Protests were held in four major US cities –Washington, New York, Chicago and Boston — and attracted besides Indian Americans people from other communities

Protests were held in four major cities --Washington, New York, Chicago and across United States

Protestors demand action against Hindutva supremacist entities fomenting hate and violence against minorities, Dalits and women and for attempts to suppress dissent by intellectuals and writers

Caravan Desk

NEW YORK — The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella coalition of progressive organizations across the United States, held protests in four cities across the US, against rising intolerance and violence against religious minorities and Dalits by the Hindutva groups and the ruling dispensation in India. Protests were held in New York City, Boston, Washington DC and Chicago, at prominent public locations. Participants included Indian Americans as well as people of conscience from all races and ethnicities that are alarmed over India’s gradual descent into religio-fascism, fueled by the supremacist ideology of Hindutva.

“Our protest is dedicated to all the victims of violence in India. We stand in solidarity with the hundreds of intellectuals, writers, artists and scientists who have courageously spoken truth to power, including many who have returned their awards” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid, one of the organizers of the protest in New York City.

Protesters carried placards and raised slogans, expressing their outrage over developments in India that are tearing apart the nation’s secular fabric and inflaming sectarian tensions, at a time when the country is in dire need of communal harmony and poverty alleviation.

In New York City, the protesters were joined by groups expressing solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks in Paris. Joe Lombardo, national coordinator for the United National Antiwar Coalition addressed the gathering, which observed a minute of silence in commemoration of the victims of ISIS in Paris and Beirut.

AJA protest 2

Besides Indian Americans, people from all walks of life participated in the demonstrations that also expressed solidarity with victims of terror attacks in Paris on Friday.

The protesters’ memorandum pointed out that Hindu militants who carried out hundreds of instances of mass violence against religious minorities in India in the past, had become further emboldened by the tacit support of Prime Minister Modi and the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leading to mob lynching of Muslims, attacks on a number of Christian churches and an escalation of  violence against Dalits (“untouchables” or lower castes in India). The desecration of the Sikh Holy Scripture has inflamed sectarians tensions in Punjab.  In a campaign that has been widely condemned internationally, Hindu nationalist militias have embarked on forced conversions of Christians and Muslims.

Moreover, the BJP rule has seen an overall 9.2% rise in violence against women as per National Crime Records Bureau data. Financial restrictions have been imposed on some 13,000 NGOs including Greenpeace, Ford Foundation and Amnesty International and many human rights activists are being hounded by the government, indicating a systematic crackdown against India’s vibrant civil society.

“These protests in four US cities represent disgust and outrage not only across the Indian diaspora but also in the international community over the Modi administration’s attempts to turn a mandate for development into an opportunity to subvert India’s secular polity into a religio-fascist state,” said Ms. Sana Qutubuddin, one of the spokespersons of the alliance.

“Appointment of Hindutva ideologues with dubious credentials to key educational and cultural institutions is resulting in the distortion of history in textbooks, the mainstreaming of a discourse of hate and demonization and the normalization of violence against Dalits and women,” said Parminder Singh at the protests in Chicago. “If this is left unchecked, India could degenerate into a dystopian society where minorities, Dalits, women and intellectuals can function only within parameters defined by Hindutva supremacists,” added Mr. Singh.

Protesters demanded the following:

1.     That Prime Minister Modi suspend his “world tour” and lead the way, in both word and deed, in upholding the Indian Constitution’s safeguards for freedom and religion and thought, and for equality of all citizens before the law. This includes cleansing his administration of fanatical elements and taking stern action against bigots in his own party.

2.     That he direct his administration to eschew inflaming sectarian tensions and to focus their energies towards bettering the lives of all Indians, including the vast millions that are still deprived of the basic necessities of life such as clean water, sanitation and sustainable livelihood.

Protesters expressed their resolve to carry on their peaceful struggle and resist any attempts to subvert India’s secular moorings. “We are confident that Indian pluralism will withstand this latest onslaught by bigots who actually represent a Hindu ISIS in India,” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid. “Satyameva Jayate! (Truth Alone Triumphs)!” Dr. Ubaid added.