Friday, June 14, 2024

‘India stand with Gaza’: Civil rights groups, political parties, students unite in solidarity with Palestine

Photo: Fathima Salva CM/Maktoob

Many civil rights organisations, student collectives and political factions held protests at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday, rallying in support of Palestine and denouncing the ongoing genocidal war in the region.

Around 500 people participated in the two protests held on Saturday morning and evening, which included speeches, artistic performances, and a strong display of support for the Palestinian cause.

Representatives from a multitude of organizations, including the All India Students Association (AISA), the Fraternity Movement, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, Janwadi Mahila Samiti, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the All India Democratic Students’ Organisation (AIDSO), the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of India (RWPI), Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) and others, gathered to voice their solidarity with Palestine. 

Notable figures such as CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Delhi Deputy Mayor and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Aaley Mohammad Iqbal also joined the protest, along with several unaffiliated individuals from across the city.

Yechury, addressing the gathering, said, “What is happening is not a war, but a genocide. War is between two armies; both sides have weapons. Here, the attack is on unarmed people. This is unacceptable.” 

The left leader criticised the Modi government’s support for the regime under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. ““When we were students, it used to be written on passports that it was not valid for Israel and South Africa…” he said. “The whole world should create pressure on Israel to stop the offensive.”

He added that Netanyahu should be tried for “war crimes” at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Hanan Shanavas, Fraternity Movement national general council member, reflected on the comparatively calm demeanor of the Delhi police during the protest today, saying, “As compared to the last protest, this time the Delhi police was calm. They are forced to be so. We were not detained and were allowed to protest.” 

She said that similar protests are occurring worldwide, compelling authorities, including law enforcement, to acknowledge the prevailing sentiment.

Under Modi’s regime, expressing dissent has reportedly faced repressive measures from the authorities. Last year, in October, more than 60 people were detained at Jantar Mantar for demonstrating against Israel’s military actions in Gaza. 

“As students, we represent the voice of our nation and can challenge authority,” Hanan said to Maktoob. “It has been stifling not to have the freedom to voice dissent in such a suppressive government. Participating in today’s protest has been a welcome relief.” 

Protest camps started emerging in the United States and Europe this spring as students called for their universities to cease business dealings with Israel or companies they believe support its violence in Gaza. Organisers aim to amplify demands to end Israel’s “war” with Hamas, which they characterise as a genocide against Palestinians. Despite arrests and instances of violence against demonstrators, solidarity demonstrations continue worldwide.

Abhigyan, Delhi president of AISA, said to Maktoob, “Even after having a history of anti-colonial struggles, India government is supporting the Israeli colonisers and genocide against Palestine. It is jarring and has been difficult for us to process that.”

He added: “We have taken inspiration from the protest happening globally. Our country should not stand with Israel and should stop supplying arms to them.”

Priyamvada from the RWPI addressed the gathering, condemning what she described as the ongoing massacre of Palestinians by Zionist Israel. She highlighted a recent incident on May 26, where the Israeli army infiltrated Rafah and “murdered 45 people, including children,” injuring over 200. 

She emphasised the global support for Palestinian liberation, noting that since October 7, 2023, “more than 36,000 Palestinians have been massacred by the Israeli army and around 82,000 injured”. 

Priyamvada criticised the Modi government for its arms trade with Israel, accusing it of complicity in the genocide. “The Palestinian struggle is not just seven-eight months old but seven-eight decades old, and the Modi government is involved in this genocide by trading arms with the Zionists,” she said.

At the demonstration, protestors fervently chanted slogans against Israel and its supporters while holding up placards, banners, and Palestinian flags. Cries of “Pro-Palestine,” “Free Palestine,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “Death to Netanyahu” echoed throughout the gathering. These slogans expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and a strong opposition to the Israeli occupation, underscoring the widespread support for Palestinian liberation and the call to end Israeli aggression.

Keshaw from the Disha Students’ Organization elaborated on the historical context of the conflict, describing Israel as a “settler colonial state” that has displaced Palestinians for decades. He condemned the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, targeting hospitals and residential areas, and the blockade that has turned Gaza into an “open prison.” 

He portrayed the situation as dire, with Palestinians, including vulnerable groups, suffering immensely. “Today, all the limits of barbarism have been crossed in Palestine,” he said, highlighting the severe impact on unarmed civilians.

Musician Srijan took to the stage at the RWPI demonstration, strumming his guitar and singing songs in solidarity with Palestine. Among the melodies was the powerful song “Long Live Palestine” or “Leve Palestina,” which has become a rallying cry for Gazans enduring hardships. As Srijan’s voice filled the air, the gathering joined in unison.

One more speaker, Bharat from the Indian People’s Solidarity Party (IPSP) spoke about the plight of Gazans pushed into Rafah, the last “safe zone” in Gaza, which he claimed is now under severe bombardment. 

He criticised Western imperialist support for Israel and the United Nations’ ineffectiveness. “In spite of countless declarations and agreements of ceasefires, Israel, under US protection, has lost no opportunities to attack Palestine,” he said. “But, even then, the Palestinian people have not ceased to struggle. The Palestinian people, led by Hamas, are resolutely fighting the Israeli state.”

Despite these challenges, he praised the resilience of the Palestinian people and the global solidarity movement, from the United States to Europe.

The demonstration also played songs in support of the Palestinian cause. The organisers put forth several demands, including: “support for the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people and the establishment of a secular Palestinian state where people of all communities can live together”; “opposition to the apartheid state of Israel and criticism of the Modi government’s pro-Zionist foreign policy”; and “adoption of a policy supporting the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people and a call to boycott Zionists.”

The events at Jantar Mantar underscored the growing solidarity with Palestinians and the call for justice and peace in the region. Since October last year, a severe and escalating genocide has been unfolding in Palestine, marked by relentless violence and a devastating human toll. 

According to reports from the Gaza Health Ministry, over 36,379 Palestinians have been confirmed killed and 82,407 have been injured in the Israeli military offensive on Gaza since October.

The ministry added that 95 Palestinians were killed and 350 injured in the past 24 hours. 

Over the last eight months, the brutal assaults have targeted civilians indiscriminately, including women, children, and the elderly, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The violence has not only resulted in a staggering loss of life but has also inflicted deep psychological and physical scars on the survivors.

Gafira Qadir
Gafira Qadir
Gafira Qadir is a journalist based in Kashmir, covering human rights, gender, and education.
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