A tale of two prisons

.. by Raza Muhammad Khan

JOINING the dots between the occupation of India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Gaza in Palestine (Population 8 and 2.4 million respectively), reveals that they are mostly similar, vast, open air prisons, where the magnitude of human rights violations and suffering of the inmates is appalling. These places are also somewhat akin to the dreaded British South African (1899-1902) and Nazi concentration camps in Germany (1933-1945), where civilians were concentrated to prevent them from activities for their freedom or simply as a means of terrorizing the populace into submission. They also resemble two old and infamous prisons called “the Tombs”—that were closed in New York in 1974 and 2001. These prisons were monuments to the most inhumane school of penology in the US and were shut under pressure from the people, ending the wretched chapter in the country’s punitive history.

While Gaza has often been called a prison since 2005, and this has been reconfirmed by the Israeli blockades, following the Hammas raids; the chaos in Palestine was created by the British government’s Balfour Declaration in 1917, about “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” that eventually led to the birth of Israel in 1948. The siege of Kashmiris started as early as 1846, when the British sold it to a Dogra ruler Gulab Singh for Rs 7.5 million. Gulab Singh treated the people as ‘unruly cattle’, as highlighted by British explorer, William Moorcroft. In 1880, Viceroy Lord Lytton expressed his concerns on the matter to London in a letter, wherein he stated that the Kashmiris were ‘systematically oppressed and depressed’ — as the British had installed a ruler “alien to Kashmiris in face and creed.” The continuation of such treatment ultimately led to mass protests and rebellion in August 1947, which could not be quelled by the then Dogra potentate, Hari Singh, even after murdering 20000 Kashmiris.

Consequently Hari Sigh fled to Jammu for his safety and invited India to occupy his kingdom. That occupation further escalated the subjugation in IOK, which continues. Other similarities of the two dwellings are: Palestine and Kashmir are the oldest disputes on the UN agenda, with 131 and 7 UN resolutions, respectively, about their solutions. Both Israel and India have rejected these resolutions with impunity; both refuse to respect the wishes of the people, though both claim to be democracies; both have used their security forces against civilians for political gains; both have allowed their citizens to settle in the occupied territories, which is being fiercely resisted; both have avenged attacks by the forces of resistance through killing of innocent civilians ; both have termed the quest for freedom as terrorism and blamed other for fomenting it, though these are indigenous pursuits ; both have a racist outlook and religious philosophy that is intolerant of minorities ; both are closely cooperating in multiple domains of diplomacy, defence and economy to maintain their brutal occupation .

Israeli PM Netanyahu was named the ‘Butcher of Palestinians’ after the indiscriminate and intense bombing of Gaza in 2014, which is being repeated at present. Modi is notorious as the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ for killing over 1200 Muslims there, in 2002. Actually he is also the ‘Butcher of Kashmir’ for killing thousands, mostly young Kashmiris, after ending their statehood in 2019. He authorized the use of pellet guns against Kashmiris as an instrument of terror, which according to Mehbooba Mufti, the then chief minister of IOK, injured, blinded or killed 6,221 individuals in 2018. These weapons are not used anywhere else in the world against protesters. As the violence and occupation continues in Palestine and Kashmir, both countries are committing grave war crimes but no one is alarmed.

Israel is still insecure as we have witnessed, despite spending 4.5 percent of its GDP on security that is double of the world average of GDP spending on defence. Similarly India spends $ 73 B on defence annually and is the world’s biggest arms importer, mainly to retain occupation of Kashmir, despite the fact that it ranks 132nd out of 191 countries in the human development Index. Such spending is clearly untenable and unwarranted for the two. Further, there are about 600,000 security personnel deployed in IOK, which gives it the dubious distinction of the world’s most heavily guarded prison, with one guard for 13 civilians. According to OHCHR, since 7 October 2023, more than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 600 children, more than 7,600 injured, and over 423,000 people have been displaced by Israeli strikes. Israel has also asked 1.1 million people to leave Gaza, which will create a humanitarian catastrophe.

There can be no justification for occupied people to target innocent civilians for their freedom. But commitment of crimes against humanity by states is unpardonable. More distressing is the inaction of the rest of the world which is merely and helplessly watching these chronicles. This attitude must change, occupations mustn’t be interpreted through the lens of religious bigotry, security or large markets by the big powers and murderers shouldn’t be pardoned even as prime ministers or allies. The falsehood of these approaches can only be challenged through efforts and pressures of the conscientious and peace loving people of the world, including those in India and Israel.

Though small but growing international solidarity expressed for Palestinian and Kashmiri struggles is heartening, nevertheless, Muslim unity, aid and activism are the keys to help and lesson the agony of oppressed Muslims. Further, unless the people intervene and demand peace, India and Israeli will stay insecure forever, while harmony and prosperity in the Middle East, Asia and beyond will remain elusive. More significantly, the masses in countries that are permanent members of the UNSC, must call upon their governments to prove themselves worthy of their onerous, moral and political obligations, to implement UN resolutions on Kashmir and Palestine, that contain just and equitable panaceas to free the captives of these places.

—The writer is the former President of the NDU.

Email: [email protected]

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2 thoughts on “A tale of two prisons

  1. Protests and trying to jog the conscience of the world is not going to stop either India or Israel from committing atrocities and murder , it is for us so called Ummah to step up and liberate these lands from illegal occupation, God knows we have the numbers and resources, what we lack is sincere and brave leadership , the only exception being Erdogan of Turkey.

  2. A well written article with facts and figures but the million dollar question remains “who will bell the cat”?

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