As the number of civilian casualties in Gaza rises, Palestinian protests have been prohibited in Kashmir, the sole Muslim-majority state in India, where an armed insurgency seeking independence from India or integration with neighboring Pakistan has been underway since 1989.
The Associated Press reported November 7 that Indian authorities have restricted demonstrations of support or solidarity in Kashmir and have instructed Muslim preachers not to include the conflict in their sermons.
“From the Muslim perspective, Palestine is very dear to us,” the news agency cited Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, an influential figure in the resistance movement and a Muslim religious leader, as saying. “But we are forced to be silent.”
Farooq added that he has faced weekly house arrest since the conflict in Gaza began, and Friday prayers have been prohibited at the largest mosque in Srinagar, Kashmir’s primary city and the state’s summer capital.
Over the decades, Kashmiri residents have demonstrated support for the Palestinian cause and have frequently organized anti-Israel demonstrations during previous conflicts in Gaza. The protests often escalate into street confrontations resulting in casualties and calls for an end to India’s governance.
In 1974, India became the first non-Arab country to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the exclusive representative of Palestinians. However, since a Hindu nationalist government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India in 2014, the country is now perceived as being more closely aligned with Israel and its primary supporter, the United States.
In 2019, the BJP government revoked the partial autonomy Kashmir had long enjoyed and placed the state under direct federal control. This was followed by an extensive security crackdown, the detention of thousands of Kashmiris and the restriction of their civil rights.
Pro-Palestinian protesters are also being targeted in other Indian states. Shortly after Israel’s October 27 military assault on Gaza, police in the Hamirpur district of India’s densely populated Uttar Pradesh state launched a search for two Muslim scholars—Atif Chaudhary and Suhail Ansari—for using a WhatsApp profile photograph that displayed the message: “I support Palestine.” The two men were charged with inciting hostility among different social groups.