The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy organization dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, participated yesterday in events across the nation marking the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, including celebrations in Dallas and Chicago. The birth anniversary, commonly referred to as Gandhi Jayanti, is a homage to the life and legacy of one of modern history’s most iconic human rights defenders.
The celebrations saw participation by hundreds of people, and included food and other festivities. In Dallas, around 200 attendees listened to speeches by IAMC National executives, chapter leaders, youth volunteers, as well as from the Mayor of the City of Kennedale, Brian Johnson. The Dallas event included performances of patriotic songs on India as well as poems honoring Mahatma Gandhi. IAMC chapter president Yusuf Dadani also introduced the IAMC Dallas team to the community.
“[Today’s celebration] was an excellent outdoor event on a beautiful day that pulled the community together,” said Noor Baig, Vice President of IAMC Dallas. “We had a great turnout with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
“As we [gather] here today, we have to be vigilant,” said Mayor Johnson, referring to the rise of nationalistic movements in Europe, the United States, and India. “What authoritarian governments tend to do is take people that are different and make them the enemy. They make them the outsiders. And we have to unite – if we stay silent, then this is going to continue to grow.”
Throughout his life, Gandhi consistently advocated for Hindu-Muslim unity and the preservation of a pluralistic and secular India. By contrast, the Hindutva movement seeks to transform India, a constitutionally secular state, into an ethno-religious “Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation).” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has himself been a member of the RSS since the age of eight, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an affiliate subsidiary of the RSS.
Syed Ali, President of IAMC stated in his remarks, “Mahatma Gandhi and non-violence are synonymous. During India’s struggle for independence from British rule, Gandhi taught the world how to stand up for one’s rights and achieve victory over a formidable enemy without resorting to violence.” He also reiterated that in India today, “the values that Gandhi stood for – namely, peace, pluralism, social justice, and equality for all citizens – are being undermined and threatened by an ideology that was responsible for his assassination and one that is aiming to subvert India’s constitution.”
Less than six months after India’s Independence, Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a fanatic Hindu nationalist and a staunch supporter of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who believed that Gandhi’s efforts to bring peace between Hindus and Muslims were detrimental to the goals of Hindutva, the supremacist ideology that is driving much of the religious persecution and mass violence against minorities in India. Modi has paid the usual perfunctory tribute to Gandhi. In a telling sign of how far India has gone down the path of fascism, it was Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse who was trending on Twitter.
IAMC has reaffirmed its commitment to the values Gandhi upheld and laid down his life for: the values of peace, pluralism, justice, equality, and unity among all Indians.