On August 18, the South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) along with seven organisations representing the dalit community in United Kingdom organised a protest demonstration titled ‘This is not the democracy India fought for’ in the Parliament Square in London.
The demonstration saw the participation of hundreds of members of the Indian diaspora in UK, who had gathered to express their anger against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to abrogate the Article 370 granting special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the ongoing lockdown, mass arrests and human rights violations in Kashmir.
The protest was also against “the state-sponsored epidemic of mob lynchings of minorities, the escalating persecution of dalits, including the recent demolition of the Guru Ravidass temple in Delhi, the protection and promotion of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leaders and associates who are rapists, the mass detentions and threatened deportations under the NRC (National Register for Citizenship), the silencing of all forms of dissent, and the draconian amendments to the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” stated the press release issued by the SASG.
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The press release further stated that 72 years after India achieved independence from the clutches of British colonialism, “the Indian Constitution is being torn up by the ruling Hindu-supremacist government of the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The violence of fascism has engulfed India and dictates the policies of the government.”
It added, “We salute those who are courageously standing up to the fascist forces in power in India, people’s movements of peasants, workers, students, dalits, adivasis, women, journalists, human rights lawyers and the Left, all of whom are risking their lives to resist Modi’s fascist regime.”
The event was attended by Tim Dawson, Convenor, International Federation of Journalists; Taranjit Chana of the GMB union; Kashmiri students studying in the UK; Akashi Bhatt, daughter of imprisoned whistleblower and former police officer Sanjiv Bhatt; and representatives of the Labour Party, as well as speakers from the organising groups South Asia Solidarity Group; CasteWatch UK, the biggest dalit organisation in UK; and Together 4 Good, an organisation which investigates hate crimes. Rajratna Ambedkar, national president of the Buddhist society of India and the great-grandson of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar – who was the architect of the Constitution of India – also participated in the protest demonstration.
Talking about the total lockdown in Kashmir, Tim Dawson said that, “when repressive regimes seek to deny their citizens human rights they lock out the press.”
According to the press release, Satpal Muman of CasteWatch UK, said, “We are outraged and shocked by the events unfolding in India today. The BJP regime has unleashed a tyranny of the majority in the guise of Hindu Nationalism. This, however is not nationalism at all since it endangers the lives of citizens of the nation.”
Talking about the attempts of the right wing forces to encourage Islamophobic sentiments in the UK, Nirmala Rajasingam of SASG said, “The overseas wings of the BJP and RSS are seeking to whip up Islamophobia and intensify caste discrimination in the Indian communities in this country while at the same time, fundraising for Hindu supremacist violence, glorifying Modi and spreading fake news about his achievements. They have the support of the Conservative Party and have managed to scupper a law banning caste discrimination which had been passed by the previous Labour government. The struggle against them has become more intense with the possibility of Brexit looming and Britain looking to India for trade deals. The recent appointment of Priti Patel, a supporter of the RSS and an ardent admirer of Narendra Modi as UK Home Secretary has further strengthened the forces of Hindu-supremacist fascism in Britain.”
The press release also highlighted the rise of incidents of violence against minorities and dalits in India, especially in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat where mob lynchings and hate crimes against dalits have become common. The recent demolition of a 15th century temple in Delhi which had “deep spiritual significance for the Ravidassia community, by a local authority controlled by the BJP highlights the right-wing party’s anti-dalit agenda of murder and rape an continuing marginalisation of dalits.”
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Raising concerns about the gradual eroding of constitutional rights, the release stated, “We are also concerned that having abrogated Articles 370 and 35A 'because they were temporary', reservations and other rights of dalit communities will also be revoked since they are also being regarded as interim measures.”