Protest on foreign soil is not conspiracy against India

#NotInMyName protest in London was meant to shame BJP-RSS combine & to tell the BJP that with 31% of votes, it may claim to represent Indians but it doesn’t have consent of all for ‘their’ India

Photo courtesy: YouTube
Photo courtesy: YouTube
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Ruzbeh Hodiwala

The core message of the demonstration Not In My Name at SOAS, University of London on June 28, addressed by prominent members of the Indian Diaspora, seems to have been lost amidst the preposterous coverage of the protest by a certain news channel in India.

The channel ludicrously claimed to have exposed a conspiracy against India that was being hatched by India-baiters through the protest on foreign soil.

The channel which considers itself a ‘vociferous defender of minority rights’, further called the demonstrators a group of picnickers, India’s fiercest critics who were shaming India by taking a domestic issue to foreign soil. The demonstrators were branded as anti-nationals, a label widely used by Narendra Modi’s coterie for individuals who are opposed to the RSS-BJP brand of nationalism.

What is appalling is the fact that these ‘vociferous defenders of minority rights’ who also charged the demonstrators with maligning and desecrating the statue of Mahatma Gandhi failed to question the government’s failure to contain acts of violence against individuals belonging to religious, ethnic, political and sexual minorities in the world’s largest democracy.

At a time when Fascism in the form of nationalist and essentialist identity politics is on the rise globally, and tolerance of minorities diminishing rapidly, we need to think what would have offended Gandhiji more? Would it be a mere poster on his statue or the actions of his countrymen - actions which incite violence in the name of religion, caste, and food habits - in a nation that believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam?’

The London protest was to sensitise the international community regarding the complicity of the Indian ruling party in incidents of mob lynching, and to stand in solidarity with the victims regardless of their ethnic and religious background. As opposed to the news channel’s narrative, the demonstration was not organised to shame India but to shame the RSS-BJP combine for their deliberate attempt to communalise politics through inflammatory speeches as well as their failure to condemn the atrocities.

Dr Subir Sinha, a speaker at the protest rightly said, “The pattern of violence has been unleashed dramatically and deliberately since 2013 and the continuous abetment to these killings is provided through speeches by very prominent members of the BJP, starting with Narendra Modi’s own speech about pink revolution in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh during the run up to 2014 elections.”

The ruling party’s complicity was evident when Ravi Sisodia, the one arrested for the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq of Dadri, died in jail. A Union Minister in Modi’s Cabinet and Member of Parliament, Mahesh Sharma, along with the local BJP leader Sangeet Som, an accused in Muzaffarnagar riots case, visited Sisodia’s family to eulogise his death and drape his coffin in the National Flag.

Dr Rahul Rao described this as BJP’s unwillingness to see Muslims as citizens of the country. This is reaffirmed by the fact that for the first time a ruling party (here BJP) doesn’t have a single Muslim Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha. It is also seen in the iniquitous symbolic gesture of the Modi Cabinet to boycott the President’s Iftar party, a traditional practice during the holy month of Ramzan.

On the other hand, Narendra Modi has actively participated in religious and social festivities of various faiths. A similar decision by Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the State that has the largest Muslim population, marks the ‘otherness’ that the RSS-BJP feels towards Muslims.

A.G. Noorani, while explaining the notion of majoritarianism in India, has quoted an entry dated January 1946 from Shyama Prasad Mookerjee’s diary which states, “As seventy-five percent of the population were Hindus, if India was to adopt a democratic form of government, the Hindus would automatically play a major role in it.” The statement clearly resonates in today’s majoritarian India.

At a time when the country has been witnessing a surge in violence in the form of mob lynching since 2014, Narendra Modi claimed in the United States of America that “there has been not even one taint or blot on his government since past three years” amidst applause from the audience consisting largely of members from the Indian community.

As Kunal Purohit stated in his speech, “A protracted riot is a big headline and remains a stain but lynching becomes normalised because of the situation you create around it.” While Narendra Modi attempts to boost his image as an international statesman, there also comes international accountability regarding his apparent silence and failure to curb the increasing number of incidents of mob lynching of Dalits and minorities since his party came to power.

The Indian Diaspora which resides in countries whose parliaments and constitutions are beacons of democratic values must question the Prime Minister regarding his silence and inaction in protecting the citizens of the country, and the RSS-BJP’s complicity to turn India into a totalitarian State.

The Not in My Name protest is not about individuals facing a hostile system but about the collective victimisation of various minority groups, and the radical manipulation of the ethos on which our nation was built. Our resolve is not to allow it.

As Dr Nitasha Kaul said, “Not In My Name is a symbolic civil disobedience, where we are saying that you bear representation in our name, but you don’t have our consent.” The struggle against the bigots of India’s nationalist brigade is not of individuals but of ideologies, of ideas, of people who condemn the idea of India that is currently being disseminated in the country through perpetrated acts of violence, lynching and Internet trolls.

Dr Kalpana Wilson correctly pointed out that “We can’t simply use this notion Not in My Name to deny our responsibility for what’s going on. We must refuse a vision that makes the life of 15-year-old Junaid and other victims of mob lynching valueless and, therefore, makes them killable and disposable”.

The movement is about withdrawing consent from individuals who think that 31 per cent ballot gives them unlimited immunity to execute their idea of an alternate India.

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