Hundreds of Indian Americans came together in cities across United States for candlelight vigils and demonstrations demanding fair and speedy trials of the accused in the now infamous Kathua and Unnao rape cases. Vigils were held over the weekend in San Jose (CA), San Diego (CA), and Ft. Lauderdale (FL), with hundreds of Indian Americans showing an outpouring of support for the rape victims. The vigils were marked with chants of “Justice for Asifa”, “Justice for Unnao”, and railed the Indian government’s failure to properly investigate the cases for several months after the crimes. In the previous weeks, similar vigils where held in several other cities including Washington D.C., New York (NY), New Jersey, Baltimore (MD), Boston (MA), Seattle (WA), Raleigh (NC) and Minneapolis (MN).
Earlier this year, Asifa, an eight-year old girl was abducted in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir state, imprisoned for a week in a temple, where she was starved, drugged and gang raped repeatedly before being murdered. According to the police charge sheet of those arrested, the rape and subsequent murder was planned and executed in order to terrorize the Bakarwal Muslim community and drive them out of the area. The attempts to file a charge sheet against the accused at a local court was repeatedly blocked and followed by violent protests in their defense by extremist groups aligned with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Two BJP ministers who attended the protests urged the crowd to obstruct the prosecution of the accused. In yet another incident from Unnao, a powerful BJP lawmaker in the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, is accused of raping a teenage girl, obstructing justice, and then conspiring with his brother to kill the girl’s father after the family filed a police report.
“Words cannot do justice to the terror that the victims of these crimes have had to suffer. The preachers of Hindutva, who are feted not punished, are responsible for an epidemic of hate inspired brutal rapes and mob lynchings. Sometimes these crimes are justified on the pretext that the victims have consumed beef or slaughtered cows. Sometimes simply being a Muslim is enough to invite violence,” said Ahsan Khan, the President of Indian American Muslim Council and one of the organizers of yesterday’s candlelight vigil in San Jose (CA).
“In the four years of Prime Minister Modi’s rule, the intimidation of religious minorities and violence against them have reached levels that have not been witnessed in the history of independent India. In both Kathua and Unnao rape case, we demand speedy trials free of all political interference as well as thorough investigations into the role of extremist outfits like Hindu Ekta Manch in spreading hate and obstructing justice,” added Khan.
Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation. For more information, please visit our website at: http://iamc.com/