NEW DELHI: Members of Indian civil society have come together to break their government’s silence on Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians and put pressure on it to refrain from any kind of complicity with Tel Aviv.
Despite India’s historic support for Palestine, New Delhi has been mostly quiet in the wake of Israel’s deadly siege and onslaught on Gaza, which since October has killed nearly 30,000 people, wounded some 70,000, and left most of the enclave’s population starving and with no access to medical, food and water supplies.
When Indians went to the streets in the past months to protest and raise awareness on the atrocities unfolding in Gaza, their demonstrations were dispersed by police and campaigns stifled.
At the same time, New Delhi signed an agreement to send tens of thousands of workers to Israel to replace their Palestinian counterparts. It has also been supplying Israeli forces with weapons, despite an International Court of Justice ruling which said it was plausible that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.
Grouped as Indians for Palestine, India’s top public intellectuals, politicians, lawyers, artists and diplomats launched a new movement on Friday to challenge the government’s links with Tel Aviv and demand that it follow the ICJ ruling that imposes a moral and legal obligation on signatories of the UN Genocide Convention, including India, to cease funding or facilitating Israel’s military activity.
“This is a group of concerned citizens who, like so many other people, have been greatly disturbed by the genocide that is taking place in Gaza,” Achin Vinaik, retired professor of international relations and global politics from the University of Delhi, told Arab News at the “International Court and Justice” public meeting at the Constitution Club of India on Friday.
“The Palestine issue is so clear-cut. The difference between victimizers and victims is so clear-cut that it is actually a litmus test for one’s basic humanity,” he said.
“If you are any kind of a decent human being, you will be appalled by what is happening to the Palestinian people. Israel is a settler colonial apartheid state.”
The meeting produced a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urging the Indian government to “publicly endorse the latest ruling of the ICJ, stand against all violations of the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza and refrain from any sort of complicity with Israel.”
The resolution also called on people across Asia to demonstrate collective solidarity with the people of Palestine — in spirit, resources, speech, and action.
“I think it’s so important that everyone gets involved in whatever way that they can because the Palestinian people really need solidarity from the entire global community and whoever is able to support them and whatever way they can,” Sanya Khera, a student in Delhi who joined the platform, told Arab News.
“I think it’s so important that people gather in public forums like this and come together and have these discussions because you are not seeing it that much on the news, you are not seeing it in your newspapers.”
For Aban Raza, artist and activist, Friday’s meeting marked the emergence of a new platform to take action.
“Hopefully, very soon we can come on the streets and protest against it, like we used to,” she said.
“Silence is no longer an option and the most important thing that needs to be done is to speak up for the Palestinians, speak up wherever there is injustice happening, and the most grave injustice right now is happening in Palestine.”
The hundreds of people who showed up at the Constitution Club of India venue were given the space to speak.
“We had a wonderful meeting of over 500 people who came and participated and clapped and showed their solidarity with the people of Gaza ... It tells ordinary people that their voices also count. For so long, even to speak about this was so difficult,” said Pamela Philipose, senior fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research.
“One person told me, and I think she put it so well ... She said: ‘We didn’t even have a chance to mourn for the people who died in Gaza, and this gave us the chance to actually mourn for them’.”
The importance of Indians speaking up against their government’s policy was also seen as a historic duty given India’s own colonial past.
“This is the last colonial project which exists on the Earth. And this colonial project, where Israel has been imposed on the land of Palestine, has to end. India even in its anti-colonial struggle days was for the rights of Palestine, so we have to continue with this legacy, also to justify our existence,” Apoorvanand Jha, public intellectual and professor at the University of Delhi, told Arab News.
“As we have seen in other countries as well — in the United States of America or in the United Kingdom, France, Germany — people have come out on the streets against their own governments. That’s what we are doing ... We belong to one humanity and that’s why it’s our duty to stand against our governments for the people of Palestine.”