While a historic number of people of different faiths, colors and ethnicities have gathered and marched together in major cities around the globe to protest the mass killing of Palestinian people by the Israeli military force, the opposite thing happened in India. Safa Ahmed, associate director of media and communications for the Indian American Muslim Council, wrote in the Jacobin (Why Far-Right Hindus Love Demonizing Palestinians, 15 November 2023) that in pro-Palestine rallies led by Indian Muslims, protesters have been assaulted, arrested under criminal charges, and labeled as anti-India terrorist sympathizers.

She wrote in the Jacobin article, "Hindutva has also begun following the same playbook as Zionism to crush its opponents: flooding the media and education system with propaganda, using bulldozers to demolish Muslim-owned homes, and cracking down on anyone who protests supremacist or racist politics."

Azad Essa's recent book, Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel, published by Pluto Press, London, sheds light on this matter through revealing the evolution of India-Israel relation and coming closer of these two countries in learning from and depending on each other. Essa is a senior reporter for Middle East Eye covering American foreign policy and author of The Moslems Are Coming and Zuma's Bastard besides this one under review.

'Hostile Homelands' has traced the political trajectory of India and Israel that brought these two countries ideologically closer than any others in the world. Despite their boastful identity as the most democratic in their own geo-political regions, these two countries made a historical journey that has now pushed them into a quagmire of shameful and despicable acts against some people under their military control.

The people under their military control are Muslims in both cases. It is Kashmir for India and Palestine for Israel. These two small lands on the face of the unstable earth draw international attention for the same fate they have been undergoing at the hands of two political powers blinded by distorted interpretation of two ancient faiths. One has Hindutva distorted from Hinduism and another has Zionism distorted from Judaism as weapons for annihilating people they deem as enemies.

Though these two countries had been on opposite poles at the beginning of their journey, they are as close as Modi and Netanyahu are nowadays. The two leaders "recognized in each other the single-minded determination to build states with a single culture, a single race and a single nation," Essa observes. (Book review by Priya Aravindhan, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2023)

Aravindhan, a rising senior studying anthropology and international affair at The George Washington University, wrote, "In recent decades, India has deployed various modalities of control over Kashmir to 'instill India' into its majority Muslim population. From extrajudicial killings, to demolishing homes, India's occupation increasingly resembles Israel's occupation of Palestine. Some in Indian leadership have made this comparison themselves. In November 2019 remarks defending the occupation and settlement of Kashmir, then-Indian Consul-General to the U.S Sandeep Chakravorty said, 'If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.' Chakravorty's remarks epitomize the kinship that has been growing between India and Israel for decades.

"While Palestinian liberation has largely been a centralizing focus of the global left, Kashmiri liberation is often glossed over, relegated to a 'religious dispute' between India and Pakistan. In Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel, author Azad Essa attempts to shine a light on Indian nationalism by tracing its parallel relationship with Zionism. Essa, a senior reporter for Middle East Eye, reveals how the Indian and Israeli national projects are built on supremacist ideologies which harm Palestinians and Kashmiris living under occupation."

Essa shows that India's position at its time of liberation was for Palestinian people and strongly against the state of Israel. Both Nehru and Gandhi rejected pleas from Jewish intellectuals such as Martin Buber to support Zionism. But now India uses Israeli technology to control Kashmir, and Israel benefits by selling its weapons. "Between 2003 and 2013, India became the single largest purchaser of Israeli arms," Essa writes.

This is a matter of grave concern for a country that started its journey after freedom from the British as a secular state. A great sadness for a country that celebrated diversity in thought, faith, color, ethnicity and all other identities in the sixteenth century during the rule of the great Mughal emperor Akbar. It was the time when Europeans had been passing through the darkness of intolerance. (Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian, 2005, Penguin, UK)

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, author of the book 'Essentials of Hindutva' written in 1923, is the father of the Hindutva ideology. In that same year Zionist Ze'ev Jabotinsky also wrote the "Iron Wall" essay advocating the use of force against Palestinians. Essa reveals that Savarkar has a major role in driving the current ties between India and Israel. "Ironically, the founders of Hindutva, including ideologues Vinayak Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar, praised the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust and openly admired Nazism," wrote Safa in the Jacobin article.

Savarkar is also the inventor of the two nation theory which ultimately divided India into two conflicting states. According to Sen, he floated this theory "more than fifteen years earlier than-Jinnah's first invoking of the idea. Nathuram Godse, who murdered Mahatma Gandhi for his failure to support the demands of Hindu politics of the day, was a disciple of Savarkar." (The Argumentative Indian)

Azad Essa's "Hostile Homelands" tells a lot for understanding the political direction India is moving in and how it is losing the argumentative Indianness, which once celebrated plurality and diversity in a unique and most remarkable way in world history.

The author is Editor, Biggan O Sangskriti

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