South Asian Group Plans Protest Against Lord Ram Billboards in New York

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Arab artist Amr Diab’s photo is displayed on a  billboard in Times Square, New York. — File photo

The right-wing sections of the Indian diaspora have hired the advertising space in Times Square to display images of Hindu deity Lord Ram and 3D pictures of the upcoming Ram temple in Ayodhya

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), a New York-based political collective of volunteers, is planning to hold a disruption protest against the showcasing of Hindu deity, Lord Ram images on Times Square billboards on 5 August when the Indian government will lay the foundation stone for a Ram temple in Ayodhya town in Uttar Pradesh.

The collective announced this on Instagram. Inviting the public, the collective wrote on a poster: “Join us to disrupt this vile spectacle of fascism August 5th, Wed 8:00 AM Times Square, New York city”. The post asks the participants to wear masks.

The right-wing sections of the Indian diaspora have hired the advertising space in Times Square to display images of Lord Ram and 3D pictures of the upcoming Ram temple in Ayodhya to mark the occasion of ground-breaking that will take place in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The sponsors of the advertisement have described this as “historical” but SASI and other critics of the Hindutva ideology have described the showcasing event as: “Hindu fascists will be celebrating the demolition of Babri Masjid.”

In 1992, a Hindutva mob led by leaders of political parties descended on Ayodhya and demolished a grand Mughal-era mosque in broad daylight as the government was accused of being complicit in providing security to the mosque. The right-wing forces resorted to mob justice despite the mosque-temple dispute being fought in the legal court. The demolition of the mosque triggered a wave of anti-Muslim violence across towns and cities of India.

After nearly three decades, in November 2019, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark verdict in the long-standing Babri Masjid title suit, clearing the way for the construction of a temple at the site.

Modi’s decision to take part in the stone-laying event in Ayodhya on August 5 has evoked sharp reactions in some circles as critics say that by participating in a religious event, the Prime Minister was going against the idea of secularism.

 All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi, a vocal Muslim parliamentarian, slammed Prime Minister Modi for his plans to preside over the religious event in Ayodhya, saying it was the violation of constitutional oath that had secularism as one of its fundamentals.

The date for the ground-breaking event as decided by the Modi government coincides with the first “anniversary” of abrogation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status under Article 370 by the same government.

Noted Kashmiri writer Nitasha Kaul wrote a Twitter thread, saying that the government’s decision to coincide the two events is symbolic. She said “the symbolism is trenchant, intentional, and on point…”

She said, “the 5th August is the un/official birthdate of a Hindu supremacist Modified India”.

On plans to display images of Lord Ram, New York-based barrister Suchitra Vijayan said it was “violent assertion of Hindu nationalism in the Diaspora and aims to recreate a spectacle of hate, violence, of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. This is playing out as Muslim leaders and students in India are being arrested for anti-CAA protests.”

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