Rallyists representing 21 organizations demand end to persecution of Muslims, other vulnerable sections of Indian society
NEW YORK – As Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, September 25, more than 100 peace activists, mainly representing interfaith and human rights groups, gathered outside the venue to register their protest against his policies that are promoting fascism in India. Speaker after speaker condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities under Modi’s government that openly supports Hindu supremacy.
The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations under the banner of Coalition to Stop Genocide in India, 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.
Those who addressed the rally included historian Audrey Truschke, writer Aatish Taseer, IAMC President Syed Ali, besides religious scholars of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths. They all disapproved of the alleged persecutions that religious minorities, Dalits, students and opponents of Hindutva ideology are facing in today’s India.
Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, said, “I am here today to speak against the hateful political ideology known as Hindutva… 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.”
“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 such a broad coalition of people who want to see him go.”
Stephan Shaw of Jewish Voice of Peace compared Indian apartheid to Israeli apartheid. Brad Lander, New York City Council member and Comptroller Elect, said, “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.”
Salman Sheikh, Imam of the Islamic Center of Old Bridge, New Jersey, said: “The Prophet Muhammad – peace be on him – is perhaps the earliest known person in history to have recorded a clear statement against racism when he is reported to have said in his famous sermon: ‘All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by righteousness and good action,’” declared the Imam. “But 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, which is the handiwork of Satan the accursed,” he added.
Hindu priest Pandit Sanjai Doobay said: “As Hindus, we salute the light, ‘Shubham Karoti Kalyanam.’ As Muslims, ‘Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.’ And the Christian Bible says God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’ If we are together, our light will always be brighter. We will pray for that light, for that peace. Mr. 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, said, “As Christians, we grieve for many Hindus who watch their faith being co-opted and distorted by nationalist government using Hinduism to oppress people of other faiths… In Jesus’ name, I condemn the government of any country which uses the dominant faith of its people to destroy democracy and deny the freedom and human rights of religious minorities. In this spirit, we call on the Modi government to stop distorting Hinduism to give tacit approval to the burning and desecration of churches, mosques and temples.”
Syed Ali, president of the Indian American Muslim Council, said, “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.”
Japneet Singh of the New York City Sikh Council, said, “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.”
Roja Singh of the Dalit Solidarity Forum, said, “Lynching of specific groups of people considered physically and morally dirty and ideologically dunce and are therefore dispensable as accidental beings… Such monstrosity has heightened since Modi came to power.”
Sunita Viswanath, Co-Founder of Hindus for Human Rights, said, “For us, the words from the Rig Veda — vasudhaiva kutumbakam – the world is one family — are not simply a hallmark slogan, but our ardent prayer for peace, justice and human rights for all in the world… I am standing outside the United Nations today holding this sign — Real Hindus Don’t Lynch — because the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t represent all Hindus, all Indians. He doesn’t represent me!… I will keep showing up until the country of my birth, India, a country I love with all my heart, leaves the dark and dangerous path it is on.”