“They think they are the wisest of the wise, which is unfortunate”, Farooq
Abdullah, former chief minister, Jammu, and Kashmir.
By Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Edited By Adam Rizvi, New York, TIO:
Despite requests from several quarters, not to do so, in deference of the
the constitutional post he holds, Prime minister Narendra Modi, chose to ignore it all
to be present for the ‘Bhoomi poojan” (laying the foundation stone) at the
controversial temple site at Ayodhya, on August 5, a symbolism of Hindutva
ideals, rather than anything to do with Lord Ram.
It is but commonsensical that the lord couldn’t care less where his lifeless statue is
housed, especially after all the mindless massacre of Muslim families that
happened three decades ago in his name and continues to happen until today.
The only logical reason to repeat the ‘Bhoomi poojan done 30 years ago when
closest colleagues are taking cover in private hospitals, to defeat the coronavirus, is
to gain mileage from the event just before Bihar elections, besides keeping the
cover on Kashmir. The repetition could also erase all memories of ‘seniors’ L K
Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, architects of the Toyota Rath Yatra to demolish
the Babri Masjid and build the temple in its place, of which Modi was a junior
player. It is not merely a coincidence that these leaders were kept out of
celebrations, citing age as an excuse.
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August 5, 2020, also marks 365 days of the lockdown of what was then Jammu and
Kashmir state, a year ago and now split into two Union Territories (UT),
something which has never happened in Independent India. UT’s are upgraded as
states, never the other way round. During this year, the UT’s have been completely
shut down, ignored and isolated, by the government and the media.
This ceremony at an inopportune time, according to astrologers, is happening when
India is poised to be the Vishwa Guru (world leader) in COVID numbers, with
current leaders USA and Brazil stabilizing with their numbers, when
unemployment figures are at an all-time high, the economy has crashed, with the Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) figures at a 43-year-old low and Chinese soldiers well
If this was not enough to rub salt into the wounds of Muslims in India,
organizations like Overseas Friends of BJP and American India Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), decided to have their own show of strength in New York, by
deciding to splash images of Lord Ram and a live relay of the Bhoomi poojan from
India, on the billboards of Times Square, replacing lingerie and cola ads usually
flashed from there!
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The fact that these events are taking place in India, 1000’s of miles away, but the
brazen displays were planned in the heart of New York City, meant that this was
just another glorified campaign for Narendra Modi before Bihar elections, in
October this year and West Bengal elections next year.
The billboards that were planned are high-tech installations, glowing with light-
emitting diodes (LEDs) and high-definition displays, captivating and distracting all
at once. According to Times Square NYC, on an average day, nearly 380,000
pedestrians go through every day, including another 115,000 drivers and
passengers. On busy days, this can go up to 460,000 people. This makes it one
of the busiest tourist attractions in the world. Though the number of tourists on Times
Square has dropped because of the COVID crisis, it did not deter the supporters
of Narendra Modi, in the USA, to make this a spectacle, even if they were reduced
to becoming a laughing stock in the process.
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Indians back home have been largely reduced to being silent spectators, some even
rejoicing, fooled as they into believing that this indeed is a religious event.
But several activist groups in New York including the Hindus for Human Rights
(HfHR), Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), South Asia Solidarity
Initiative (SASI) pushed back by sending a statement to New York Mayor Bill de
Blasio and the ad agencies threatening to keep calling them till they either
withdrew or released a statement against the ‘celebrations’.
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Till a day before the event, it seemed impossible that they would succeed in
convincing the agencies to pull back from the campaign, an almost impossible feat,
considering that the agencies would lose anywhere between 80,000 to 100,000 $ in
ad revenue. The protestors had considered putting their own banners as well, to
educate the locals and the rest of the world, that this upcoming structure was
nothing more than a bloodied symbol of communal hate that prevails in the country
One of the four ad companies, Branded Cities (the firm that manages Nasdaq),
while refusing to run the digital advertisements for Hindu right-wing groups
reassured that “Branded Cities and Nasdaq oppose the demolition of Babri Masjid
and will never allow any supremacist groups to run their advertisements.”
