Kashmir police arrested graffiti artist on Palestinian murals conflict between Israel and Palestine
Srinagar, Kashmir managed by India -In India-administered Kashmir, the police arrested at least 20 people, including an outspoken religious leader praying for Palestine, and an artist who painted graffiti to unite with the Palestinian people.
The family of the 32-year-old painter Mudasir Gull, who lives in the main city of Srinagar, accused the local authorities of censoring the painter’s freedom of expression.
“Why is he detained? What did he do? Is the government banning art here?” asked his sister Muzamil Firdous.
“When the whole world wakes up in the face of Israeli atrocities, we can’t speak, we can’t practice art; what kind of democracy do we live in? Can’t we express our grief for Palestine?” Firdous told Al Jazeera.
During the general prayer held on Friday, Kashmiris supporting Palestine walked out on the street. They waved flags to express their solidarity with Israel’s deadly air strikes on the Gaza Strip and its brutal suppression of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and Israel.
At least 174 Palestinians were killed, including more than 40 children, sparking solidarity protests around the world.
Can’t we express our grief for Palestine?
However, Kashmir is one of the most militarized areas in the world, and security forces acted quickly to stop protests in areas where anti-India sentiment is high. In August 2019, the Hindu nationalist government in India cancelled the limited autonomy in the region and imposed a security lockdown to resist protests.
Ou’s family said that a group of young people came to him to paint graffiti on Friday. “They told my brother that it was a protest against unity. They convinced him that it was not against India, otherwise they would not put forward any such slogans.”
The 32-year-old artist was arrested and smeared with graffiti showing a woman sobbing with her head wrapped in a Palestinian flag. The graffiti saying “We are Palestine” was widely shared on social media.
“He is an artist. He was detained for work and we were shocked. We don’t want the government to ruin his life. Painting is his livelihood,” Firdous told Al Jazeera.
Family members said that seagulls suffer from health problems and cannot be detained for a long time during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Detained for prayer”
Among the 20 arrested was Sarjan Barkati, a religious leader from the Shopian district of southern Kashmir. His family said he was arrested after chanting slogans and praying for the Palestinian people in the mosque.
Barkati was arrested in 2016 when he led a protest against the killing of a popular rebel commander Burhan Wani by the Indian army. In decades of armed rebellion against Indian rule, thousands of people were killed.
My friend, the talented Kashmiri artist Mudasir Gul, has been accused by the Indian government under the PSA (Public Security Act) for painting work in support of Palestine.#freemudasirgul#freedom of speech#Indiahttps://t.co/mkx9YhkUy7 pic.twitter.com/jlqiSN2R2D
-Mir Suhail (@mirsuhail) May 15 2021
Over the years, the area has witnessed protests and support through art and writing as a Palestinian cause. In parts of the old city of Srinagar, graffiti depicting support for Palestine can still be seen on shutters, roads and walls.
Since the abolition of Kashmir autonomy in 2019, the region has been under tremendous national pressure to prevent any public protests. Although Kashmir has been exceptionally calm for the past year and a half, the tension has led to protests in recent months.
“We know that there is a lot of suppressed anger among people. An unnamed police officer told Al Jazeera that our past observations have shown that it needs a trigger to come out, and the trigger can be anything.
“Even these solidarity protests may trigger greater pro-separatist protests. That’s why we don’t want to take this opportunity this time,” he said, referring to leaders who support freedom as separatists.
Kashmir rebel groups and pro-freedom leaders hope to separate from India or merge with Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of armed rebels-Islamabad has denied this accusation.
‘The Oppressed of Palestine’
Shabroza Jan (30), the wife of the arrested Shopian religious leader, told Jazeera that her husband was arrested for praying for unity.
“He didn’t do anything wrong. He just prayed for them (Palestine). On Saturday morning, the police took him away from home. We tried to see him, but we were banned.” She said.
In the video, you can see Barkati filming in a mosque in Shopian, praying for Palestine, and put forward slogans such as “Palestinian oppressed, we are with you”.
The police told Al Jazeera that they would not allow any such protests in the area.
Even these solidarity protests may trigger even greater pro-separatist protests.
Another senior police officer, who asked not to be named, told Al Jazeera: “We do not allow such protests, nor can we encourage people to protest on the streets for illegal acts and supporters of Azadi (support for freedom).”
Earlier, the police warned of any street protests in a statement and said that the police are paying close attention to “people who try to use the unfortunate situation in Palestine to disrupt public peace and order in the Kashmir Valley”.
The police said in a statement: “This will not allow outrage and cynicalism to trigger violence, illegal behavior and chaos on the streets of Kashmir.”
Sheikh Showkat Hussein, a political analyst in the region, said: “Since the problem broke out, Kashmiris have supported Palestine.
“Although they (Kashmiris) themselves were involved in a similar situation. But the fact is that they also understand the pain of conquest, so they are more sensitive to the Palestinian issue than other parts of the subcontinent.” Hussein said.
Hussein said that since India became independent from British rule in 1947, its attitude towards the Palestinian issue has become firmer.
“This is only in the next few years. [Prime Minister] Indira Gandhi (Indira Gandhi) stated that they are beginning to approach Israel, and the current ruling government is inseparable from Israel. He added that the Kashmir government is worried that a similar uprising will occur here.