Our Beacon Forum

Corona: Indian Govt Must Shun Sectarian Politics
By:Mukesh Jiradi, Delhi/WDC
Date: Monday, 23 March 2020, 10:36 am

Indian Americans Demand Indian Government Shun Sectarian politics to combat the Coronavirus Pandemic

Diaspora groups decry the Indian government’s continued attacks on minorities, civil rights activists and the caste oppressed at a time when the country is facing an existential crisis.

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability, an umbrella organization of progressive South Asian groups across the United States, is asking the Indian Government to put aside sectarian violence in the name of preservation of life as the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds. This crisis will unleash havoc in our communities at a time when Indian unity is at an all-time low. During a pandemic, the basic trust of communities is an important requirement for public health interventions -- as so much of it depends on public compliance. The Indian government must restore faith that it will protect all citizens not just its communal and genocidal agenda. The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), is dedicated to promoting the common values of pluralism, tolerance, and respect for human rights that form the basis of the world’s two largest secular democracies – the United States and India.

We are extremely disturbed that the Indian government has not stopped its attacks on Indian Muslim and civil rights activists even during this critical window of time when it should be focused on combating the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we are asking on the basis of a shared humanity to demand the BJP stop its genocidal project and focus on the fight ahead to preserve as many lives as possible. India should be investing all its resources in fighting the pandemic and providing economic relief to the informal sector instead of creating panic and harassment amongst minorities and civil rights activists.

To that end we have the following demands:

Stop any plans to implement CAA, NRC and NPR immediately. Implementation of these laws in the face of such massive protests at a time when citizens cannot exercise safely their right to assemble and dissent creates a dangerous environment at a time when national unity is the need of hour. The populace cannot be expected to rally around a genocidal administration. Discussions on issues that are even remotely divisive must be tabled until this pandemic has been overcome. These ill-conceived projects also drain valuable resources that need to be invested to stop the virus, build public health infrastructure, protect and save as many lives as possible, and strengthen the Indian economy.

Cease immediately the witch-hunt and targeting of Muslims and other human rights activists who have been resisting the Citizenship Amendment Act. These are leaders who have been desperately exercising their constitutional right to protest and have been resisting the hate and bigotry of the Modi-Shah and regime. The cruelty of arresting or detaining these leaders deserves international condemnation, given the public health risks of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Humanitarian release of all prisoners especially those arrested for protesting the CAA. Prisons are deathly incubators for this virus, and many other nations have started to release some prisoners on humanitarian measures. Among the thousands who have been arrested on CAA-related charges, some have faced custodial torture. There are also thousands of Muslim youths who were illegally arrested by the Delhi police in the aftermath of Delhi pogrom 2020. If the courts shut down during the pandemic detaining these individuals will amount to a death sentence and this needs to be addressed urgently. If there is no political will in Delhi for this we call upon the Supreme court to intervene on behalf of these illegal detainees as well as critical leaders like Ishrat Jehan.and others who were targeted along with “United Against Hate” (UAH) leader Khalid Saifi.

Rapid humanitarian Support for victims of the pogrom. With thousands displaced in makeshift relief camps, the coalition calls on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to make a concerted effort to both accelerate the rehabilitation of these families into locations where they can safely shelter in place and buy the needed supplies to prevent infection.

Given the desperate and late hour that India is beginning its battle against Coronavirus we demand that those in power should do everything possible to bring the nation together instead of engaging in repressive measures.