On 15th August, a wide range of organisations and individuals took part in a torchlight silent march in London to protest against the epidemic of RSS-backed mob lynchings of Muslims, Dalits and Christians in India. The march, which began at the Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square to the Indian High Commission, was organised by South Asia Solidarity Group, and all the major Dalit organisations in Britain (Caste watch UK, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK, Voice of Dalit International (VODI)) along with other progressive South Asian groups such as SOAS India Society, Together 4 Good, and Tamil Solidarity.
Marching behind a banner which read ‘Resist The Republic of Fear: Stop Mob Lynchings in India’, the protestors held up huge placards bearing the photographs of those who have been brutally killed, including those of 16 year old Junaid (lynched in Ballabhgarh, Haryana), CPI(ML) activist Zafar Hussein (lynched in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan), 15 year old Swapnil Sonawane (lynched in Thane, Mumbai), Maan Devi (lynched in Agra, UP), Laljibhai Sarvaiya (Ankolali, Gujarat), Pastor Sultan Masih (murdered in Ludhiana, Punjab), Otera Bibi (lynched in Murshidabad, West Bengal) Pehlu Khan (lynched in Alwar, Rajasthan), and Mohammad Akhlaque (lynched in Dadri, UP).
Another banner read ‘We Will Never Forget – Gujarat genocide 2002: Modi’s crimes against humanity’. The protestors also referred to the recent deaths of nearly 70 young children in a government hospital in Yogi Adityanath’s longstanding constituency with placards reading ‘70 Babies Die Without Oxygen – Modi and Yogi Say: “Let’s Celebrate!”’ and calling for Yogi to resign.
The marchers were silent but were accompanied by Tamil drummers who performed funeral drumming – a Dalit tradition – to honour the victims of lynch mobs. This added to the impact of the march as it made its way to the Indian High Commission, stopping the traffic in Central London during the busy rush hour. On reaching the High Commission, the protestors broke their silence, vigorously shouting slogans including, ‘Modi, Yogi, Shame, shame, no more killings in our name’ and ‘Modi, Modi, you can’t hide – you committed genocide!’.
The organising groups also released an open letter to the President of India which stated that they were ‘extremely distressed and concerned that during the last three years, India has become a country where Hindu supremacist gangs can lynch and rape freely and without any fear of punishment, where children, women and men are brutally killed for what they eat, who they love and simply for who they are. On this 70th anniversary of independence, India has become a Republic of Fear where justice, democracy and the basic right to life lie in tatters, and the Constitution of Dr Ambedkar is violated daily with the government’s blessing. The fact that Prime Minister Modi, and those closest to him, have refused to condemn these incidents and focused instead on targeting any dissent as ‘anti-national’ and on whipping up exclusionary and violent Hindu nationalism is further cause for deep concern about India’s future. PM Modi’s highly Islamophobic comments about retiring Vice-President Hamid Ansari, after he dared to suggest that Muslims felt increasingly insecure in India, are just one recent example’.
Demands put forward in the letter included: (1) ‘The BJP government put an end to the violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits and indict not only the perpetrators of these horrific crimes but those, including senior politicians of the BJP, who have instigated communal and anti-Dalit violence. (2) The immediate resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who has been one of the most virulent promoters of hate and has callously tried to evade responsibility for the deaths of nearly 70 children in a government hospital in his longstanding constituency. (3) The immediate release of Dalit leader Chandrashekhar and his colleagues who were arrested in the wake of protests against the attacks on Dalits in UP.’
Speaking on behalf of South Asia Solidarity Group outside the High Commission, Kalpana Wilson said that we must remember on the anniversary of Partition that it was the Hindutva forces who first called for South Asia to be divided and that today they are seeking to make the horrific violence of Partition an everyday occurrence; she emphasised that progressive people in the diaspora must continue to organise to show that Modi does not have the support of the entire diaspora for his fascist policies, as he likes to claim, and that they must work to familiarise left and progressive people outside India with what Modi represents – drawing parallels with the racism and Islamophobia of Trump and with Modi’s close ally Israel, whose apartheid state policies he seeks to emulate. The organisers pledged to continue and build the movement in solidarity with all those courageously resisting the India state’s descent into fascism.