How Can Americans Stand Up Against Fascism in India?
Speech in Michigan mosque: “We can speak — and we must speak”
On 12 October, I was humbled by the opportunity to speak in a Michigan mosque about the current situation in India and what we, living in the US, can do about it. Here’s what I said:
I’m here tonight because your brothers and sisters, your Muslim brothers and sisters in India — your Muslim brothers and sisters across India — are facing extreme persecution on a level that’s unprecedented for the past several decades.
I won’t keep you long, but for one example: just last week, in the state of Chhattisgarh, there was a mob of hundreds of Hindu nationalists linked to an organization — a fascist paramilitary known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the RSS). This mob was marching through the streets of Chhattisgarh, rampaging, attacking Muslim homes and businesses while led by a member of the ruling party who sits in Parliament as well as by the son of the former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. And they were chanting something along the lines of “Muslims will say the name of Ram when they are cut to pieces.”
Now, I’m here also because it’s not just your Muslim brothers and sisters in India who are facing extreme persecution, but it’s also my Christian brothers and sisters in India who are facing extreme persecution, which has been going on for several years, especially since the Modi regime in India came to power in 2014, but which has ramped up intensely, especially over the past couple weeks, the past month. In particular, there have been churches that have been invaded by mobs — again, of hundreds of Hindu nationalists attacking the worshippers in those churches, dragging them out. There have been pastors, believers who have been killed. There are Christians who are being intimidated, harassed, all across India.
But these Christians and these Muslims who are being assailed, persecuted, oppressed by the same fascist force — the RSS, this paramilitary, which is a massive force which is the power behind the throne of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP — this fascist force is not just attacking Christians and Muslims. It’s also attacking Sikhs, and Dalits, and it’s attacking even Hindus — any Hindu, or anyone who’s even not a believer, of no religion whatsoever, who dissents against the government. It seeks to completely turn India into a totalitarian dictatorship, where there is no freedom of religion, no freedom of any kind for anyone whatsoever. Where there is no democracy left.
And so that’s why I’m here to speak with you. I’m here to stand and speak with you in solidarity, as a Christian, because my community is being persecuted in India just as yours is. And I’m also here to briefly mention that there is something we can do about it. There’s something I’m trying to do about it.
That’s why I’m here in Michigan, actually. I’m not from Michigan. I’m from California. That’s where I was born, that’s where I’ve lived for most of my life. But here, literally on the other side of the world from India, there is action that we can take — and that we must take — in order to stand up for those people who are being persecuted in India.
And why India? Well, India is on the verge of becoming a fascist nation. It has fallen to fascism. But it is the largest nation in the world, second to China. However China — everyone in the world knows China is a totalitarian nation already. Most people in the world think that India is still a democracy. India is now a failed democracy. It has fallen to fascism.
So why India? Because the way India goes is the way South Asia goes, and the way South Asia goes is the way much of the rest of the world goes, and that’s going to affect us on a global scale.
But what can we do? That’s why I’m here in Michigan. I’m here with Masood bhai. I’m here with Shujat bhai. I’m here with a couple of others. I’m here with a Hindu sister. We have been spending the past several days working. In particular, last night. Last night, we went to the City of Troy — the Troy City Council — and we spoke to them.
Why did we go there?
We went there because this paramilitary, fascist organization, the RSS, is not just confined to the boundaries of India. It has an international wing called the HSS — the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. The HSS provides a huge base of support for the RSS regime in India. It serves as a propaganda mouthpiece, internationally, to whitewash what is happening in India, to distract attention from what is happening in India. And just two weeks ago the City of Troy platformed and praised the local branch of the HSS.
Yes, I say the local branch. The HSS has approximately 250 branches throughout the United States, and it has — a half-a-dozen or so of those are, I believe, here in Michigan. If not more. We’re in Canton. There’s a branch in Canton.
So, after this happened with Troy City Council, we went to them and we explained to them what the HSS is, what the RSS is, and we appealed to them to use, exercise greater discretion about whom they platform, and about who they associate with, and we explained to them that their platforming of the HSS had sent a chilling message to Indian minorities here living in the Detroit Metro area. And they listened to us.
They listened to us because there were approximately 20 Indian-Americans present there to amplify the message.
And then tonight, we just came from speaking at another city council — or township council. We spoke, tonight, at Canton Township. And we spoke at Canton Township not because Canton Township has associated with the HSS yet, but there is an HSS branch here in Canton. So we went to preemptively inform them, educate them about the HSS, and the RSS, and about what’s happening in India under the RSS regime.
And they listened to us. And, again, they listened to us in large part because there were approximately 15 to 20 Indian-Americans there appealing to them.
So, what can I do? What can we do? What can you do?
We can speak — and we must speak, because right now in India, on the other side of the world, there are murderous mobs of Hindu nationalists rampaging through the streets calling for the genocide of Muslims, especially, but also Christians and many, many others, and they are enacting those calls.
And who do we speak to? We speak to our elected officials. And how do we think? We think globally, but we act locally. And so locally, we go to our city councils. And, believe me, the city councils, not only are they dying and desperate to hear from you, but they have to sit there and listen to you.
So, in closing, I would simply say, that I urge you to go and speak.
Go and speak to your city councils. Go and speak to your congressional representatives. Go and speak to your neighbors. Speak to them about what’s happening to your community, please, and speak to them about what’s happening to my community in India, and to other communities.