Above Photo: Sunita Vishwanath (centre panel) and other participants at a demonstration against the HowdyModi event in Houston. | Hindus for Human Rights via Facebook.
It is essential for Hindus to take back their faith from extremists, says the founder of Hindus for Human Rights.
A close Kashmiri friend of mine in New York City has not spoken with her loved ones for more than 50 days. The Valley has been under siege since August 5, with a communications blackout in place. Meanwhile, detention centres are being built in Assam for potentially millions of people rendered non-citizens through the National Register of Citizens programme. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the stage with US President Donald Trump in Houston on September 22, he declared in eight languages, “Everything is fine in India.”
I am here to tell the world that nothing could be further from the truth.
I was part of the huge crowd outside the NRG Stadium last weekend protesting the Howdy Modi event. And I was outside the United Nations on Friday protesting Modi’s presentation at the General Assembly. Between those two protests I traveled to Washington DC to testify at an event on Capitol Hill about the crisis of human rights in India. I also wrote this oped along with a colleague, Raju Rajagopal, “Why We, as Hindu Americans, Are Opposed to Modi’s Undeclared Emergency”.
I represented my organisation Hindus for Human Rights in Friday’s #AdiosModiNYC protest and was part of the Coalition Against Fascism in India. While there were some 25,000 protesters outside the United Nations, many of these protesters were Pakistani, Khalistani and Kashmiri. That is, many protesters were taking a stand against India.
United for a united India
What was unique about our coalition was that many of us were Indians, not speaking out against India but speaking for a democractic and secular India, an India whose Constitution is honored. We were people of Indian origin who stood with Kashmiris and all of India’s minorities – especially Muslims and Dalits – who are the direct targets of the unabated lynchings, rapes and bigoted policies under the Bharatiya Janata Party government.
The other unique aspect of our coalition is that it included a Hindu organisation. Since the democratic fabric of India is being decimated in the name of Hinduism, with the seeming support of the Hindu majority, the resistance must include practicing Hindus.
Excerpt of rally speech by Hawk Newsome, Black Lives Matter NYC:
“All we have is the love of each other and the Gods we may pray to. But I believe we will win, I believe we will overcome this. And the way we do it is we keep building bridges. While they try to build walls to separate people, we are building bridges to connect people. And that’s how we win.”
Excerpt of rally speech by Stephan Shaw, Jewish Voice for Peace NYC:
“Jewish Voice for Peace has been shouting ‘not in our name’ for a long time. When Israel prevents medicine from entering the open air prison camp of Gaza, we say ‘not in our name’. It is so wonderful to see a group of Hindus here, namely Hindus for Human Rights, assert the same fundamental claim. Though we are for secularism in government, let’s not let this demand cede the religious majority to the virulent few. To be Jewish doesn’t mean support for Israel’s racist policies. To be Hindu doesn’t mean to be Hindutva and strip millions of muslims of citizenship.
To the Islamophobic, bigoted and xenophobic policies in the United States, Israel and India, we say, “Not in our name.” We say this equally as Jews or Hindus or atheists or secularists.”
Excerpt of rally speech by Ajaya Kumar, Dalit Activist from Kerala:
“Our constitution written by Dr BR Ambedkar is one of the beautiful documents of democracy. And Ambedkar said, If we fail this constitution, then we will fail this country. And that is precisely what we are experiencing now…. Since untouchability was abolished 70 years ago, we have slowly been building institutions to combat caste and casteism. Over the past 70 years there have been many laws and policies and legislation, and we are slowly moving forward.
But this fellow [Modi] has dismantled every bit of the institutions we have been building these past 70 years. That’s the sad part of it. And I don’t know how long it will take to rebuild. But I am so happy, so happy, there are diverse people – democracy in India is diversity – people of diverse background here today, including Hindus. This is something we can’t even think right now in Kerala. You can ‘t even think of this kind of protest in India. That is the reality we are living. Friends, I congratulate every one of you, and I would like to quote what Ambedkar said: ‘Our fight is not for power. Our fight is to reclaim human values.’”
I have two key messages to share:
Support progressive organisations: When I saw the 52,000 Indian Americans marching past our placards into the NRG stadium to listen to Modi and Trump, it was hard not to notice their opulent regalia: silks and jewels, and the confident stride that says, we have money and are protecting our vested interests. The progressive organisations that are bravely taking a stand against fascism inside India, and those supporting democracy from outside India need assistance. It is crucial that the resistance has the capacity to fight back.
Hindus, raise your voices: It is essential for Hindus to take back our faith from extremists and our democracy from fascists. If you are Hindu – religious, secular, cultural or even atheist Hindu – please join our movement ofHindus against Hindutva. We need to rise up against this hyper-masculine, violent form of Hinduism that is fueled by hatred and Islamophobia and remind our fellow Hindus that prayers like Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu are not empty Hallmark messages, but fierce prayers for justice for all.
Let the history books state that the resistance to Hindu fascism in India included many Hindus of conscience, both in India and worldwide, who said Not In Our Name.
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