The Washington Protest Against Fascism in India: Why It Is Necessary
By El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Sunday, January 26, protest rally
This coming Sunday, January 26, a large protest rally is expected to unfold in the nation’s capitol. The objective: to bring attention to the ongoing politically motivated, anti-Muslim human rights violations taking place in India. The mobilization is being billed as the “Washington DC Rally to Protect the Indian Constitution from FASCISM!” (Supporters of the rally will assemble at The Ellipse, SW Quadrant, at 10:30 am. At 12 noon a march will begin to the Indian Embassy.)
When my friend, and brother-in-Islam, Dr. Khan called and asked if I could assist this effort, without hesitation I responded in the affirmative. The communal violence of extremists in India is well known. Among the most memorable tragedies are the Calcutta massacres of 1946; Bihar and Garmukhteshwar in 1946 (after the Noakhali riot in East Bengal); the massacre in Jammu in 1947; the 1948 pogrom following Operation Polo in Hyderabad; the anti-Muslim “communal riots” in Kolkata in the aftermath of the1950 Barisal Riots; the 1964 East-Pakistan riots; the Nellie massacre of 1983; the1984 Bhiwandi riot;1985 Gujarat riots;1989 Bhagalpur riots; the Bombay/Mumbai riots of 1992-93 (following the destruction of the Babri Masjid); Gujarat riot in 2002; and the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
While exact numbers are not known, thousands have been killed in Hindu-Muslim communal violence over the past decades (following the partition of India in 1947). Studies suggest between 1968 and 1980 alone, 530 Hindus and 1,598 Muslims were killed in a total of 3,949 instances of mass violence. Many scholars opine that a large part of India’s anti-Muslim violence is politically motivated; part of an electoral strategy of Hindu nationalist political parties.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi & the Bharatiya Janata Party
In the past year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have taken India’s anti-Muslim political violence to another level, starting with Kashmir, a beautiful South Asian territory which has been the center of a dispute between India, Pakistan and China since the better part of the last century. The tragedy of Occupied Kashmir began around the same time as the tragedy of Occupied Palestine…part of the bitter fruit of Britain’s post-colonial manipulations.
Modi’s government was already feeling pressure from the significant unrest, and mounting international criticism, resulting from its decision to revoke Article 370 of India’s Constitution (which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir). The weight of this rising pressure was evidenced by Modi’s decision to send an envoy to a well-known daiyee, Indian-born Dr. Zakir Naik (who identifies as a Non-Resident Indian), with an offer of safe passage to India, coupled with an olive branch to settle past differences. All the shaykh had to do was agree to support the BJP government’s Kashmir policy. To his credit Zakir Naik refused.
In a video message on the controversy, Dr. Naik stated: “Revoking Article 370 is unconstitutional, and it is taking away the rights of the people of Kashmir. I cannot support an act of injustice, and neither can I betray the people of Kashmir.” He reportedly then received a counteroffer that would permit him to criticize any agencies within the Indian government, as long as he did not criticize Narendra Modi or the BJP. Again Dr. Naik politely declined. All of this indicates, in my humble opinion, that the BJP government, and all of its component parts, are feeling the heat.
Citizen Amendment Act (CAA)
This brings us to the CAA, CAB, NRC protests that have spread across India. At the heart of the protests, as I understand it, is the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) which was enacted into law on December 12, 2019. This “law,” fully enacted, will effectively strip tens of millions of Indian Muslims of their citizenship status. By pushing a stridently arrogant anti-Muslim agenda, first in Kashmir and now in India, the Hindu nationalist extremists of India may have awakened a sleeping tiger. With that said, I think it fitting to conclude on an optimistic note.
Arundhati Roy (a gifted Indian non-Muslim writer who I have enormous respect for), in a May 2019 interview made the following observation:
“Actually, this whole Hindutva project, it’s trying to carve out a political majority from a society that doesn’t have a majority. Every Indian is actually a member of a minority in some way – caste or ethnicity, or religion, or language. Every one of us is actually a minority; and so you try to make a majority; and the inclusion, as well as the exclusion results in a great deal of violence.”
This insightful observation underscores the opportunity Indian Muslims have to be a healing and unifying force in this hour of intense darkness in South Asia. How? By internalizing and actualizing the message of Islam, in response to these institutionalized injustices. By standing up unapologetically as committed Muslims for justice – while taking to heart the Quranic admonition, “Do not allow the hatred of others to cause you to be unjust” – our example becomes the most powerful weapon for resistance and reconciliation.
May ALLAH bless us to see that day soon. Until then, the struggle must continue.
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan is a DMV-based human rights advocate, who serves as Director of Operations for The Aafia Foundation, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.