Man arrested in India over Facebook call to hoist the Palestinian flag | News from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Police in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state arrested a Muslim who called on social media to hoist the Palestinian flag over homes and vehicles in solidarity against the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
Azamgarh District Police Chief Superintendent Sudhir Kumar Singh told Al Jazeera that they arrested the man, identified as Yasir Akhtar, after posting a message on his Facebook page, calling residents of his Saraimeer Village to display the flag after the Friday congregation prayers. .
“He was running a page and he went viral via Facebook that after Friday prayers people should hoist flags on their vehicles and homes,” Singh said, adding that “the man was arrested and sent to prison.
“It’s a crowded area and several Muslim sects live there. Making a mass appeal after prayer could have resulted in violence. If he wanted to hoist a flag he could have, but calling others is not correct. A lot of people opposed it, so we had to act.
More than 230 Palestinians, including at least 65 children, were killed in 11 days in the Gaza Strip as Israeli forces relentlessly bombarded Hamas properties and residential buildings in the besieged and impoverished territory.
At least 12 Israelis were also killed after thousands of rockets were launched by Hamas, the group ruling the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s military campaign sparked huge demonstrations of solidarity across the world, with protesters calling for action against Israel for its violation of international law and the sanctions against it.
Early Friday, the Israeli cabinet and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, to end the 11-day conflict.
India’s balancing act
While many in India have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, New Delhi was seen balancing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a public session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). ) held in the context of the bombing of Gaza on Sunday.
During the session, India, a non-permanent member of the UNSC, reiterated its “firm support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution”.
TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza but made no direct reference to disproportionate shelling by Israel on the territory.
“India’s policy on the world’s oldest conflict has shifted from unequivocal pro-Palestine status for the first four decades to a tense balancing act with its three-decade-old friendship with Israel.” , wrote reporter Nirupama Subramanian in The Indian Express on Thursday.
“In recent years India’s position has also been seen as pro-Israel.”
In fact, India’s “balance” does not seem to have gone well with Israel. In a tweet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a good relationship with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, thanked 25 countries which he said stood by Israel but made no reference to India. .
This is despite the fact that many parliamentarians and supporters of Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party openly show their support for Israel and its military campaign against the Palestinians.
Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state with nearly 220 million people, nearly a fifth of whom are Muslim – is ruled by the BJP.
“ Defend Palestine considered a crime ”
Yasir’s brother Muhammad Shadab told Al Jazeera his brother copied the solidarity message to his Facebook page.
“He corrected himself in a second post that it was not intended for people in India, but that he had copied (the message) … It was in Gaza where people were invited to hoist the flags,” he said.
“But if Muslims are suffering somewhere, I think it is not wrong to support them and speak out against injustice.”
Shadab said the family will seek bail for Yasir, 34, who has three children and runs a shoe business in Azamgarh.
Talha Ahmad Rashadi, a lawyer based in Azamgarh, told Al Jazeera that “the charges are not very serious and he can be bailed out.”
“Although what he did was not illegal, but then you are in Uttar Pradesh,” he said, calling the accusations “political”.
“Palestine is a friendly nation of India and we have officially supported the Palestinian cause. This case will not stay in court anywhere. “
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir last week arrested 20 people for staging a pro-Palestinian protest in the main city of Srinagar.
Among those arrested was artist Mudasir Gul, who had drawn graffiti saying “We are Palestine” in bold and white letters on the gates of an overflow canal in the Jhelum River. The graffiti showed a woman’s face in tears, her head draped in the Palestinian flag.
Seventeen of them were released after three days with a warning not to organize such protests in the future.
Activists say the BJP is exposing its “double standards” by arresting people for showing support for the occupied people in Palestine.
“India is currently ruled by the right-wing party. India has an official position where they support Palestine, but many right-wing leaders and their supporters support Israel, which reveals their double standards, ”Muhammad Asif Khan told Al Jazeera.
“People on the right get angry when Muslims in India show their support for Palestine. The general atmosphere is hostile towards Muslims.
Khan said supporters of Palestine in India “are portrayed as supporters of terrorism.”
“When they (BJP) themselves support Israel, no one calls them out. Anyone who cares about human rights in the world stands up for Palestine. But in India it is considered a crime. “