Hin­dus, Sikhs and Bud­dhists rally for Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY LAWRENCE JOFFE

ALL OVER the world, tens of thou­sands have loudly protested against re­cent Is­raeli mil­i­tary ac­tions. In one pop­u­lous and cul­tur­ally piv­otal cor­ner of In­dia, how­ever, re­ac­tions have been sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent — at least amongst a size­able, vo­cal mi­nor­ity.

On Au­gust 16, nearly 20,000 peo­ple ral­lied in sup­port of Is­rael in Kolkatta (for­merly Cal­cutta) in the largest demon­stra­tion of its kind to date.

Pro­test­ers from the Hindu Samhati move­ment, in­clud­ing Bud­dhists and Sikhs, car­ried ban­ners read­ing “Save Is­rael from ji­hadi ag­gres­sion” and “Stop Ha­mas, Gaza will be peace­ful.”

Protest or­gan­iser Ta­pan Ghosh told the crowd: “The des­tiny of In­dia and Is­rael as thriv­ing democ­ra­cies are in­ter­twined. We share the same val­ues.” He added that both were “sur­rounded by very tough neigh­bours” and in­sisted that Is­rael had ev­ery right to de­fend it­self.

The event’s main pur­pose was to hon­our Gopal Chan­dra Mukher­jee, a lo­cal ac­tivist who de­fended Hindu peo­ple and “saved in­no­cent lives dur­ing the Great Cal­cutta Killing in 1946”, said a Hindu Samhati spokesper­son.

Other In­di­ans, not least Mus­lim cit­i­zens, al­lege that Mukher­jee was a zealot who in­flamed in­ter­com­mu­nal vi­o­lence as much as quelling it. Mr Ghosh, notwith­stand­ing his praise of democ­racy, stated: “Sec­u­lar­ism in In­dia is noth­ing but a farce. It is a syn­onym f o r Musli m ap­pease­ment a n d i s t h e f o u n d a t i o n stone of to­tal de­struc­tion of In­dia.”

Mr Ghosh was jailed on dis­puted charges of fo­ment­ing com­mu­nal dis­cord in 2012. HS cam­paigns vig­or­ously against al­leged in­fil­tra­tion of Bangladeshi Mus­lims into Hindu-ma­jor­ity West Ben­gal state and at­tacks on Hindu com­mu­ni­ties.

Ran­bir Singh, chair of the UK or­gan­i­sa­tion Hindu Hu­man Rights (HHR), said that the Kolkatta protest is typ­i­cal of a new trend in In­dia, fol­low­ing this year’s elec­tion of Naren­dra Modi as prime min­is­ter, of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties as­sert­ing a do-it-your­self, in­de­pen­dent at­ti­tude. In­deed, In­dia has seen wide­spread de­mon­stra­tions in sup­port of Gaza — in New Delhi, Sri­na­gar, Mum­bai, Ban­ga­lore, Bhopal, by Com­mu­nists in Chandi­garh and even by Hin­dus in Kolkatta.

Founded in 2000, HHR is loosely af­fil­i­ated with Hindu Samhati, and sees Hin­dus and Jews as nat­u­ral al­lies. An­ti­semitism was largely un­known in In­dia, though el­e­ments crept into In­dian pol­i­tics when Gandhi and Nehru suc­cumbed to pres­sure from a “Marx­ist aca­demic elite” who claimed Zion­ism was il­le­git­i­mate, said Mr Singh.

An anti-Is­raeli demon­stra­tor in his teens, Mr Singh joined the re­cent ZF spon­sored pro-Is­rael demo in Lon­don, along­side Jewish groups such as Harif. He con­sid­ers Is­rael “the most suc­cess­ful post­colo­nial state, a demo­cratic na­tion that of­fered safe haven to Viet­namese boat peo­ple and black Africans”, yet which is un­fairly de­monised.

Art ex­perts have said that Two Rid­ers on the Beach by Max Lieber­mann, one of the works hoarded by the late Cor­nelius Gurlitt, should be re­turned to the heirs of Ger­man-Jewish art col­lec­tor David Fried­mann

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