[News] Speaking out on Kashmir and Palestine in the US

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 10 19:00:05 EST 2010

Speaking out on Kashmir and Palestine in the US

Yasmin Qureshi, The Electronic Intifada, 9 November 2010


The United States has become a battleground for both the struggles of 
the peoples of Palestine and Kashmir, for freedom from military 
occupation and for justice. Awareness amongst the US public is 
broadened as the repression of both struggles grows ever more 
violent, and meanwhile those wishing to stifle debate on these issues 
in the US resort to harassment and intimidation.

The same day that renowned activist and writer Arundhati Roy 
commented that "Kashmir was never an integral part of India," for 
which her home was later attacked, I was subjected to harassment here 
in the US while I spoke about the human rights situation in Kashmir. 
Though not threatened in the way that Roy was, what we both 
experienced were attempts to silence us. Forces sympathetic to the 
same right-wing ideology as those who attacked Roy mobilized their 
ranks by putting out an alert stating: "An Indian Muslim Woman is 
speaking about azadi [freedom] of Kashmiris and we should protest."

After my presentation at the main public library in San Jose, 
California last month, I was told by one member of the audience that 
"You are the very reason why we Hindus hate Muslims," and that 
comment was followed by many that were worse. I was called an 
extremist and told "Your presentation is a lie; this is 
India-bashing." The abuse I received will be familiar to those who 
have been on the receiving end of the backlash when speaking about 
the Palestinian cause.

Indeed, a week earlier, Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa was called 
an extremist by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz at the Boston Book 
Festival after she presented well-established facts about Palestine. 
He resorted to name calling and ad hominem attacks.

Israel and India are often represented in US media as bastions of 
democracy in the Middle East and South Asia, respectively. Supporters 
of the policies of both governments delegitimize any resistance or 
criticism and discourage revelation of the truth through intimidation 
and personal attacks.

Kashmir is the most militarized zone in the world with close to 
700,000 Indian troops. According to Professor Angana Chatterji of the 
California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), between the years of 
1989 and 2000, "In Kashmir, 70,000 are dead, over 8,000 have been 
disappeared and 250,000 have been displaced ... India's military 
governance penetrates every facet of life. ... The hyper-presence of 
militarization forms a graphic shroud over Kashmir: detention and 
interrogation centers, army cantonments, abandoned buildings, bullet 
holes, bunkers and watchtowers, detour signs, deserted public 
squares, armed personnel, counter-insurgents and vehicular and 
electronic espionage" 
A Time For Freedom," Greater Kashmir, 25 September 2010).

Because she has spoken out, Chatterji has become a target of 
right-wing Hindutva groups -- those espousing an exclusivist Hindu 
nationalist ideology in India that often denigrates and denies the 
legitimacy of non-Hindus in India. Hindutva groups in the US and 
India have attacked her because of her work tracking funding to 
Hindutva groups from the US after the 2002 pogrom of Muslims in 
Gujarat and more recently as co-conveyer of the International 
People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered 
Kashmir. Chatterji told me: "I was threatened with rape by Hindutva 
groups in 2005. Since announcing the Kashmir Tribunal in April 2008, 
each time I have entered or left India since, I have been stopped or 
detained at immigration." Richard Shapiro, her partner and chair and 
associate professor at CIIS, was banned from entering India on 1 November 2010.

Hindutva groups try to scuttle any broader discussion about human 
rights violations in Kashmir, the conditional annexation by India in 
1947 or right to self-determination by limiting it to the issue of 
the displacement and killings of the upper caste minority Kashmiri 
Hindu Pandits in the late 1980s and by insisting that Kashmir is not 
an international issue.

Similarly, Zionists seeking to draw attention away from Israel's 
abuses of Palestinians' human rights often focus exclusively on 
suicide bombings or the rule of Hamas. Their aim is to silence any 
discussion of the historic Palestinian demands for the implementation 
of the refugees' right of return, an end to the military occupation 
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and equality for Palestinian citizens 
in Israel.

And the front line in the battle to influence US public opinion 
towards both the Kashmir and Palestine struggles can be found at the 
university campus.

"There is a well-orchestrated and funded campaign of intimidation and 
harassment by Zionist and Hindutva groups on campuses to target 
academics," says Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor at the University 
of California, Davis campus. Zionist academics tried to pressure the 
University of California, Berkeley to cancel an event last month 
titled "What Can American Academia Do to Realize Justice for 
Palestinians," organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine. In 
a letter to the school's chancellor, the groups urged him to withdraw 
official university sponsorship of the event and publicly condemn the 
boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid 
at the school's campus.

A similar attempt was made in 2006 by Indian American members of 
AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, when they tried to cancel a 
panel titled "South Asian-Arab solidarity against Israeli apartheid" 
at Stanford University. The objective was to bring South Asians and 
Arabs together to take a unified stand against US imperialism and 
Israeli apartheid and speak up against the Zionist-Hindutva 
alliances. Despite the attempts by outside groups to stifle free 
speech, both these events eventually did take place on the campuses 
and were quite successful.

The attempts to silence those who speak out in the US are not the 
only thing that Kashmir and Palestine have in common. Both Kashmiris 
and Palestinians are struggling for justice and freedom against 
highly-militarized occupations. The recent protests by stone-throwing 
Kashmiri youth drew comparisons to the first intifada in the occupied 
West Bank and Gaza Strip.

And it is perhaps the linking of these struggles that those who stand 
in the way of freedom for oppressed peoples fear the most. Notably, 
Zionists and Hindutva advocates have adopted a similar Islamophobic 
language and worldview that considers any grievances or struggles by 
Muslims to be simply a cover for "jihadism" or "wahhabism" and thus 
justifies treating all such movements for justice -- however they are 
conducted -- as "terrorist."

While the situations in Kashmir and Palestine are not completely 
analogous, in recent years India and Israel have fostered political 
and military links, including arms sales, joint intelligence, trade 
agreements and cultural exchanges.

Historically India has been supportive of the Palestinian struggle. 
But in 1992 India established diplomatic relations with Israel and 
ties were further strengthened in 2000 when India Home Minister L.K. 
Advani visited Israel; Advani is considered the architect of the rise 
of the Hindutva movement in the 1980s and '90s. Today India is the 
largest buyer of Israel's arms and Israel is training Indian military 
units in "counter-terrorist" tactics and urban warfare to be used 
against Kashmiris and resistance groups in northeast and central India.

The repressive governments of both India and Israel enjoy a warm 
relationship with the the US. Bilateral defense ties between US and 
India -- based on the new strategic realities of Asia -- is one of 
the objectives of US President Barack Obama's current visit to India, 
according to the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), a 
Washington-based think tank. The US also gives $3 billion in military 
aid to Israel annually.

Such alliances between states, which aim to perpetuate injustice and 
maintain regimes that are rejected by those forced to live under 
them, underscore the need for education and solidarity among 
supporters of those long denied their freedom, equality and 

Those in the US who defend the status quo may resort to tactics of 
intimidation. But just as state repression in Kashmir and Palestine 
has failed to quell those struggles for freedom, those of us in the 
US concerned with justice in Palestine and Kashmir -- and the US 
government's role in each -- will not be intimidated into silence.

Yasmin Qureshi is a San Francisco Bay Area professional and human 
rights activist involved in social justice movements in South Asia 
and Palestine. Her article on Kashmir, 
Under the Barrel of a Gun," was published in June 2010 by 
CounterPunch and ZCommunications.

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