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

Car rally taken out against state violence and repression of minorities in India Featured

 

On the birth anniversary of a towering social justice activist and an architect of the Indian constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, members and supporters of Indians Abroad (IAPI) for Pluralist India took out a car rally outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 14.

Ambedkar was born in a so called untouchable family, and faced caste-based discrimination in the orthodox Hindu society.

Despite many challenges, he grew up as a scholar who co-authored the Indian constitution that guarantees democracy and secularism and protects the freedom of religious minorities.

However, under a right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have sharply grown since 2014, when the party came to power with a brute majority.  The BJP aspires to turn India into Hindu theocracy and rewrite the constitution. 

Presently, under the garb of COVID 19 lockdown, minorities are being targeted aggressively by the police, while political dissidents are either being arrested or forced to remain in jail,  in spite of health concerns because of the global pandemic.  

Ironically, the Indian government has arrested the grandson-in law of Ambedkar on such an auspicious occasion. 

Anand Teltumbde is a well-known activist who is married to the granddaughter of Ambedkar.

He was forced to surrender under motivated charges for merely questioning the power through his critical writings. Demands for a delay in his arrest due to COVID 19 were ignored by the courts. This has outraged many within the Indian Diaspora. On one hand, the Prime Minister and the President paid tributes to Ambedkar, while on the other Teltumbde was sent into police custody. 

The Indian government has refused to release other political prisoners on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, including disabled Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba, who was also thrown in jail for raising his voice for the oppressed communities. 

In the meantime, Muslims and Sikhs continue to be demonized. The right wing media has been trying to portray them as spreaders of COVID 19, citing huge gatherings in their religious places, even as Hindus and BJP leaders too had several big congregations during the past several days. 

The IAPI had deliberately planned to take out a car rally to ensure physical distancing in the light of guidelines against gatherings of more than 50 people and for keeping a distance of two meters. 

Each car had a single occupant, except one in which the driver had his son as a co-passenger.

The fleet of cars bearing posters and signs asking for the release of all political prisoners, including Teltumbde and Saibaba, and to stop violence against minorities, halted outside the consulate briefly and left. No speeches were made and public address system was avoided on purpose.

Among those who joined the rally were IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, and Spokesman Gurpreet Singh, besides progressive Punjabi poet Amrit Diwana, Sikh activist Kulwinder Singh and a peace educator Susan Ruzic.

Two dedicated IAPI members Sandeep Modgil and Tejinder Sharma also participated.

IAPI was formed in response to attacks on religious minorities and political opponents in India under the current regime.

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