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The India observer, TIO, NJ: WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hindus for Human Rights and Chain Fast for Peace have started a Navaratri Fast Chain in support of those participating in the Hindu Muslim Ekta Samiti of the Indian Socialist Party’s recently planned ‘Apologising to Bilkis Bano’ Padyatra (foot march) from Randhikpur to Ahmedabad. The Gujarat government did not allow the padayatra, intended to take place from September 26th to October 4th, to take place, and the participants were detained and then released. The 198 km foot march of 9 days was shortened to only 2 days with only a couple of kilometers on foot, while the remaining distance was covered in police vehicles.
The yatris (marchers) were not allowed to walk in support of Bilkis Bano, and have decided instead to fast for her “as a penance for the heinous crime of her gang rape and murder of her family members,” said a member of India’s Socialist Party. “She has been further humiliated by the manner in which her 11 rapists have been felicitated after their release in Gujarat, and some of them have been described as virtuous Brahmins,” they continued.
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Sandeep Pandey, General Secretary of India’s Socialist Party, Gandhian peace activist, and Magsaysay Award Winner has begun spinning yarn on a charka (spinning wheel), just as Mahatma Gandhi did as part of his civil disobedience movement. Pandey has begun the fast after the police prohibited him and his comrades from marching, and they have also received pressure from the police for attempting to fast in public.
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Hindus for Human Rights and Chain Fast for Peace have begun the #NavratriFastForBilkisBano campaign which is a relay fast to be conducted until the last day of Navaratri, October 4th, 2022. This chain fast is in support of Pandey’s fast in solidarity with Bilkis Bano. It is an opportunity as progressive Hindus in the spirit of Navaratri, to embrace and celebrate the Goddess Durga by fighting against the real demons that have committed heinous crimes against women and have been able to walk free.
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One of our chain fasters, Suniti Sanghavi of Chain Fast for Peace, writes, “Sandeep Pandey’s march would have been a source of healing in a society marred by sectarian violence, a beacon of basic decency that one fears is fast evaporating from Indian society, and a peaceful assertion of humanity in the face of tyranny. But this was not to be. Sandeep and his companions were detained, and reports indicate that they have now been released. Their march is prohibited from passing Godhra, the one place that would have benefitted the most from such a conciliatory gesture for its victims. At the end of the day, this seems to be the balance of power in the sorry state of Gujarat:
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- Freedom is reserved for rapists and murderers, as long as they are caste-privileged Hindus,
- There is no freedom or humanity for Muslim victims, nor is there freedom for others to speak up for them,
- The tyranny of the majority is the final rule, and no measure is too extreme to quash those who oppose it.
I, a daughter of Gujarat, defy this outrageous status quo. And urge you to do the same.”
For the nine nights of Navaratri, we have 9 volunteers fasting for 24 hours in support of Pandey’s fast, and in solidarity with Bilkis Bano.
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