Protest calls out growing fascism in India & Hindu supremacist groups in Canada

Aug 23, 2023

Protest calls out growing fascism in India & Hindu supremacist groups in Canada

The demonstration organized by 20+ groups took place in Ottawa

Protesters from the Montreal and Toronto areas joined locals in Ottawa for a protest on Sunday, August 20th, in Canada’s capital city as part of an ongoing grassroots effort to bring attention to human rights violations in India and resist the rise of Hindutva – or Hindu supremacist – ideology in Canada.  

The protest was supported by twenty organizations, and the accompanying letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was signed by over eighty.

The groups protesting have been ringing the alarm that India is becoming an increasingly fascist state under the Hindu ultra-nationalist government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The protestors support “a pluralistic, multifaith, multiethnic vision of India,” according to a statement. 

"This rally is more than a demonstration; it's a resolute stand for the rights and dignity of minority communities both in India and Canada. The threat of Hindutva extremism and erosion of democratic principles demand our attention. Today, we've united under shared human rights values and declare that we will not be silent spectators to fascist forces that seek to divide and oppress the most vulnerable," said Taha Ghayyur, Executive Director of Justice For All Canada.

The march started at the Human Rights Monument and headed to Parliament Hill then across the street to the Prime Minister’s Office to symbolically deliver the joint letter. The letter describes the fascist drive in India: 

“The [Bharatiya Janata Party] BJP’s discriminatory agenda, as highlighted in the latest country report by Human Rights Watch, is profoundly troubling and starkly contrasts the human rights principles that Canada had pledged when announcing the Indo-Pacific Strategy Agreement. This discriminatory agenda finds its roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationalist paramilitary organization founded in 1925, which serves as the ideological parent of the BJP. The RSS promotes the notion of a Hindu nation, viewing Hindus as the sole ‘true’ Indians and propagating an exclusionary ideology that marginalizes religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Sikhs, and Adivasi Indigenous peoples. This ideology, called ‘Hindutva’, treats non-Hindus, particularly India’s 220 million Muslims, as outsiders who must be monitored, deprived of rights, and even expelled or eliminated.” 

The letter then makes numerous demands, including that Canada acknowledge and condemn human rights abuses in India, especially in the state of Manipur and other regions; work human rights scrutiny into trade agreements such as the Indo-Pacific Strategy; investigate and monitor RSS-linked groups in Canada such as SEWA Canada and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh which have charitable tax status despite their ties to the paramilitary RSS; and look into potential election meddling in Canada by the RSS. “To date, these grave human rights concerns have not been publicly addressed in Canada’s diplomatic and trade relations with the BJP government,” the letter states.

The government department Foreign Affairs Canada previously responded to the letter in a vague statement saying Canada promotes human rights, shares with India “a common commitment to a rules-based international system” and will continue to engage with India on a number of issues, including human rights.

Denis Kossem, Co-President of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), spoke at the protest. "The India-Israel alliance is an alliance of institutionalized racism; both states use the alibi of security as justification for their respective illegal occupation. The parallels between the occupation of Kashmir and the occupation of Palestine are glaringly obvious. Both occupations are illegal, not to mention morally reprehensible and politically untenable. PAJU stands in solidarity against Hindutva nationalism and supports Kashmiri sovereignty. Western countries look on in complicit silence. Canada, shamefully, is one of them." 

Recent scholarship and writing delve further into this topic, such as the Jewish Current article “The Hindu Nationalists Using the Pro-Israel Playbook” and Azad Essa’s book Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel from Pluto Press. 

Meanwhile, Hindutva groups are going on the offensive in Canada, launching a petition to have critiques of their Hindu supremacist ideology seen legally as a critique of the religion Hinduism and so considered Hinduphobia and subject to anti-hate laws.

The article was amended at on August 26, 2023 to correct "Bruce Katz" to "Denis Kossem."

Creative Commons Licence