People of all religions responded to the call of The “Coalition to Stop Genocide in India”, a broad coalition of Indian Americans and US-based civil rights organizations and activists and organized a rally at Times Square on August 5, to protest the celebration of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in India. The main organizer of the festivities was the American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a front for several Hindu supremacist groups in the US.
Protesters held placards and chanted slogans to highlight massive human rights abuses by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They reminded the supremacists that normalizing hate and bigotry is not part of civil society. Members of the ruling party demolished Babri Masjid in India in 1992, after a campaign of hatred, intolerance against the country’s Muslim minority, and distortion of fact about the mosque’s origins.
“Sadly, far-right extremists in both India and the United States have especially taken to demonizing and denigrating Muslims. I condemn any attack on an individual or group because of their faith and stand with my Muslim siblings here in my district and India as they fight for dignity and human rights,” said New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who joined the rally. “I also thank all the Hindus and others who have taken a stand against dog-whistle propaganda cloaked as cultural celebrations,” added Mr. Dromm.
“Islamophobia has escalated to the level of ethnic cleansing in numerous countries, including India. From lynching to pogroms, to the cultural genocide exemplified by the establishment of a temple on the site of a demolished mosque, anti-Muslim bigotry is government policy in India,” said Mr. Nihad Awad National Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). “The Muslim world and the international community must unite in opposition to the far-right Modi government before its fascist, Nazi-inspired ideology causes further damage to religious minorities,” Mr. Awad added.
Mr. Brad Lander, another New York City councilmember, said, “We all have a responsibility for speaking out against Islamophobia, whether it comes from our country, or even our community.” Mr. Lander further added, “As a New Yorker, and as a progressive Jew, I stand with our Muslim neighbors, here in NYC and those in Kashmir and throughout India who are facing nationalist and Islamophobic hatred and violence.”
“Political Hinduism is NOT a religious issue, it’s a class issue, and final victory is possible by uniting the workers, peasants, and the socially oppressed sections. Today’s protest in New York has brought various sections together to challenge the Hindutva project”, said S. Karthikeyan of Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC).
Ms. Ania of Coalition against Fascism in India (CAFI) said. “Choosing August 5 to celebrate is a new act of aggression against the Kashmiris. We reject this cynical use of religion to entrench hate and kill India democracy.”
The Coalition to Stop Genocide in India includes dozens of organizations, including Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Coalition Against Fascism in India, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), Boston Coalition, Organization for Minorities in India (OFMI), South Asia Solidarity Initiative, Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC), Council for Minority Rights in India (CMRI), North American Indian Muslim Association (NAIMA), Ambedkar International Mission, Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans, Guru Ravidas Sabha, Periyar International USA, Ambedkar International Mission Society, Canada, Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI) and International Society for Peace and Justice.
Earlier, the Coalition succeeded in persuading the officials to stop promoting the celebration at the main billboard at Times Square by the supremacists.
Jagdish Sewhani, President of the American India Public Affairs Committee, was confident that on August 5, thousands of Hindutva supporters would gather on Times Square to celebrate the construction of Ram Mandir at the site where the Babri Masjid, a 400-year-old Muslim place once stood.
He was certain Branded Cities, an advertising company he had contacted, would put billboards on the giant NASDAQ screen and the 17,000 square-foot-wrap around LED display screen broadcasting the Ram Temple construction ceremony. With the help of other Hindutva organizations that owe loyalty to the fascist group RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, he wanted to broadcast the event from 8 am to 10 am with the 3D portraits of the temple’s design, Ram’s paintings and pictures of Modi laying the foundation.
The RSS and VHP affiliates had also sent emails. They made lengthy phone calls to Modi supporters all over America to be present on Times Square to celebrate the destruction of the Babri Masjid some 28 years ago. Many had made reservations also. However, they were not aware that New York’s prominent citizens and over 20 human rights organizations had written a letter to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opposing the display of Ram Mandir ceremony in India. The letter said that the purpose of such a publicity was to dehumanize Muslim New Yorkers and celebrate human rights abuses against Muslims in India.” The signatories further explained in the letter. “Our Coalition stands opposed to the far-right Hindutva nationalism of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] government in India. We are writing to ask you how New York City, a city that claims to have inclusive and egalitarian values, can allow such a brazen celebration of hatred and Islamophobia.”
The signatories included Hindus for Human Rights and Coalition Against Fascism in India, among many others.
The letter also referred to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 by Hindutva fascists. It called on the major to prevent the AIPAC from projecting Islamophobic billboards in Times Square. The signatories explained that the August 5, the celebration was a warning to India’s religious minorities that unless they accept the RSS ideology, their places of worship would not be safe. Many New Yorkers felt that the slogan Jai Shri Ram on the billboard would bolden the Hindutva terrorists to lynch and kill members of the minority communities.
India’s Supreme Court had declared the destruction of Babri Masjid illegal while handing it to Hindus.
The City heard its citizens’ voices and refused to run a digital advertisement on the main screen for the Hindutva fascist group.
Reports from New York suggest that the Indian embassy officials were in contact with the RSS affiliated. Outfits in the USA and kept an eye on the Coalition activities.
Dr. Shaik Ubaid, the President of ImanNet, described it as a victory for pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law. He urged the US government to investigate the donations fascist groups in the US offer to RSS and other Hindu supremacist outfits in India.
The Coalition had also contacted the governor, senators, and members of the House of Representatives. Reports from Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Detroit, Dallas, and other cities also suggest that the Modi and RSS supporters held extensive celebrations in their temples to endorse the Masjid demolition.