DR SHAIK UBAID, MD | Caravan Daily
WHEN Tom Suozzi expressed his concern over the unilateral action of the Narendra Modi Government in India to abrogate the terms of accession between India and Kashmir, he was not only trying to please his Pakistani and Muslim constituency but also to boost his profile as a champion of Human Rights and liberal democracy.
A charismatic US politician, shrewd and bold at that, the Democratic Congressman from Long Island grabbed the opportunity to show that he would not only stand up against Trump but all other populists, nationalist and extremist leaders, be it from Brazil or Hungary or India.
Suozzi rose to prominence by taking on the party machine, including the then-Senator Clinton to unseat the Democratic County Executive of one of the largest and richest counties, Nassau County. He then became complacent and was defeated by the boring and later allegedly corrupt Joe Mangano, the Republican. Suozzi learnt his lesson well and has always courted all the key demographic constituencies in his district.
He is aware of the fact that with the prevailing anger against Trump, his challenge in the primary will be from the fired-up left wing of his party. What he had not expected was that the Hindutva supporters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh (RSS), an extremist rightwing Hindu outfit, could dare to launch an intimidation campaign against a sitting Congressman in the liberal New York of all places.
Facing pressure from his Hindu donors, who, he was not aware were sympathisers of Vishwa Hindu Parishat (VHP), an organisation designated by the CIA as a militant Hindu outfit, Suozzi agreed to meet them. However, he was surprised that the meeting coincided with the prayer services of Eid al Adha, a holy day in Islam. His Muslim supporters pointed out to him the sinister design of the RSS, which idolises Hitler, behind the move.
The Hindu supremacist group wanted to ensure that there is no Muslim at the meet to counter their falsified narrative in the meeting. When a few Kashmiri and other Muslims managed to make an appearance along with some moderate Hindus, the Hindutva crowd went insane shouting down all dissenting voices and started using foul language and threats in front of the Congressman.
They even tried to humiliate Suozzi himself as if he was a helpless Dalit outcast or a Muslim surrounded by the Hindutva lynch mob. They demanded that he withdraw his letter against the clampdown in Kashmir by the Indian government. Suozzi would only apologise for not consulting the Hindu community before writing the letter and reiterated his belief in the struggle for Human Rights and dignity.
He expressed sympathy for the Kashmiri Americans who were unable to contact their family in Kashmir. He even announced that he would meet with the Kashmiris and moderate Hindus who were not allowed to speak in the meeting by the rowdy mob.
The frustrated Hindutva leaders such as Rajender Dichpally insulted Suozzi later that day when he went to the India parade and Suozzi walked out of the parade instead of succumbing to their demand to apologise. By standing up to the Hindutva extremists and expressing concern for the victims of Indian persecution in Kashmir, Suozzi has managed to strengthen his progressive credentials making it difficult for his challenger to unseat him in the primary. After all most voters in the Democratic Party primary come from the progressive wing.
Dr Shaik Ubaid is a leading Indian American physician, rights activist and community leader based in New York. He can be reached at [email protected]