The NYC “Defense of Democracy” rally brought together the rich diversity of the Indian Diaspora in the United States – scientists and engineers, service workers and computer professionals, artists and doctors, Hindus, Sikhs, Dalits and Muslims, policymakers, activists, left and liberal intellectuals and community leaders.
Commenting on the lynchings and targeted attacks on Muslims and Dalits that have increased exponentially since the coming to power of Narendra Modi in 2014, Sarah Anderson-Rajarigam of Dalit Solidarity Forum, one of the co-sponsors of the rally said, “Dalit Solidarity Forum deplores the heavy targeting of Dalits and other marginalized communities. We unite our voices with Dalits and other minorities in their fight for freedom and support them in their efforts to uphold the constitution”. Out of all the mob-lynching incidents by so-called ‘cow-protection’ mobs since 2010, 97% have taken place between 2014 and 2018.
Coalition for the Defense of the Constitution and Democracy (CDCD) have in their press release have stated that the BJP government has responsible for systematic erosion and weakening of democratic values and institutions. It has been attacking and weakening constitutional bodies such as the Election Commission, Supreme Court, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The CBI and Income Tax department have also been used to intimidate media organizations critical of the BJP government.
Sunita Viswanath of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, said, “We are Americans of Hindu faith, many of us Indian, who stand opposed to the ideology of Hindutva and the atrocities against minorities and dissenters being committed in the name of Hinduism. We stand with all the people of India who are calling for an end to this regime that threatens democracy, disregards the dignity and safety of minorities, and has declared war on the poor.”
The BJP has significantly increased corruption and corporate plunder. To distract people from its record of failed governance, the BJP has increased war mongering and is busy dividing the people along communal lines. When Muslims, Dalits, and the Left have resisted or spoken up against the injustice, they have either been imprisoned using draconian laws such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Adivasi (indigenous) people and landless laborers, who have been fighting for land and forest rights, have been arrested and harassed. Workers, who have been struggling against the government’s increased privatization and casualization of work, have been fired or put in prison. With the emboldening of patriarchal forces, in many instances, the attacks on women’s rights and safety have been led by BJP ministers and leaders.
Mohammad Jawad, National General Secretary of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), speaking on why IAMC has joined the rally said, “The people of India will eventually recognize the divisive and hatred the current BJP/RSS government is spreading and will unite to preserve our constitution and defeat this government.”
The protestors at the Defense of Democracy rally held placards and shouted slogans such as:
· Ensure Free and Fair Elections! Election Commission must guarantee election free of violence, intimidation, and rigging
· Stop the witch-hunt! Release all UAPA arrestees and drop all charges
· Stop the lynchings of Dalits and Muslims! Arrest and prosecute the perpetrators
· Stop culture of fear! End the attacks and intimidation of activists, artists, workers and women
The demonstration was held in front of the Indian consulate, New York.