New York City/New Delhi: A video of India’s Consul General in New York controversially comparing the government’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir to Israel and Palestine has surfaced online. Filmed speaking to a group of Kashmiri Pandits at a private event in the city, Sandeep Chakravorty was met with applause when he said “Kashmiri culture is Hindu culture” and promised his listeners they could return to Kashmir soon, saying, “(we) already have a model in the world… if the Israeli people can do it…”. The diplomat’s comments contradict the government’s official position that firmly rejects comparisons between Kashmir and Palestine.
The MEA has been asked for a response but has yet to comment on this issue.
“Somebody (in the audience) spoke about Jewish issue… the Israel issue… they kept their culture alive for 2,000 years outside their land. I think we have to keep Kashmiri culture alive. Kashmiri culture is Indian culture… it is the Hindu culture,” Mr Chakravorty said, adding, “None of us can imagine India without Kashmir”.
In comments seen by many on Twitter – where the video was posted – as urging a recolonisation of a “Hindu culture” Kashmir, Mr Chakravorty also declared “we should think like everyone else and only then can we beat them at their game”.
“…someone was saying that we in India think about everyone… all faiths and all peoples… but unfortunately not everybody thinks that way. We should think like everybody else and then only will we beat them at their game,” he said to another round of applause.
“I believe, in my lifetime, we will have our land back and our people will go back. Our Kashmiri bhai-log are living in refugee camps… they must go back,” he added.
“We already have a model in the world in the Middle East… if the Israeli people can do it…” he said.
Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed solidarity with Palestinians.
Pakistan, which has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to raise the Kashmir issue in global forums, also found oblique mention in the short address by Saneep Chakravorty. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has tweeted in response to the video, linking to a story on it by Middle East Eye.
“Some people are upset with us over this decision… pulling us to human rights council, the US Congress… why don’t they go to Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan and take photos? Why come here? They are unhappy that we are asserting ourselves,” he said to more applause.
In a reference to terrorism and violence in Kashmir, Mr Chakravorty said: “We will not go because of fear of life? That will go away. Give us some time”.
In the hours leading up to the government announcing its decision on Article 370 it imposed a strict security lockdown of the former state to quell protests and backlash; large parts of this lockdown continue to this day, including the detention of hundreds of political leaders and suspension of internet.
The government has repeatedly said these restrictions, flagged by the US Congress as a cause for concerns, will be eased and had prevented violence.
On August 5 the government withdrew special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution in a move that was criticised by the opposition. A circumspect international community, while calling the decision an internal matter, expressed concern over human rights abuses in the state.
The decision was welcomed by members of the Kashmiri Pandit community, which had been displaced from the region in the 1990s. In September Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the United States for his ‘Howdy, Modi!’ tour, met a 17-member Kashmiri Pandit delegation from the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora (GKPD) in Texas and assured them his government was committed to “building a new Kashmir for everyone”.