Friday, June 14, 2024

Indian scientist calls for ‘Israel-like solution’ of Kashmir, faces backlash

On Sunday, Indian scientist and right-wing political commentator Anand Ranganathan sparked controversy by advocating for an Israel-like solution in Kashmir. 

His remarks were made during “The Samosa Caucus Podcast,” ANI’s chat show hosted by Smita Prakash, with co-panelists Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies; Sushant Sareen, a senior fellow at ORF; and Tehseen Poonawalla, TV personality and political analyst.

Ranganathan, who also serves as the consulting editor of the Hindu nationalist publication Swarajya, said, “I am not enthused by Kashmir at all. I don’t want to visit it. All our policies, across different governments, have failed us Indians—starting with the Kashmiri Hindus. The claim about 16 million tourists visiting the valley last year is just a facade, pretending everything is fine. But we are not acting on what should be done.”

“You haven’t rehabilitated 700,000 Kashmiri Hindus. All the money from the tourists is going to the terrorists. This terrorism or militancy, whatever you call it, is going to continue,” he stated.

He further added, “You need an Israel-like solution for Kashmir. The fact that Israel is unable to solve ‘it’ isn’t because they aren’t acting or isn’t doing what should be done. If, for example, 700,000 Israelis were driven out of their homes and Israel hadn’t acted, you would say ‘Yes, they didn’t solve it.’” 

“Israel has catered to its people, but we haven’t, who were hard done by; we haven’t! It’s as simple as that. Despite that, yes, there may never be a solution because of the ideology of the people who hate Israelis and the ideology of the people who hate Hindus. That’s irrespective. What I’m saying is, have we made the right decisions? We haven’t.”

After the podcast went viral online, Rangnanthan’s statement received widespread backlash on social media. Anuradha Bhasin, a senior Kashmiri journalist, wrote, “A HRWinger (Hindu-Right Winger) advocating Israeli-like genocide in Kashmir is despicable. He refers to Hindus as ‘our people’ versus the Muslims. None of those sitting in this podcast, including those who disagreed with him, expressed any outrage at the horrifying, inhuman suggestion. Shameful.”

However, this isn’t the first time right-wing Hindu nationalists have proposed the “Israel model” as a “solution” for Kashmir. In November 2019, senior Indian diplomat Sandeep Chakravorty was caught on camera explicitly citing Israeli settlements as an inspiration, suggesting that India should adopt the “Israel model” in Kashmir.  “We already have a model in the world,” he said. “If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.”

Ranganathan’s comments have ignited a fresh wave of debate on the contentious issue of Kashmir, drawing criticism and concern from various quarters about the implications of such a strategy.

Raqib Hameed Naik, a multimedia journalist and a founder of Hindutva Watch, documenting Hindu nationalism and the persecution of religious minorities in India, said in a tweet, “Suited-booted, upper-caste Hindu nationalist while snacking on almonds and cashews in a posh Delhi newsroom advocates for adopting Israel’s genocidal tactics against Palestinians as a solution for Kashmir.”

Another user, Saniya Sayed, posted a clip from the podcast in a tweet, and said, “On a podcast with India’s leading media agency, hate monger Anand Ranganathan advocates for an Israel-style solution (genocide) in Kashmir.” 

She mentioned that it was “appalling” how easily and casually a particular set of people can “propagate hate under the guise of nationalism with no repercussions”.

In the podcast, Ranganathan echoes Abhijit Iyer-Mitra’s dehumanizing remarks about Kashmir’s “fertility rates”. “[In Kashmir], the fertility rates cannot support an insurgency,” he said.

This concern over “Muslim fertility” aligns with entrenched Zionist and Hindu nationalist rhetoric, where Muslims are often portrayed not as human beings but as “terrorists” or “infiltrators”.

In India, right-wing supporters have openly endorsed the genocide in Gaza, using social media and public platforms to justify and praise the actions of Israel.

While many criticized Ranganathan’s statement, another right-wing journalist, Aditya Raj Kaul posted in solidarity with him. “In solidarity with @ARanganathan72. Today. Always. We in India need to learn from Israel to tackle Islamist Terrorism, Radicalisation and Separatism. For our survival. For our nation. For our Bharat.”

