Thousands of Indian Americans and US-based civil rights activists gearing up for massive protests against Hindutva and racism at Modi event venue
HOUSTON, (TX), September 21, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), a broad coalition of Indian American organizations, has announced it is leading a protest comprising of thousands of Indian Americans and US-based civil rights activists to coincide with Prime Minister Modi's visit to Houston on Sunday, September 22, 2019. The protest will be against the Modi government's repressive policies, and the Hindutva supremacist ideology whose agenda his administration is implementing, the AJA has announced.
The AJA comprises of Hindu, Muslim, Dalit, Sikh and Christian groups, among others. They include the Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), a progressive Hindu group that opposes Hindutva; the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC); and the Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).
Several US-based civil rights organizations such as Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) and Black Lives Matter have announced they will join AJA’s protests, besides local politicians and candidates who are running for local offices in Houston. “We are a bona fide group of Indian Americans with roots in India, and not connected with any other nationality or separatist causes,” the AJA said in a statement released here on Saturday. “We have one and only one goal: to expose the undemocratic, anti-people and anti-minorities agenda of Mr. Modi’s government and the Hindutva brigade that is effectively in power.”
HfHR Co-Founder Sunita Viswanath said her organization was joining the protest because Hindus cannot accept human rights violations in the name of Hinduism.
“We are horrified that our religion which teaches Vasudaiva Kutumbakam is being hijacked by extremists and nationalists who are lynching Muslims, trampling on democracy and law and order, and arresting if not murdering those who are speaking out,” Ms. Viswanath said. “We are especially appalled by the most recent nightmare of the Kashmiri people, and the situation of 1.9 million people in India who are rendered stateless due to the imposition of the travesty called the National Register of Citizens.”
Added Ashton P. Woods, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Houston: “Prime Minister Modi has committed atrocities that cannot be overlooked. While I am fighting for my rights, and I ask people to support me, I also extend my support to the marginalized. My right to exist is contingent to everyone rights to exist. And we cannot allow those guilty of ethnic cleansing to enter our country.”
On Mr. Modi’s event “Howdy, Modi”, Pieter Friedrich, an American author and activist who has exposed the Hindu rightwing operations in the U.S., decried the participation of American politicians at the event. Mr. Friedrich is the author of a detailed paper on how Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was funded hugely by the Hindutva groups including the Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh (HSS), the international wing of RSS in the US. “It’s shameful for any American politician to participate in a propaganda campaign by a pogrom-tainted foreign leader on US soil,” Mr. Friedrich said. Pieter’s talk at the Houston Town Hall meeting, a couple of days ago, where he made an impassioned plea, why the red carpet should not be laid out for Modi, has since then got viral.
The AJA statement further said that the behavior of Mr. Modi’s administration and the BJP’s state governments is reflective of the long-held ideological agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which explicitly seeks to convert India into a Hindu supremacist nation with second-class status for Muslims and other minorities. “Over the last five years, Hindu extremist lynch mobs have killed nearly 100 Muslims in street across India simply because they were Muslims,” the AJA said. “In a number of such cases, the police have refused to bring criminal charges against the killer mobs.”
Ayman Elsawa, Egyptian activist, in a reference to Mr. Trump bragging about Egyptian President Sisi being his favorite dictator wondered if President Trump was now looking to replace Sisi with Modi, as his favorite dictator. Sarah Philips, who represents student activist group, Azaad Austin, emphasized that espousing progressive politics in US, but not caring for rising Hindutva influence in India was a blatant contradiction. “Since Modi came to power, the atrocities against minorities has jumped up by 500%,” she stated
Daniel Cohen, a Professional Communicator described Modi as someone who is building the world’s largest outdoor concentration camp. He thought it fitting that the US president would welcome him, because tyrants run together and will be on one stage. “Those who want to oppress, separate people, deny them their rights and liberties run together. What however doesn’t make sense is that the progressives who speak the same language as us, will join them, just to line their pockets”, he said.
Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector at the St. Stevens Episcopal Church, said in Modi’s India, minorities and Dalits are experiencing lynching and hate crimes. In the name of creating a Hindu country, despite the separation of religion and state in the Indian constitution, Modi and BJP are creating an atmosphere of hostility for religious minorities, leading to ethnic cleansing. She further stated that if Christians here ignore something like this in another country, they encourage something like this taking root in USA as well.
Syed Ali, of the Indian American of Muslim Council, (IAMC), pointed out that there are a lot of separatists groups, including Khalistanis who have joined the protests, AJA does not endorse them. “We support the Kashmiris, the minorities and Dalits. This is a free country where everyone is allowed to protest, but AJA has a larger agenda of countering Hindutva.”
Wasim Dhar, a Kashmiri Muslim, bemoaned the ongoing repression in Kashmir that has led to 90,000 Kashmiris killed, 8,000 women raped and about 10,000 buried in mass graves. Leading activists to participate in AJA’s protest will include: Sarah Philips, Director of Operations at the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective; Prof. Samina Salim of University of Houston; Pawan Singh (OFMI); Rev. Lisa Hunt, Rector at the St. Stevens Episcopal Church; Zach Chatterjee Shlachter (JVP); Daniel Cohen, Professional Communicator with a Deep Love for Advocacy; and Cesar Octavio Executive Director, For Families and Their Education (FIEL).
The AJA protests will also highlight the Indian Government’s brutal crackdown in Jammu and Kashmir where thousands of Kashmiri Muslims, including minor children, have been incarcerated; hundreds are being tortured by the police and Indian soldiers, and a communication blackout imposed with internet and cellphone networks suspended. Mr. Modi’s government has also declared 1.9 million Indian citizens in Assam as non-citizens after a dubious and corruption-ridden bureaucratic exercise to prepare a National Register of Citizens.
“In a chilling reminder of the Holocaust, Mr. Modi is building detention centers in Assam to house such "non-citizens". It is wholly unclear what will be done with these 1.9 million people, and they may well be staring at years of detention with mass torture," the AJA said. In a separate move, Mr. Modi’s government has announced intentions to pass legislation that would allow non-Muslim foreigners to be given citizenship in India. “This is a recipe for disaster and a threat to India’s integrity,” the AJA said.
The AJA has pledged to continue the struggle against fascism and extremism disguised as nationalism and to continue the pursuit of justice and accountability for the crimes committed against the people of India.
Alliance for Justice and Accountability is an umbrella coalition of various organizations dedicated to promoting the common values of pluralism, tolerance, social justice and respect for human rights that form the basis of the world’s two largest secular democracies – the United States and India.
AJA Media Desk,