Stephen Daisley

Why is no one boycotting India?

Why is no one boycotting India?
Text settings

Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get anyone interested in discriminating against Indians. No one is tearing open packets of imported turmeric and cardamom and dumping their contents on supermarket floors. British academics aren’t severing ties with professors from Delhi University. If pension funds are divesting from Tata Motors and ICICI Bank, the FT is still to pick up on it. 

This is strange because on Monday Narendra Modi’s right-wing government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, site of a long-running territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Both sides claim the entirety of the state, which has been under Indian administration since Partition, and which until now has enjoyed significant political autonomy. Modi’s decision to bin almost all of Article 370 and reorganise the area into two centrally-governed ‘union territories’, comes amid increased military presence in the region and a crackdown on leaders of Kashmiri regionalist parties. 

Modi’s nationalist BJP was recently re-elected with an increased majority on a platform that included stripping Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority region of the Hindu-majority country, of its special status and its power to ban non-Kashmiris from settling and buying property there. The decision to follow through with the pledge has brought censure from across the Muslim world. The Pakistani government denounced the ‘brutal Indian racist regime’ and downgraded diplomatic and economic links to New Delhi. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Contact Group on Kashmir released a statement condemning ‘illegal Indian actions’ and characterising the move as an ‘Indian attempt to strengthen its illegitimate occupation’. 

Reaction from the international community has been somewhat more muted. China, which itself claims an eastern chunk of the territory in question, could only muster an ‘unacceptable’. While the White House merely noted that Modi failed to ‘consult or inform’ the US ahead of the move. That’s diplomacy for you, I suppose, but what about the bold defenders of international human rights?

Aakar Patel, Amnesty’s man in New Delhi, said India had ‘pushed the people of Jammu and Kashmir to the edge’ but his complaint centred on the fact that the affairs of Kashmir were ‘being decided by the Parliament without consultation with the people’.

The ludicrous Ken Roth echoed a wan statement from his Human Rights Watch, recognising ‘the Indian government has a responsibility to ensure security in Kashmir’ but urging them to ‘respect the human rights of everyone’, concluding with a schoolmarmish ‘bad start’, as though he was grading a book report rather than an annexation. 

The humanitarians — the people who care — are nowhere to be seen on this one. Where is the international boycott movement? Where are the demonstrations through London and New York? Where are the campaigns for divestment from Indian companies and sanctions on its government? Why, in short, isn’t India receiving the full Israel treatment?

You could chalk it up to early days, but in this era of social media activism a global movement can be sparked from a tweet or an Instagram post. The mere presence of Israelis in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) was enough to inspire boycotts of Israeli goods, deplatforming of Israeli speakers and the ostracising of Israeli and Jewish artists. India has, in effect, annexed Kashmir and the international left is too busy searching for white supremacists among the New York Times’ headline-writers to notice. 

It’s not just the left, either. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made two statements about international matters this week, one on India’s incorporation of Kashmir and the other on Israel’s plans to build 2000 new homes in Judea and Samaria. One of these actions he called an ‘effective annexation’, ‘contrary to international law’ and demanded a ‘halt’ to the process. The other he ‘expressed some of our concerns’ about and ‘called for calm’, while stressing he had listened to the government’s ‘perspective’. If you are at all familiar with the topsy-turvy logic that governs Western diplomatic attitudes towards Israel, you can probably guess which statement was about which action. 

This is not really about Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria or India’s claim to Jammu and Kashmir. It’s not even about the merits of boycotts. It’s about the hypocrisy of those whose interest in human rights begins and ends between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea and whose humanitarian attention span trails off when they hear of an outrage that can’t be blamed on Jews.

The BDS movement is, for the most part, sustained by Western leftists and what attracts them is not standing in solidarity with oppressed people but standing in judgement of disfavoured people and ideas. BDS is the left’s revenge on the Jews for transcending victimhood, putting their faith in God over man, and making a virtue of nationalism. It’s not just that they’re Jewish — they’ve made a success of it. 

Maybe a Muslim group will manage to get up a boycott campaign off the back of this. Considering the horrific treatment of Muslims by Hindu extremists in India, it would be hard not to sympathise. But it could never enjoy the size, reach, acclaim or institutional backing that BDS has garnered in the West, for the same reason that no protest against the ill-treatment of Muslims (or Arabs) anywhere else gains the same traction as the Palestinian cause. 

The Uyghurs were put in re-education camps and the world shrugged because it wasn’t Jews who put them there. The Kurds were crushed after voting for their independence but no one came to their aid because it wasn’t Jews who crushed them. The 4000 Palestinians killed in Yarmouk, Dara’a and Khan El Sheikh are unspoken of because they weren’t killed in Gaza, Nablus or Jenin. Where there are no Jews to blame, no Israeli flags to burn, no Zionist bogeymen to invest all the old hatreds in, the people who care no longer do.