One user commented on Kaul’s tweet and agreed with Rangnathan’s statement as well. “Anand is 100% right, we need to follow Israel model of dealing with Terorrists,” he said.

Nupur J Sharma, Editor-in-Chief of Opindia, an Indian right-wing news website, quoted Naik’s tweet and wrote, “If you don’t want an Israel like solution, don’t be like Hamas.”

Now, Tehseen Poonawalla came in support of Ranganathan on X, stating that he “never called for a genocide” against the Kashmiri people(s). Poonawalla said Iyer and he called Ranganathan’s idea of an Israel-type action in Kashmir “the worst solution.”

He added: “…The tweets targeting him put his life in danger! I strongly disagree with Anand Ranganathan’s pov as can be seen and heard in the podcast but again Anand Ranganathan did not speak of a genocide against the Kashmiri Indian citizens!”

One of the users responded to his tweet and commented, “What do you mean by “Israel type action in Kashmir”? Not a call for genocide? Do not defend or support a genocide call Mr. Tehseen. Ranganathan needs to be prosecuted in fact for his terror call and hatred spewing.”

Even after receiving the huge backlash, Ragananthan took to X and stood by his statement, saying, “Calling for an Israel-like solution – rehabilitating the victims, making settlements, fighting terror, securing borders – is not calling for genocide; it is calling for preventing another genocide.”

He added: “I stand by Israel. I stand by Kashmiri Hindus. And I stand by every single word.”

In India, Kashmiri is trending with Ranganathan, with 34.8k tweets.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Students Association condemns the right-wing political commentator’s statement and demands and First Information Report (FIR) against him. 

The association said, “It is appalling how easily and casually a particular set of people can propagate hate and bigotry under the guise of nationalism, with no repercussions.”

In a statement, it added that Ranganathan’s call for the “killing and massacre” of people and children, similar to what Israel is doing in Gaza, “should happen in Kashmir”. “This is a terrorist mindset.” it said

“He (Ranganathan) wants us (Kashmiris) to be bullied, bulldozed, malnourished, counted among the most amputated children population, women to be raped, land to be grabbed, and ethnic cleansing,” the statement added. “Equating Israel’s actions in Gaza with a solution for Kashmir is advocating for violence and displacement, not peace. This rhetoric promotes genocide and suffering.”

In October of last year, following a Hamas attack on Israel, various groups assembled outside the Israeli embassy in Delhi to offer their assistance in combating Hamas. Among these was the national president of the Hindu Sena, Vishnu Gupta. He told the Guardian that he and 200 others had volunteered for the Israeli army, attributing his confidence to the influence of Modi.

“We both are victims of Islamic terror, that is why we have been supporting Israel from the beginning,” said Gupta. “Just like Jerusalem was overtaken by Muslims, holy places in India were also invaded by Muslims. Like Hamas, there are militants from Kashmir supported by Pakistan who would carry terror attacks across India. The only fortunate thing about us is that we are not in the minority.”

In recent years, the relationship between India and Israel has notably strengthened, especially under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With an annual arms trade surpassing 7500 crores ($1 billion), India stands as the largest buyer of Israeli weaponry and a collaborator in the production of Israeli arms.

In recent developments, footage from Gaza has unveiled the use of Indian-made weapons in Israel’s assaults on Palestinians. Specifically, remnants of a missile recovered from a UN shelter in the Nuseirat refugee camp prominently displayed a “made in India” marking, indicating the origin of the weaponry.

Indian weapons were likely used in Gaza, but there’s been no official confirmation yet. Neither the Indian nor Israeli governments have commented on the matter publicly.

In August 2019, India deployed many armed forces to Kashmir, blocked communications, and stopped transportation. This happened when Modi’s government removed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, which allowed people from India to buy land in Kashmir and become permanent residents there. The Indian government said that the decision would bring progress to the valley. 

But ever since the abrogation of the special status, India has been accused of using the Israel model in Kashmir. In 2022, the speakers at a Geneva seminar said that Narendra Modi was pursuing the Israeli model in Kashmir to alter the Muslim-majority status. 

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