Hundreds of Indian Americans and rights activists have gathered outside United Nations on Saturday to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed UN General Assembly.
“As religious people, we have a responsibility to build an inclusive multi racial democracy. So when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to New York in the name of perverting my religious tradition, Judaism, it is a way of creating religious oppression, and it is important for me to stand here. And when Indian Prime Minister Modi comes here, we organize in solidarity to demand that we build a world not on theocratic or fascist principles,” said Brad Lander, New York City Councilmember and comptroller elect while addressing the protesters.
“Now it is up to us to continue the march for equality, justice and peace. I don’t see this as a fight against any people. Rather I see this a battle which all humanity has to fight together against the racism,” declared Imam Salman Sheikh of Islamic Center of Old Bridge-New Jersey.
While denouncing Hindutva, Hindu Pandit Sanjai Doobay who joined the protest said: “Modi, your Hindutva is not my Hinduism. You are not Hindu. A Hindu is a brother or sister of Humanity.”
Rev. Peter Cook, New York State Council of Churches, has called on the Modi government to “stop distorting Hinduism to give tacit approval to the burning and desecration of churches, mosques and temples.”
“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earned titles like butcher of Gujarat, modern day Nero, whom Time Magazine called Divider in Chief, under whose watch India is downgraded as Partly Free and turned India into an autocratic democracy,” exclaimed Syed Ali, president of the Indian American Muslim Council. “Because of his horrific human rights abuses, Modi was denied a diplomatic visa and his existing visa was revoked for nine years before he became prime minister.”
“Lynching of specific groups of people considered physically and morally dirty and ideologically dunce and are therefore dispensable as accidental beings,” said Roja Singh of the Dalit Solidarity Forum. “Such monstrosity has heightened since Modi came to power.”
Protesters call on the Biden administration to hold Indian leader accountable over rights violations and religious freedom.
While addressing the protesters, Japneet Singh of the New York City Sikh Council has alleged “the United States of America and the Joe Biden administration shamelessly hosted a fascist and murderer who was responsible for killing thousands of Muslims as the CM of Gujarat, and now as the PM of India has violated numerous human rights of protesting farmers.”
The rally was conducted by 21 organisations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King Study Circle, Black Lives Matter, Coalition Against Fascism in India, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York City Democratic Socialists’ Racial Justice Working Group, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, Hindus for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, India Civil Watch International, International Commission for Dalit Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, MICAH Faith Institute, Muslim Community Network, National Coalition against Caste Discrimination in the USA, NY Sikh Council, New York State Council of Churches, SALAM, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, and Voices Against Fascism in India.
United Kisan Morcha also conducted the protest outside UN, focusing solely on the farmers’ issues.
“We came for myriad reasons to protest Modi today,” said author/writer Aatish Taseer. “I came because of the unprecedented assault on press freedom. I have been the target of this regime. I can no longer go back to the country I grew up in—can no longer see my 91-year-old grandmother. But what Modi has done to me he has done to millions of my countrymen and that is why there is now so broad a coalition of people who want to see him go.”
Stephan Shaw of Jewish Voice of Peace compared Indian apartheid to Israeli apartheid. “I’m here today because the opposition to Jewish supremacy is the same as the opposition to Hindu supremacy,” he told the group. He says: “I am a Jew, and I am ashamed of what some of my people are doing in Israel and in Palestine. What’s happening in India is straight out of the Israeli playbook, and that must worry us.”
Shivani Parikh of Hindus for Human Rights recalled that as Chief Minister in Gujarat, Modi led a state sanctioned genocide of Muslims and ignored the pogrom that killed and displaced hundreds of Muslims and their families in 2002.
Anitha Rathod of the International Commission for Dalit Rights said that in recent years in India, there has been an unprecedented increase in hate crimes and violence against the Dalits, especially Dalit women, and other minorities in India.
“Growing cases of heinous crimes like rape, murder and lynching continue to shock the world. What is even more shocking is that perpetrators often get support from the state itself.”
“The largest democracy in the world is for name’s sake only and does not allow freedom to practice one’s own religion, freedom to express one’s viewpoints, freedom to choose one’s diet, freedom for the press to report events freely,” according to Koshy George, president of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America and the National Association of Asian Indian Christians.
“I am here today to speak against the hateful political ideology known as Hindutva,” exclaimed Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.
“Hindutva has many vices. It is misogynist. It is casteist. It is violent. Hindutva’s unique harm in the South Asian landscape is that it is fascist. Hindutva’s early articulators were enamored with Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. One Hindutva leader even spoke laudatorily of Nazi policies regarding the Jews.”