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Settler Colonialism from Kashmir to Palestine

The parallels between Hindutva & Zionism

Note: The recent rise in anti-Semitism should be unequivocally condemned. Hate against the Jewish people or anyone else has no place in the movement for the liberation of Palestine. Criticism included in this article is levied against the apartheid state of Israel and the illegal occupation of Palestine, and should never be construed as a justification for bigotry of any kind.

How are Kashmir and Palestine interlinked?

In early May, when Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa mosque where civilians were praying during the holy month of Ramadan, the world turned to watch Palestine. On the anniversary of the Nakba, hundreds of thousands of protestors marched in solidarity with Palestinians around the world. International visibility of the occupation and the trending hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah have brought various strands of the issue into the mainstream, with terms like "Israeli apartheid" becoming more normalized.

It is irresponsible to talk about Israel - a present-day settler colony engaging in ongoing ethnic cleansing - without discussing Kashmir. Since Partition in 1947, when Kashmiris did not have the opportunity for self-determination and their land was occupied by force, it has grown to become the most heavily militarized zone in the world. With the abrogation of Article 370, whatever autonomy Kashmir had was revoked as Modi moved to permanently incorporate the land into India. The military cracked down on its operations as the Valley was made available to Indian settlers, initiating a full-blown settler-colonial project in Kashmir. The world knows Gaza to be an open-air prison, but especially in the wake of COVID-19, Kashmir has been systematically, brutally surveilled and silenced by a communications blockade and rigorous media restrictions. 

What is the relationship between Hindutva and Zionism?

The Israeli and Indian occupations are intertwined as are the forces that sustain them. Hindutva's ideological origins are profoundly disturbing. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the Independence era politician responsible for founding Hindutva, was inspired by both Nazi Germany and Zionism in his idealized Indian ethnocracy that would treat "Muslims like Negroes." The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an all-male Hindu paramilitary organization that promotes a Hindu nation and mobilizes anti-Muslim sentiments, admires and amplifies Savarkar’s teachings.


Chillingly, Indian academics have reported that Israel is not merely a model for Indian-occupied Kashmir, but also for the entire country of India as a Hindu ethnostate. Indian Muslims, particularly in the Northeast, have been targeted by the Modi government as well as part of the BJP’s “Hindufication” project. Modi's passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019 showcases his thirst to bring such an ethnic democracy to India. This act deliberately excludes Muslims from Indian citizenship, and renders hundreds of thousands of Muslims already residing in India completely stateless. Sending Muslims to detention centers parallels population control of Palestinians in Israel. Rishma Syed writes, "Right now, 7 million people in the valley of Kashmir, the majority of whom have family members who fought for decades for their right to self-determination, are existing in an open-air prison. 2 million more in Assam, home to many Bangladeshi-Muslim immigrants, are holding on to their citizenship by a thread ever since their names have disappeared from the National Register of Citizens (NRC), all while their neighbors are in BJP funded detention camps."

The symbiotic relationship between India and Israel was made clear by a trending hashtag a couple weeks ago - #IndiaStandsWithIsrael. Hindutva supporters rallied around Netanyahu and the occupation in a stream of tweets. Indian journalist Rana Ayyub said that such posts reflect a "visceral hatred for Muslims and a bloodlust to see Muslims massacred and shown their place." What may seem at first glance like a group of Internet trolls expressing sympathy for fellow right-wingers in fact is deeper and stems from the closely interlinked founding ideologies of Hindutva and Zionism. In contrast, a group of prominent academics and activists who have consistently spoken out against Hindutva, including author and activist Arundhati Roy, issued a statement standing in solidarity with Palestine.

How do India and Israel engage diplomatically?

In 2017, Modi became the first sitting Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, when Netanyahu called him a "kindred spirit." The Modi-Netanyahu friendship demonstrates the close allyship between the two right-wingers. However, India did not support Israeli occupation historically, generally inclined toward the Palestinian cause as part of a broadly anti-colonial stance. In the 1990s, perhaps partly driven by a desire to get closer to the United States in the post-Soviet world, India began to pivot to support and engage with Israel. Today, India is Israel’s biggest arms buyer, purchasing 46% of exports.


