Many in Kashmir have come out brandishing Palestinian flags to express their support for their fellow oppressed brothers and sisters in Palestine.
On Eid al Fitr, Kashmiris have extended solidarity with Palestine by wearing Palestinian flags on their shirts.
Amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Eid prayers were offered in small congregations. Meanwhile, several Palestinian flags hurled through the streets of Kashmir and slogans chanted as civilians condemned the ghastly airstrikes by Israel on Palestinians. Several college students from the Kashmir Valley also took to social media using hashtag trends in support of Palestine.
“Today we’re wearing these flags to show our solidarity with the people of Palestine. What India is doing in Kashmir is similar to Israeli atrocities imposed on Palestinians, and like our Palestinian brothers we too bear the consequence of Indian occupation,” said Muzzamil Waza, a resident of Sopore, wearing a Palestinian flag on his jacket.
“How can we celebrate Eid when children are being killed, Al Aqsa [Mosque] is being bombarded, women are facing attacks, the city is ground to rubble?” said Idress Ahmed, a student at Jamia Millia Islamia.
“We’re not able to eat anything on this prosperous occasion after seeing the destruction done by Israel. They're committing war crimes and world leaders have to say something about it, but they’re acting as mute spectators.”
Both Palestine and Kashmir bear the consequences of colonialism. New Delhi’s growing ties and support for Tel Aviv’s colonialism in Palestine is linked to its oppression of Kashmir. By stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status in 2019, the Modi government has paved the way for settler colonialism.
Internet accessibility is a privilege for the people of Kashmir and Palestine. To control the media narrative, “digital apartheid” sponsored by the Indian and Israeli states work to stifle the voices of those under occupation.
As a result, digital activism has become an important tool to counter disinformation. One is the activist page Eye On Kashmir, with 3,230 followers; as is media news agency Made in Kashmir, which has around 10,200 followers across social media and constantly shares updates from the ground. It also offers content based on historical events in Kashmir and Palestine to counter mainstream media whitewashing and neocolonial narratives.
“We have been posting statements in support of Palestine from my official Instagram handle, however a lot of content regarding Sheikh Jarrah and Palestine were censored, limited or deleted. Several international activists' pages have complained about the same problems,” said the admin of Eye on Kashmir.
As per reports from a local daily in Kashmir, social media is a powerful tool that’s being used by Kashmiris and Palestinians to voice the atrocities happening against them.
Usman Khursheed, a law postgraduate from Kashmir, said: “There is state-sponsored mass surveillance in Kashmir, to eye the media and civilian accounts speaking against occupational strategies. This tactic is executed only to shadow ban the voices coming from the Valley.”
“The governments of Israel and India don't want the world to know the reality.”
A year after the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir's cyber police force was expanded with the intention of curbing cyber crimes.
Since then, the unit has grown into a sophisticated surveillance operation, equipped with advanced technology for tracking down Kashmiris, including more recent monitoring of those who contracted Covid-19 during the pandemic.
The cyber security cell has recruited netizens to register as volunteers through a dedicated National Cyber Crime Portal launched by the home ministry.
While much of the unit’s internal operations remain shrouded in secrecy, its actions have had a noticeably chilling effect on social media activity in Kashmir. Many accounts have vanished, while others have gone silent or no longer post political content.
Similarly, during the latest escalation of violence many Palestinians had content posted on forced evictions from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem censored by social media platforms.
Israel has also targeted media outlets in Palestine. On Thursday, video footage was shared through several international social media handles, showing residential towers being demolished in Gaza by heavy Israeli aerial bombardment.
As the worst fighting takes place in the region since 2014, Kashmiris continue to extend their solidarity to Palestinians - whether on the streets or on Twitter - and question the deadly silence of the world around them.
“I can't go to Palestine to save the children there who’re being killed by Israeli state, but I extend my solidarity through the digital space. That's the only weapon I can use to make the world aware,” said Abbas (whose name was changed), a social media activist and a resident of Srinagar.