NEW DELHI: India’s main trade unions urged the government on Wednesday to uphold its historical support for Palestinian statehood and scrap plans to send tens of thousands of workers to Israel.
Representing some 100 million workers, Indian trade union organizations said earlier this month that the government was considering manpower exports to Israel, which would see some 90,000 Indian construction workers replace their Palestinian counterparts.
As plans to facilitate their replacement with Indians began to emerge, 10 prominent trade unions issued a statement saying the Israeli occupation of Palestine had decimated its economy, making Palestinians dependent on Israel for employment. Facilitating it would “amount to complicity on India’s part with Israel’s ongoing genocidal war against Palestinians,” said the statement.
The unions repeated their call as they observed the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Nov. 29.
“(The) Indian working class cannot be party to this genocidal initiative by Israel and marching orders to Palestinian workers working on Israeli soil is a part of that overall genocidal attack. Workers cannot be a party to the heinous exercise,” Tapan Kumar Sen, secretary-general of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, told Arab News.
Members of the CITU, as well as of the All India Trade Union Congress and other Indian members of the World Federation of Trade Unions, wore black badges to work on Wednesday and took part in sit-ins, marches and site protests.
“This is an observation in support of solidarity with Palestinians and demanding that the Indian government play (a role) instead of being soft on Israel,” Sen said.
“We demand that Israel must vacate all the occupied territory of the Palestinian areas identified as Palestinian homeland with Jerusalem as capital.”
In Tamil Nadu, in India’s south, workers in more than half the state’s districts organized rallies.
“This protest is in response to the call given by the World Federation of Trade Unions to observe Nov. 29 as a solidarity day,” Vahidha Nizam, a member of AITUC in the state, told Arab News.
“About 20 districts in Tamil Nadu are holding protest marches in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
In Bhubaneswar, the capital of the eastern state of Orrissa, six trade unions and activists held a joint protest against Israeli military and settler violence and the support it receives from the West.
“The way the Israel-America axis attacks Palestine ... they are snatching their homeland, they are snatching their rights,” Ramkrushna Panda, AITUC state secretary, told Arab News.
“Trade unions have jointly organized the protest ... Though the Indian government has taken a stand in a different way, our foreign policy has always been in favor of Palestine. The people of the country stand with Palestine, in solidarity with Palestine.”
Support for Palestine was an important part of India’s foreign policy even before independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement and one of the fathers of the independent country, had opposed the formation of a Jewish nation-state in Palestine, deeming it inhumane.
“Indian citizens and Indian workers have always stood with the rights of Palestinians to have their own homeland,” said Amarjeet Kaur, secretary-general of the All India Trade Union Congress.
“The Indian government deciding to have a treaty with Israel to send Indian workers there to replace Palestinians goes against the Indian ethos.”