Multiple links have been drawn between the IDF and police in India and the United States, who share weapons and funding as part of their "national security" objectives. This rhetoric in both India and Israel is deeply steeped in Islamophobia, with Muslim civilians in Palestine and Kashmir alike being treated as targets simply for existing where they were born. This securitizing logic serves to justify the population control and murder of civilians in any context. In both occupied territories, the very presence of Muslims is viewed as an existential threat to the ethnostate that the respective leaders envision and are actively creating an ethnostate through ethnic cleansing. The two settler colonial projects feed off of each other. Indeed, the recent wave of violence in Palestine stoked further anti-Muslim incidents in India.

Is democracy compatible with an ethnostate?

The problem with both Israel and Modi's idealized Hindu Rashtra is that ethnic subjugation is simply incompatible with democracy. In fact, while Israel initially called itself a Jewish and democratic state, in 2018 it switched to "the nation-state of the Jewish people, which respects the rights of all its citizens." Jewish Israeli scholar Sammy Smooha said that Israeli ethnic democracy is "based on Jewish and Zionist hegemony and the structural subordination of the Arab minority," which "makes a crucial distinction between members and non-members of the ethnic nation." Sumantra Bose writes in the Conversation that such ethnic democracies "create a de facto but very real hierarchy of citizenship, in which some are full, first-class citizens and others are second-class - at best." How can one resist such a system from the inside -- one which was structured to be unequal and whose legal framework is predicated on the superiority of one group? The idea of “creating” a "Hindu" or "Jewish" nation in the current context papers over the mass displacements, acts of military force, and structurally embedded inequalities that are necessary to realize such a dream.


The United States is not merely complicit, but actively enables both occupations. As billions of taxpayer dollars are poured into Israel and the US-supplied weapons are used to slaughter children in Gaza, this flagrant support of rampant human rights violation extends to India too. While Narendra Modi was banned from U.S. soil in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat pogroms, once he rose to the ranks of Prime Minister, this was quietly forgotten.

Donald Trump, who declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital and aggressively supported Netanyahu, certainly contributed to setbacks in the liberation for Palestine's people -- but he was far from a departure from his predecessors or successor. Politicians (including Joe Biden) routinely cite Israel's "right to self-defense" and remain silent on the brutality of the occupation. However, the dam is cracking in other ways -- with the Squad, especially Palestinian-American Senator Rashida Tlaib, naming Israeli apartheid and demanding stronger action from the president. Therefore, Hindutva and Zionism are not simply cousins of white supremacy in the U.S. They are bound up with the U.S. political structure itself, enabled and abetted by Democrats and Republicans alike.

What does this mean for a project of true global solidarity and liberation? It seems odd to advocate for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel while remaining silent on the ongoing plight of Kashmiris facing the brunt of occupation as well. A truly anti-colonial project must concertedly resist all settler colonial regimes, from Israel’s ethnostate to the Hindu Rashtra. International solidarity poses a clear threat, as India cracked down on Kashmiris expressing solidarity with Palestine and arrested protesters. Although a ceasefire has followed the most recent wave of violence, Palestine is not and will not be free until the occupation has ended.

The people of Palestine and Kashmir are already in solidarity with each other, and have been for decades. It's time for the rest of us to take their lead.



Stand With Kashmir (Instagram, Twitter)

Suchitra Vijayan

Subhi Taha



The Kashmir Podcast



Free Palestine Starter Kit


Kashmir Box

Athrout Kashmir

Feed Kashmir’s Transgender Community

Medical Aid for Palestinians

PCRF: Medical Relief for children in the Middle East

About the author

Ria Mazumdar is South Asian Today's US political analyst. A Bengali-American, she is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A recent graduate of Tufts University, her interests include politics, economic development, and postcolonial thought. Ria is currently working as a Research Associate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Instagram: @ria.maz  / Tweets: @riamaz



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