The issue at stake is the denial of permissions to several groups countrywide who have expressed a desire to protest this issue. Starting with the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, the violence in West Asia has so far claimed the lives of 1,400 Israelis and over 5,100 Palestinians. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, about 40% of the Palestinians killed are children. And like in the rest of the world, Indians in several cities have been wanting to protest but have been denied the right. Where they have, in many instances, the protest has been criminalised.
October 23, 2023, Delhi
The Telegraph reported that students from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University detained as they try to hold protest near Israeli embassy and police had erected barricades to stop them from reaching the embassy at Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road. The report detailed that scores of students from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University had gathered to take part in the protest. Police had erected barricades to stop them from reaching the embassy at Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road. When some of the students tried to march towards the embassy, they were detained as they did not have the required permission to hold the protest, said a police officer, adding that “no one was allowed to violate law and order”. All India Students Association (AISA) Delhi unit president Abhigyan said several students were detained and taken to a police station.
October 21, Mumbai
This protest reported on social media from Mumbai took place on October 21.
Mumbai, India 🇮🇳
Another big protest was organized in Mumbai in solidarity with Palestine.
Free Free Palestine 🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/U4B8T2DJ4W
— زماں (@Delhiite_) October 21, 2023
October 17, 2023
In Delhi, again, the state police, along with the Rapid Action Force had, on October 17, detained two busloads of protesters who came for a “Citizens’ Vigil” against Israel’s offensive on Gaza.
On the two Fridays (October 20 and before that October 13) since the war began, Muslims were barred from offering prayers at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, Kashmir. Police closed down the iconic masjid, apprehending protests in support of Palestine. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who was recently allowed to offer Friday prayers and deliver the Friday sermon at Jama Masjid, was once again put under house arrest on October 15 and is not being allowed to step out of his house, The Wire has reported.
October 15-18, 2023, Mumbai
While the Indian Express reported that two activists say cops beat them up during protest against Israel that took place on October 13, police has denied the accusation and claimed that the protesters “assaulted” policemen. The Mankhurd police Friday night arrested two young activists who were protesting against the Israeli government.
Police also allegedly beat up one of them in custody. While the two protesters were arrested, others were booked. The arrested activists were identified as Ruchit Lad, 28, an architect from Mulund, and Supreeth Ravish, 26, a teacher from Mankhurd (arrested under sections 353 and 332 and sections of rioting under IPC). Both are activists of Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI). According to Mankhurd police, RWPI had planned to organise a protest in Matunga-Dadar area in connection with the Israel-Palestine clash. But, as they were not allowed, Supreeth and Ruchit on Friday, October 13, evening held placards in Lallubhai compound area in Mankhurd and protested against the Israel government. Other youths soon joined them.
It was when the youths were produced before the court thereafter that Ruchit –one of them–alleged that he was assaulted in the police station. “The magistrate recorded the statement of Ruchir and ordered for medical to be conducted and the report be made available Monday. The application for police custody was rejected and the activists were remanded to judicial custody,” said advocate Shahbuddin Shaikh, who represented the two accused to the IE.
Meanwhile the TISS Students’ Union in a press statement issued thereafter stated that it stands in solidarity with the two activists who have been detained by the Mankhurd Police following a peaceful protest against Israel’s violence in Palestine. The Students’ Union of TISS Mumbai stated that it stands in “unwavering solidarity and condemns, in the strongest terms, the recent arrests of two dedicated Mumbai activists, Supreeth our alumnus (MASW – PH, 2018) and Ruchir, by the Mankhurd Police. Supreeth and Ruchir were detained in the wake of their participation in a protest against the Israeli government’s ongoing violence on civilians in Palestine.” The statement also says that “the charges filed against these activists, including sections 353 and 332 of the Indian Penal Code, in addition to other related sections such as those for alleged violations of section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and section 37 of the Maharashtra Police Act, are a source of significant concern. The misuse of these provisions is particularly troubling when applied to peaceful protestors and civilians. Such abuse poses a serious risk to the suppression of democratic voices and individuals advocating for justice and accountability. “The statement also points out that such actions are a violation of article 19(1)(b) and it must be vigorously protected in the interest of our nation and its welfare.
Meanwhile in Pune, October 13, even as the war between Israel and Palestinian militant outfit Hamas is on, various organisations in Pune came out in support of Palestine on October 13.
Activists of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of India, New Socialist Alternative, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Stree Mukti League, with support from Indian Christian Womens’ Movement and Disha Vidyarthi Sanghtna staged protest at the Pune District Collectorate against the “colonial occupation of Palestine by Zionist Israel”. According to reports in The Indian Express, protesters condemned Israel by shouting slogans of “Palestine Zindabad” and were holding several banners like “Death to Zionist Occupation, Death to Imperialism”, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” They also distributed pamphlets, which claimed that the October 7 attack on Israel from Gaza was in self-defence of Palestinian citizens. “We do not support the Hamas ideology. But we support the Palestinian freedom movement,” it stated.
A delegation of protesters thereafter submitted a letter to Resident Deputy Collector Jyoti Kadam. “PM Modi is supporting Israel in the ongoing war. We condemn it. We demand that our government end all ties with Israel and stands by Palestine,” said Parmeshwar Jadhav of RWPI, part of the delegation. He told the media, “Some of our activists faced detentions by police in Mumbai, Delhi and in Andhra Pradesh. We demand their immediate release,” said Jadhav. He said no activists in Pune were detained.
October 9, 2023, UP
First, in response to the Israel-Gaza war, several students of the Aligarh Muslim University took out a rally on October 9. This peaceful rally, organised as an expression of solidarity with Palestinians, saw four students in trouble as the police booked them under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language, etc.), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), and 505(statements inducing public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The state chief minister, Ajay Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath, soon after the AMU protest, directed the police to take “stern action” against actions or social media posts in support of Palestine. According to a report in the Deccan Herald, senior district police officials have been told to speak to the Muslim clerics and make it clear that “any attempt to incite passion on social media or a similar call from the religious places will not be tolerated”.
A cop, belonging to the Muslim community, posted in Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh, had merely shared a pro-Palestine post on social media. Within days, he was suspended from duty and an additional superintendent of police rank officer was appointed to carry out an inquiry about the constable and “his political inclination”.
In similar incidents, the police in Kanpur booked two young Muslim clerics, Suhail Ansari and Atif Chowdhary, for posting content in support of Palestine on social media. While Ansari was arrested, the police raided Chowdhary’s residence.
Irrespective of which parties dominate the government is in power and what the political party’s stand has been on the ongoing conflict in West Asia, protestors in many states are facing criminal action for acts of “unlawful assembly” to promote “enmity between two groups”. India’s position on West Asia – reiterated by the Narendra Modi government – on the Israel-Palestine conflict is that it supports a “negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, within secure and recognised borders, at peace beside Israel as endorsed in the relevant UNSC and UNGA Resolutions”.
It is the right to protest peacefully however which is guaranteed but appears in many instances to have been denied.
Ironically even in Congress-ruled Karnataka, the police’s actions were no different than UP, Delhi or Mumbai.
The police from the Cubbon Park jurisdiction in Bengaluru booked 11 persons, including a member of the Bahutva Karnataka (a citizen’s group), and other unnamed people for holding a solidarity gathering in support of Palestine on MG Road. While the police haven’t booked them for “promoting enmity”, the sections applied are largely for gathering without permission and for “public nuisance”.