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India university ‘bans’ the word Intifada after Hindutva intervention

March 5, 2024 at 8:48 pm

University of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India on May 12, 2022. [Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images]

A university in the southern Indian State of Kerala has banned using the word “Intifada” as it has ‘direct links with the Palestine-Israel conflict and the word is being used by Hamas’.

Vice-Chancellor, Dr Mohanan Kunnummal, directed that the word Intifada be removed from all promotional material of the festival, including posters and social media handles. The festival was renamed ‘Kerala University Youth Festival’.

The order comes after a complaint filed by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of India’s ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.

The ABVP also alleged that naming the festival Intifada was an attempt by the students’ union controlled by the leftist outfit, SFI.  According to them, SFI, the students’ wing of the Marxist party, is trying to legitimise an “extremist and terrorist terminology”.

The students’ union explained that naming the festival, scheduled to take place from 7 to 11 March, was within its domain and the decision to name the festival Intifada was a reaction to the Israeli military action that has been devastating Gaza.

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The Director of the Department of Students Service in the university had also backed the selection of the name for the festival and argued that there was no reason for interfering with the union’s decision.

Kerala, known for its strong support for Palestinians against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, has always stood against the pro-Zionist ideology of Hindutva government.

While the government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has sided with Benjamin Netanyahu during his brutal massacre of Palestinian people In Gaza since 7 October, Kerala’s government and people have expressed their all-out solidarity with Gaza.

However, the right-wing Hindu outfits have been creating tension in the society calling the pro-Palestinian rallies and public meetings as a Muslim-Communist nexus to tarnish the image of India’s closest ally, Israel.

Hindutva organisations first came against a mega rally held by Solidarity Youth Movement, the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, on 27 October in Malappuram in Kerala.

The rally had created a nationwide stir after former Hamas head, Khaled Mishal, made a virtual address from Doha. Mishal called for advocating a broader unity in the defence of Gaza.

Many Muslim, leftist and centrist organisations have also held similar public rallies at various districts across the State, with huge gatherings, which were countered by Hindutva parties in some places that drew lower attendance.

The ire of Hindutva outfits towards pro-Palestine activities was unleashed after the Kerala Media Academy (KMA) had announced Wael Al-Dahdouh, Gaza bureau chief of Al Jazeera, as ‘Mediaperson of the Year’.

Al-Dahdouh, who suffered injuries during the Israeli bombings in Gaza, was selected for the Rs 100,000 (USD 1,250) award based on recommendations from investigative ‘journalists’ and media magazine editors.

The Academy said, in a statement, that Al-Dahdouh was “a global face of journalistic courage, who continues to work despite the heavy losses borne by his family.”

The Organiser, the mouthpiece of the militant Hindu outfit, RSS, which the Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to, described Al-Dahdouh ‘associated with the terrorist organisation Hamas and known for consistently glorifying it in his reporting’.

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While the use of Intifada, even in a university cultural festival, is regarded as a grave offence ‘that could have implications on India’s foreign policy’ as mentioned in the directive by the Vice-Chancellor, and airing a speech by Hamas leader is an objectionable act, inviting an Israeli poet to a festival to defend the Zionist agenda is nothing but freedom of expression.

Israeli poet , Amir Orr, has been embroiled in controversy for his defence of the Zionist regime’s actions and denial of Palestinian suffering, sparking outrage at a poetry festival in Kerala.

His justification of Israeli atrocities and the denial of Palestinian suffering caused a significant uproar among the audience, leading to a heated debate.

“What is happening in Palestine cannot be said to be a genocide. Of the 25,000 people killed there, 8,000 were Jihadists. They are using civilians as human shields,” Amir Orr told a poetry festival organised by Sanskrit College of Pattambi in the southern Indian State of Kerala.

Adil Madathil, an activist, challenged Orr with a barrage of questions.

He asked: “What do you mean by Jihadi hunting? What else can we call the Israeli ‘resistance’ that kills babies, attacks hospitals, and uses poison gas but genocide?”

Orr brushed off criticism by saying, “Don’t respond to me by reading newspaper reports.”

To this Adil retorted, saying, “we needn’t hear your Israeli propaganda to know what is going on in Palestine. Though we have the habit of reading newspapers and the ability to find truth,” prompting a tense exchange that culminated in the session’s premature end.

Amir Orr is a frequent visitor to India and had attended various literary festivals, including Bangalore Literature Festival, Chair Poet in Residence Program in Kolkata, Kitab Festival and Kerala Literature Festival.

From Mahmoud Darwish to Najwan Darwish, Palestinian poets have a significant influence among literature enthusiasts, thinkers and artists in Kerala. Many works by Mahmoud Darwish were translated from Arabic into Malayalam, the vernacular language of Keralites. One of his famous works, Asafeer thamuth fi Galeel (The birds die in Galilee) was recently translated by noted writer and journalist, V. Abdul Kabeer.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.