Times Square: Who Organised A Celebration of Hate In the Middle of a Pandemic?

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Imagery of the Hindu deity Ram and 3-D portraits of the proposed Hindu temple are displayed on a digital billboard in Times Square, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ayodhya. — AP

Why did the most inclusive, tolerant and vibrant city in the world allow the advertisement of hate and violence to be displayed? Who and which ad companies approved 3-D projections of violent reminders of history?

DR SAMINA SALIM | Clarion India

AS of today 162,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19. According to United States congressional budget office, the unemployment rate increased from 3.5% in February to 14.7% in April, representing a decline of more than 25 million people employed, plus another 8 million individuals having exited the labor force.

Over 50 million people are still out of the workforce as businesses remain closed and social distancing restrictions continue. New unemployment claims have now exceeded one million. Consumer spending which makes up more than two-thirds of the American economy, declined by 12.6%. Trillions of dollars have been borrowed to counter the crisis, despite the injection of money into the system, inflation has dropped to an alarming level, signaling deflationary pressure on the economy. Clearly, it is a very difficult time for all Americans. Loss of life, loss of livelihoods and loss of connections is all so evident.

In the middle of such a somber period of our lives, the choice of some to use Times Square, New York City, as a venue to celebrate a judicial decision in India, is more than foolish, it is actually appalling.

On November 9th, 2019, the Supreme Court of India issued a verdict on the 16th century Babri Mosque, permitting construction of a temple of Hindu deity Ram, in place of the mosque, a renowned historical structure, despite two caveats of paramount significance. The Supreme Court of India acknowledged that the archaeological survey of India could not prove that there was a temple below the foundation of the mosque and that the demolition of the mosque carried out by “Hindutva” terrorists was a criminal and illegal act.

In India, however, the decision was hailed as a victory for the ultranationalist Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi. This year, August 5th was chosen for the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the temple. August 5th, 2019 is also the day when PM Modi converted the entire Kashmir valley into a prison via revocation of Article 370. Gross violations of human rights in Kashmir continue to this day where 7 million people live as prisoners in their own homes, as the pandemic rages on.

To mark the ground breaking event, PM Modi laid down the 23 kg silver brick for the temple at Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh (North India). The occasion looked nothing less than a multimillion dollar Bollywood blockbuster movie set. The upper and the middle class, fortunate to have food on the table during the time of the pandemic, was seemingly awestruck with all the glitz and glamour, and enjoyed the psychological thriller amidst claps and chants. The media zombied around the event as India’s poor continued to die of starvation and the virus, left to fend for themselves.

Sadly, the Indian leadership is too confident of the stupor it has cast on its influential base, and remains undeterred in its resolve to establish a theocracy and an ethnocratic nation. One cannot help but be troubled with the swift decline toward majoritarianism in India. Having said that, it also must be recognised that what India chooses for its future, is its own to decide and is an internal matter. Whether its citizens decide to live under fascism or live up to its pluralistic promises, is their call. But bringing hatred and fascism to the American soil is a matter of grave concern.

The Aug 5 Times Square event is a call for caution for all Americans. Let the readers be reminded that the aftermath of Babri mosque demolition and the violence that ensued left more than 2000 Muslims dead. Considering the bloody history of the Babri Mosque dispute followed by the highly controversial Supreme Court verdict, the Times Square celebration was a nude display of an endorsement of sectarian division and violence. The celebratory crowd could have done a more private ceremony of devotion and religious fervor.

To have a full public display in high definition screen projection of disputed structure, leaves one wondering of the intentions of the organisers. Was Aug 5th, chosen to slight, incite, and intimidate others who do not endorse fascist agenda?  Who are the masterminds of mega events like “Howdy Modi” and Times Square spectacle? What do they gain by putting up this charade? Why did the most inclusive, tolerant and vibrant city in the world allow the advertisement of hate and violence to be displayed? Who and which ad companies approved 3-D projections of violent reminders of history? It is time the FBI puts its resources into the background of these events.

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Samina Salim, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Houston College of Pharmacy. She was born in Lucknow and raised in Aligarh and moved to the United States in 1999. The views expressed here are author’s own and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

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