Chicago: The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), an umbrella organization of progressive South Asian groups across the United States in coordination with the local community, today lauded the activists who disrupted the plenary session of the World Hindu Congress (WHC), a conclave convened by organizations aligned with the Hindu supremacist ideology that is spearheading the violation of human rights and religious freedom of minorities in India.
The event has been deeply mired in controversy since the Alliance for Justice and Accountability, along with a wide range of Indian diaspora organizations have denounced it as an attempt to mainstream Hindu fascism in the United States. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard who had initially agreed to chair the three day Congress severed all connections with the event.
On Friday evening, several young activists from Chicago South Asians for Justice raised signs and called out, "RSS Turn Around, We don't want you in Our Town," and "Stop Hindu Fascism." Some conference attendees erupted in a violent rage, spitting on the protesters, shoving them to the floor, and choking one of them. Two protesters were arrested and charged with trespass and disorderly conduct, while one conference attendee was charged with battery.
"We endured extremely violent and demeaning behavior from a bunch of self-righteous Hindutva fanatics who refuse to acknowledge their complicity in promoting and furthering fascism. Their response is indicative of their fascist mindset that brooks no dissent, and we refuse to allow it to be promulgated in our state without a fight," said one of the protesters who courted arrest.
"This is deeply significant," said Nesamani Rajamani of AJA. "These young leaders did what Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi could not, which is to speak truth to power. This courageous act confronting hate on its own ground is the first direct action against caste in the diaspora. The brave hearts made a choice as people of conscience to stand up to Hindu Fascism and Brahminsm, and we believe that as long as the RSS and the Sangh continue to go after Dalit Bahujan peoples, people of conscience will stand up and resist together," added Rajamani.
Earlier on Friday, a truck bearing billboard size messages "Boycott World Hindu Congress" drove around the Lombard area. Hindutva is the term for a politicized ideology of Hindu ethno-nationalism associated with brutal violence toward India's minority communities, particularly Dalits (those previously designated "untouchable" by the traditional caste system) and Muslims, as well as Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, and secular critics.
Some of the most virulent hatemongers of Hindutva are featured speakers at the WHC, such as RSS chief Mohan Rao Bhagwat and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, both of whom have a long public record of advancing misogyny, hate crimes and attacks on minorities, as well as assurances of impunity for its perpetrators.
On Saturday, AJA held a protest outside the conference venue, with the stated goal of "standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in India who are fighting against the #HIndutva rule and will not be silent in the face of mob lynchings, rapes, murders, and the targeting of our leaders and academics."
AJA's Ashwin Khobragade said, "Antifascists in the South Asian diaspora who care about racial and caste justice, and who disagree with the blanket criminalization of Muslims, have to be no less vigilant in standing against the VHP and RSS than we do against American neo-nazi, white supremacist, and ethno-nationalist groups. The time has come to organize, unite, and to win".
While the WHC promotes its agenda as "a global platform for Hindus" to network, inspire and strategize for "the common good," its true agenda is to advance the jaundiced view of the world espoused by the VHP of America, American branch of the India-based Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP); the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, American branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was founded under the inspiration of Nazism; and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). These groups are also affiliated with the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under whose rule since 2014 there have been over a hundred lynchings of Dalits, adivasis and Muslims, often using the dog whistle of "cow protection."
Calling for a boycott of the event, AJA engaged in outreach to a number of US politicians including Tulsi Gabbard, Ash Kalra, Jay Chaudhuri and Raja Krishnamoorthy, who had initially been slated to participate under the guise of cultural pluralism and interfaith harmony. After learning of the partisan and extremist nature of the event, Gabbard, Kalra and Chaudhuri severed their connections with it. In a separate development, The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago condemned the appearance of fascists speakers at the conference.
Krishnamoorthi did attend, chairing a panel on political leadership, but indicated that he wishes to hold a meeting with Muslim groups in his constituency who have expressed their deep objections to his support for anti-Muslim activities in India. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) has issued a statement taking Krishnamoorthi to task for sharing a platform with RSS ideologues and rescinding their offer to him to speak at their Congressional Briefing on hate violence and post-9/11 policies.
AJA has launched a twitter campaign #StopHinduFascism, to shed light on the violence and demand accountability from speakers and sponsors of the event. The impact of the twitterstorm awoke many Americans to the rising issues of #HinduFascism in the world.
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