Palestinian students in Delhi open window to their country

February 8th, 2009 - 2:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Deeply disturbed by the killings and bloodshed back home, Palestinian students in the Indian capital have grouped together to build up sympathy and garner support for their country, as well as promote the unknown facets of their nation’s culture, cuisine and tourism.

Fifteen Palestinian students in Delhi - studying at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia - have reactivated a more than three- decades-old grouping called the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS). The group was formed in the 1970s and registered with the Indian government but had become inactive after the Oslo accord, the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement of 1993.

Saadi Farrokhyani, 28, pursuing PhD in English at JNU, told IANS, “The idea behind activating the group has been to react to whatever happens in Palestine, as well as to make people acquainted with Palestinian culture and traditions.”

Hasan-yah-Alhajhanad, another member of GUPS, said: “Anyone who knows the history of Palestine will support the Palestinian cause. Thousands of people have died in the recent Israeli attack on Gaza strip.

“India has been supporting the Palestinian cause, and there are hundreds of Palestinians living as refugees here. This sympathy was reflected when people from different universities participated in a protest against Israel here on Jan 3,” he said.

In the recent spate of violence in the Gaza Strip, at least 1,000 Palestinians were killed since the Israeli invasion began on Dec 27 last year. Around half of those killed in the Israeli attack were children and women. More then 5,000 were wounded. Deaths have been reported on the Israeli side too, but the figures are disproportionate - 13 deaths of Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The war has led to the civilian infrastructure in Palestine, including schools and hospitals, being destroyed in large numbers. Attacks continue even after the ceasefire called on Jan 18.

“Israel has violated almost all the international conventions. Though the ceasefire has been announced, the attacks continue every now and then,” Ibrahim, 23, who is studying M Tech at JNU and is a member of the GUPS, told IANS.

“Through this group we want to help in whatever possible way the refugees living in India,” Ibrahim said. The GUPS has been active for the last five months.

Presently, around 30 Palestinian families are living as refugees in Delhi.

Besides reacting to political issues, the group wants to help fellow Palestinian students and also promote cultural aspects of their nation.

The group would be putting up a stall during a food festival in JNU and at other places too so that people can enjoy dishes like ‘maqlubah’ (a kind of birayni) and ‘moleqhiah’ (meat cooked with vegetables). The group is also practising the traditional Debka dance for the upcoming festivals in JNU that would start from mid-February.

“In India I have attended many festivals and cultural programmes, but nowhere did I find anything from my country. Through our group we will try to make people aware of our culture,” Farrokhyani said.

The group is planning to extend its membership to Palestinian students in other parts of the country. There are around 500 Palestinian students in India, most of them studying in cities like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

The GUPS has got some booklets published on the tourism sites in Palestine such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds’ Fields in Bethlehem/Beit Sahour.

The members interact through a group mail and plan to start a web site soon as well as online membership. GUPS has also established a welfare fund to help other Palestinian students in times of financial crisis.

(Khalid Akhter can be contacted khalid.a@ians.in)

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