Statement on violence at Hindu nationalist conference

Photograph taken by Skanda Kadirgamar, a freelance journalist based in New York, New York.

Chicago South Asians for Justice is a coalition resisting the rise of global fascism in the United States, India, and worldwide. Last night, we staged a peaceful disruption of the World Hindu Congress (WHC), an event that celebrated speakers like Mohan Bhagwat, the chair of the Indian right-wing, militant group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), now ascendant in Indian politics. We were viciously attacked by conference attendees. They choked, kicked, and spat on us. Photos and videos do not capture the ferocity of violence we experienced. The crowd’s reaction tore the mask off the fascism underlying the Congress and the Hindutva ideology.

We are young people, mostly women and mostly South Asian. We follow the leadership of marginalized communities who have suffered the brunt of persecution of the Hindutva movement.

The WHC is an international body that aims to promote Hindu supremacy in India and across the globe. WHC masks itself as a non-violent moderate organization, simply interested in promoting Hindu values. WHC intentionally obscures its militant, religious fundamentalist principles and ties online, but during the conference, WHC speakers reiterated their disturbing political philosophy, which includes militarist and eugenist overtones and messages of intolerance. More than anything, their brutal actions in response to our peaceful dissent demonstrate how dangerous they truly are.

The ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the political wing of the RSS. There are clear linkages between the right-wing Hindu nationalist party and the tyranny of Hindu fascists. BJP politicians, including Prime Minister Modi, have given license to mobs and vigilantes to terrorize religious and social minorities at their whim.

We thank IL State Senator-elect Ram Villivalam and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar for declining their invitations to the WHC, denouncing the event, and issuing statements of solidarity with our protest.

The World Hindu Congress is a part of a growing global fascism. We are horrified that they posed as a mainstream religious group, allowed attendees to assault us during peaceful protest, and brought the threat of global militant fascism close to our homes. We resolve to remain a part of the left resistance.

Chicago South Asians for Justice issues the following demands:

  • We demand that US Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-08), who attended and spoke at the WHC, issue a statement denouncing the event and the violence that took place;
  • We demand that Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar act on his stated opposition to state violence and oppose Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed Cop Academy in Chicago; and,
  • We demand that World Hindu Congress organizers, sponsors, attendees,, and speakers denounce the past and present violence of Hindutva organizations.

Testimonies from Chicago South Asians for Justice Protesters:

(We spent a long time deciding whether to include our names alongside our testimonies, and ultimately decided against it in order to protect ourselves against imminent backlash from people who would like to attack, hurt, and even possibly kill us. We wanted to reiterate however, that many of us are from Hindu families with caste privilege who recognize and reject Hindutva’s militant nationalism.)

“As a US citizen and person with caste and religious privilege, I put my body on the line as an expression of solidarity with people whose immigration status, race, caste, religious beliefs or other identities put them at risk of violence every single day. Facing angry mobs and arrested for peaceful protest is not something to be glamorized. The increasing normalization of fascism is a disturbing reality and demands attention.”

“I was among those attacked by attendees of the World Hindu Congress last night. We peacefully stood and chanted anti-fascist messages once the evening program finished. I stood with one other protester. We were pushed into our seats and surrounded by a hoard of screaming men. I was punched in the face, kicked in the back, and grabbed. They called me a ‘dirty Muslim’ and threatened death. When I was outside in handcuffs, a man walked up to me and spat in my face in front of the police. He was arrested for battery. World Hindu Congress attendees were 1000 strong. We were six young people. The crowd’s reaction exposed the intense and dangerous ideology underlying the World Hindu Congress and Hindutva.”

“The violent fascism of the conference burst to the surface when we stood up on our chairs to chant from opposite sides of the room. One person flipped the chair from under me to push me over. Another threw chairs at me. Someone actually started to choke me, and one of the other protestors had to get them off of me. Even when disrupting Donald Trump rallies, I’ve never had anyone put their hands on me like that, or respond with so much aggression, pushing, and obscenities. I can’t imagine how bad it would have gotten if there were not press cameras. It was a terrifying glimpse into the immense brutality that marginalized folks in India experience and are under constant threat of.”

“I have felt less safe in the US than ever amid this rising hate against minority and immigrant communities. I see the same violence occurring in India. As a religious and racial minority in the United States, I stand with Dalits, Muslims, and other marginalized communities abroad. I believe Indian and Hindu Americans, who experience white supremacy, are obligated to stand against the hate of Hindu Supremacy. The violence we experienced last night only reinforced that the World Hindu Congress represents fascist ideology that needs to be challenged by a global leftist movement.”

“It’s important for us to see the connections of global fascism and it’s critical to join the movement rising against it. As a Filipinx American and immigrant and gender justice organizer, I joined others last night to disrupt systemic and state violence from the U.S. to India to the Philippines, and global fascism everywhere.”

”The World Hindu Congress is part of an effort by the global right to legitimize its ethnic chauvinism and fascist tendencies. Whether it be in the U.S., in my native Colombia, or anywhere else in the world, tactics designed to divide and plunder us all cannot go unchallenged. I protested as a way of supporting those in India who are fighting against the Modi government’s regressive policies. We should all see ourselves as citizens of the world. I do and acted accordingly in helping it be known that the RSS is not welcome to spread its toxic ideology here.”

Watch a video from the disruption here.

If you would like to support Chicago South Asians for Justice you can make a donation here.

For more information on Chicago South Asians for Justice and their work contact: chisa4justice@gmail.com

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