has earned itself criticism for strong arming the situation by use of lethal force (weapons including pellet guns), and callous application of draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and by curbing other basic freedoms have further drawn International attention.

The situation in Palestine as regards the violence and bloodshed is no different from that of India. Violence has engulfed those towns having a mixed population of Arabs and Jews, forcing a number of arrests to prevent escalation of violence. Militants in Gaza, which has majority of Arab population are firing rockets in Israel, thereby inviting retaliation on similar lines from the Israelis. Despite the human cost being the common link in Kashmir and in Palestine, the difference lies in the intensity of attacks that the parties have engaged in. The Indian military did commit acts of brutality in the valley, but the focus was never the ruling administration of Kashmir, and the intent of use of force largely remained restricted to maintain peace and security. This is in contrast with the attacks by Israel in Palestine, which is more on the offensive side, targeting leaders and religious buildings.

Image Source: The Article

This article has been authored by Lakshay Garg & Ashika Jain of Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.