NEW YORK – Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing the UN General Assembly on Friday, hundreds of Indian Americans and Kashmiris along with US rights groups held a protest against the violence against minorities and Dalits and the BJP government’s clampdown on Kashmir outside the UN headquarters in New York.
The protest was attended by many leading activists and academics including prominent historian and academic professor Audrey Truschke and Sunita Vishwanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights.
Addressing the protesters, Prof Truschke, who teaches South Asian history at Rutgers Newark University, slammed the Bharatiya Janata party and Hindutva groups for admiring Hitler. She said that Hindutva supporters openly admire Hitler and they supported the treatment meted out to Jews by Hitler in Germany.
The protesters were raising slogans of freedom from Brahmanism, RSS, Hindutva and castesim.
— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) September 27, 2019
The lead organiser for the protest, the Coalition Against Fascism in India (CAFI), said that the Modi government had been “orchestrating a pogrom of hate and violence against Muslims and Dalits in India,” and had “disenfranchised seven million Kashmiris”. Referring to the NRC exercise, the statement added that the Modi government had “rendered nearly two million people stateless in Assam and is building detention centres to imprison them”.
Describing the Modi government as “anti-poor” and “anti-minority”, they also drew attention to the government’s crackdown on all forms of dissent and all those who question its politics of hate.
“Its economic policies have resulted in escalating poverty and the highest unemployment rate in half a century. These events in India concerns all of us who live in the United States,” the protesters said in their press statment.
Calling Hindutva “a bigoted political ideology with many victims”, Truschke maintained that India’s religious minorities had faced increasing disenfranchisement and violence under Modi’s tenure and that the government had attacked the media, academics and others who had dared to speak out.
“The Modi government has been clear in its message that criticising, or even merely accurately describing, Hindutva comes with increasing risks, which makes the scale and diversity of the current protests all the more astonishing. I urge global leaders to listen, not only to Modi, but to those he has not yet managed to silence,” Truschke said.
The national general secretary of the Indian American Muslim Council, Mohammad Jawad, said that the Modi government followed the RSS’s Hindutva ideology which was responsible for all atrocities and lynchings against minorities. “We are not anti-India or anti-Hindu. We are only demanding basic human rights that the Constitution of India guarantees for all citizens,” he said.
Sunita Viswanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights, said that the government was destroying Indian democracy in the name of Hinduism. “As Hindus, as Indians, and as people of conscience, we say ‘Not In Our Name’,” Viswanath said.
Hawk Newsome, chairman of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, said, “We stand united against governments that exploit the most vulnerable.”
James Sues, executive director at the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in New Jersey, said that the Modi government had “illegally stripped” the people of Kashmir of their autonomy. “We call on world leaders of conscience to reject the fascist agenda of Mr. Modi and the BJP and stand with the marginalised minorities of India,” Sues said.
CAFI has demanded that the Modi government restore Article 370, end Kashmir’s “military occupation” and respect Kashmiris’ right to decide their own future. It has also demanded the repeal of the Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the termination of the National Register of Citizens and an end to the lynchings of Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis.
The organisation also called for the freeing of political prisoners like Professor G.N. Saibaba and those in the Bhima Koregaon case, and has demanded the withdrawal of “false cases” against anti-caste activists such as Anand Teltumbde.
The protest was co-sponsored by the Alliance for a Democratic and Secular South Asia, Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch and Indian American Muslim Council. The protest has also been endorsed by several organisations and groups including Black Lives Matter (Greater New Y0rk), Democracy, Equality and Secularism in South Asia (DESSA), Winnipeg; India Civil Watch (ICW-Canada) and the Jewish Voice for Peace NYC.
The day before, members of the Sikh and Patidar community had demonstrated outside the UN headquarters in New York when Modi was delivering a speech on Sustainable Development at a special UN summit. The protesters, under the banner of Sikhs for Justice, alleged human rights violations in Punjab and demanded a referendum in 2020 for a separate Khalistan.