SHRINAGAR, India (AP) – Police in India-controlled Kashmir said on Saturday that 21 people have been arrested for disturbing public order, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and protesting against Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
The police said in a statement that they are “closely monitoring elements that are trying to use the unfavorable situation in Palestine to disturb public peace and order” in Kashmir. The statement said the police are “sensitive to social suffering” but will not allow these sentiments to “provoke violence, lawlessness and unrest.”
The Muslim-dominated Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Kashmiris have long shown strong solidarity with the Palestinians and often stage anti-Israel protests when fighting breaks out in Gaza.
Police Inspector General Vijay Kumar told reporters that 20 people were arrested in Srinagar, the main city in the region, and one from a village in southern Kashmir.
The police officer, speaking anonymously in line with department policy, said 21 people were arrested for posting on social media, participating in anti-Israel protests and painting graffiti in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.
Some of those arrested may be released soon after “advice and assurances from parents that they will refrain from such actions in the future,” the officer said.
The officer said those arrested include Sarjan Barkati, a Muslim cleric and prominent anti-Indian activist, as well as an artist. The artist was arrested for painting pro-Palestinian graffiti on a bridge in Srinagar on Friday, which depicts a woman wearing a Palestinian flag scarf and a tear flowing from her eye, saying “WE ARE PALESTINE.” The graffiti was later painted over by the police.
Since Monday, Israel has launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. IN last round of hostilities Between sworn enemies has already begun to resemble – and even surpass – the devastating 50-day war of 2014.
During that war, major anti-Israel protests erupted in Kashmir, often escalating into clashes with demands for an end to Indian rule over the region, resulting in dozens of casualties.
The relationship between India and Israel, where the majority of the population is Hindus, has long been viewed with suspicion and hostility in Kashmir, and Israel has also become a key supplier of arms to India.