"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Rally against attack on Agnivesh held in Surrey Featured

 

South Asian activists came together at Holland Park in Surrey on Sunday evening to raise their voices against the recent attack on Swami Agnivesh in India by Hindu extremists.

Agnivesh is a well known Hindu reformist and a social justice activist. He has been very vocal against sectarian politics of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India. He is a staunch critic of superstition and repression of minorities and marginalized sections of the society under the BJP government that wants to turn India into a Hindu theocracy. Organized by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the rally was attended by people from diverse backgrounds. The speakers unanimously condemned the attack on Agnivesh and expressed their solidarity with the secularists who are being frequently targeted by the supporters of BJP. 

An associate of Aginvesh, Acharya S.P. Dwivedi – who is a Hindu preacher himself - was among the speakers. He noted that the assault was an attempt to suppress the voice of reason.

The event was started with a poem dedicated to Gauri Lankesh, a progressive journalist who was murdered last year by suspected Hindu extremists.  The poet Amrit Diwana said that the attack on Agnivesh cannot be seen in isolation as it involves similar forces that earlier assassinated Lankesh and other rationalist thinkers.

The cofounder of IAPI, Gurpreet Singh, clarified that the mandate of IAPI isn’t just confined to opposing the BJP; it is also critical of the opposition Congress which has also played the politics of majoritarianism under the garb of secularism. Nevertheless, the organizers also condemned the attack on the office of a senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor for cautioning against the attempts to turn India into a Hindu state by the BJP government. 

Others who spoke on the occasion were Muslim activists Sayed Wajahat and Imtiaz Popat, Dalit activists Roop Lal Gaddu and Rashpal Singh Bhardawaj, rationalist activists, Harjeet Daudhria, Avtar Gill, Parminder Kaur Swaich and Bhupinder Malhi and well known Sikh broadcaster Harpreet Singh, who is running for the next federal election. Though Singh is a Conservative candidate, he stopped by to show his solidarity, whereas South Asian elected officials remained absent from the rally. So much so, most South Asian media outlets ignored the rally, even though representatives of several known media channels were present at the Fusion festival in the same park. 

The demonstration coincided with the first anniversary of IAPI, which was formed last year in response to growing attacks on religious minorities in India under the BJP government.

The participants carried posters of Agnivesh that read; “An injury to one is an injury to all.” They also raised slogans against the BJP government. The event concluded with a song, “We shall overcome” by Imtiaz Popat.

 

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