Montrealers join international protests to sound alarm as India follows same path as 1930s Germany
"The world’s largest democracy has become the personal fiefdom of Hindu ethno nationalists, where majoritarian tyranny prevails," according to the opening comments at a recent protest held in Montreal.
Community members from the South Asian Diaspora held a protest in Montreal on June 30 to sound the alarm that the so-called largest democracy in the world is being dismantled. Organized by SADAC (South Asian Diaspora Action Collective) & Ceras (South Asia Forum), the action was joining others in India and around the world.
"The state is going after those they see as standing in their way. The judiciary follows the whims of the ruling far-right wing party, BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)," continued Chido*, one of the speakers.
In India, state violence and fear are deployed against dissenting voices. In a classic tactic employed by authoritarian regimes, those working to uphold democracy and the rule of law are accused of terrorism, inciting inter-religious group violence, and anti-national activities, and then imprisoned.
The same day as the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, India’s Supreme Court also issued a most controversial judgment, giving an unprecedented greenlight for the arrest of two human rights defenders, who were picked up by the anti-terrorism squad within 24 hours of that decision. Teesta Setalvad, renowned human rights activist and advocate for justice of minorities was arrested without warrant.
The other person arrested was R.B. Sreekumar, former Director General of Police in Gujarat, because he had testified in proceedings related to the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, against then Chief Minister of that state, Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister of India.
Soon after, on June 27, journalist Mohammed Zubair of AltNews, a fact-checking website, was arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiments, code in India for inciting violence between Hindus and Muslims. Meanwhile those who he was reporting on, who openly called for genocide of Muslims enjoy impunity.
Starting in December 2021, the Hindutva right-wing, fascist elements in India, have openly and publicly called for the genocide of Muslims. This call was in Haridwar, at the Dharma Sansad ("Hindu Parliament"), and at similar mass gatherings elsewhere in India.
"In short, India is like Germany of the 1930s", said one of the Montreal protest organizers.
"The state goes after those they see as standing in their way," proclaimed one of the protest participants. "Those who take action or those who are simply trying to survive – old, young, Dalit, Muslim, poor, elite. Arrest, lynching, house demolition, assassination, terror and intimidation are everyday occurrences, generating fear and misery."
TIME reported an SOS statement by another Muslim activist, Afreen Fatima, from Allahabad, whose house was bulldozed recently. The statement said in part, "There's real existential threat to the Indian Muslim community: more than 200 million people."
"The message here is also that Muslims are targeted and those who support them, like Teesta Setalvad and Sreekumar, are also targeted and arrested," said another participant. "We call on the Canadian government to hold the Modi government accountable."
The protest denounced the Emergency-style arrests, the injustice, widespread violence and discrimination against Muslims, Dalits and other minorities, and called on the Canadian government to join other prominent voices across the globe in demanding the release of all political prisoners in India.