This in itself is a huge victory for the protestors, in the face of aggressive attacks
by Modi supporters, who got on all social media platforms to abuse and undermine
the protesting voices.Though till late night on August 4, it seemed like there would be no spectacle on
Times Square, after all, the next morning, the Friends of BJP did manage to sneak
in an image of Lord Ram, a distance away from the heart of Times Square, where
it was planned to be displayed originally. The screens which were to beam images
of Narendra Modi laying the foundation stone, the whole day was reduced to one
a single image of Ram, which too had to be removed within a couple of hours, after
protestors complained to the management of Hershey’s, on whose premises the
the image had been displayed.
In a well-orchestrated followup, that one image was splashed by news agency ANI
and many prestigious Indian media like NDTV, Indian Express, and Hindustan
Times, carried it, along with a couple of fakes
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“IAMC believes that this is not a celebration of Hindu faith, rather, it is a
celebration of bigotry and hate that is not only an affront to our values as
Americans, but also embolden Hindu nationalists to advance their supremacist
ideas in the US. It also legitimizes their efforts to use their position on American
the soil in order to advance a violent and supremacist agenda in India”, said Minhaj
Khan of IAMC, in a press conference, called to express their disgust at the planned
“As a Hindu of conscience, the display that is planned both infuriates and horrifies
me and devastates me. This is absolutely not a celebration of faith. It
has nothing to do with faith. This is not my Hinduism, which teaches love and
compassion, and the oneness of us all. The government of Narendra Modi claims
to be secular, but is destroying our democracy and is fast taking India towards
becoming a Hindu theocracy — what is called a Hindu Rashtra. Some would say
this case of the Babri Masjid is proof that we are already there”, said Sunita
Viswanath, co-founder of HfHR, at the same conference.
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She further added that “as we stated in a letter to Mayor Bill De Blasio, these
projections in Times Square are not a celebration of faith. It is the triumphant
dance of Hindu nationalists on the graves of India’s lynched Muslims”. On August
5, 2019, the Narendra Modi government had revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s
special status and statehood, granted to it under Articles 370 and 35A of the
constitution. dividing it into two union territories. Jammu and Kashmir and
The proposal was placed before the house, by the home minister Amit Shah and
then passed without as much as a discussion on August 5 last year. The abrogation
was quickly followed up with tyrannically locking down the nearly 13 million
population and arresting whosoever mattered, including three former chief
ministers, their cabinet colleagues, political workers, eminent lawyers, students and
The population was further choked by cutting off all modes of communication,
including landline, mobile telephone services, the internet and publication of
newspapers for months, causing chaos, immense grief and a feeling of
helplessness, that went completely missing from the mainstream media, eventually
dying even in those circles which raised the voices for a few weeks. It is the COVID
crisis in March and the resultant nationwide lockdowns, which made the rest of the
the country finally ponder over what life was like in Kashmir, especially without the
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The majority of those in the Valley who for years had reconciled to the fact that
their future was best served by aligning peacefully with India has since then
changed their mind. Now they are reeling under the humiliation, wounded and tied
up in grief, waiting to erupt.
Amit Shah’s repeated claims that all this was done to usher in prosperity and
development to the valley, to end terrorism, after their integration in the
mainstream has since then proved to be as hollow and as crippling as
demonetization a year before this.
Protests have been contained so far, because the entire state has been turned into a
prison, with over 85,000 soldiers manning the valley. The question is for how long
can the simmering anger be contained?
The South Asia Terrorism Portal rubbishes Amit Shah’s claims that terrorism has
reduced in the valley, after the abrogation. Incidences of stone-throwing by angry
protestors have gone down, but definitely not terrorism. In 2012, 19 civilians, 18
security personnel and 84 terrorists/extremists were killed. But in just eight
months in 2020, 17 civilians, 34 security personnel, and 154 terrorists/extremists
have been killed. After young Burhan Wani, who picked up arms when just in his
The ’20s, was killed by the defense forces in 2016, a spate of youngsters had taken to
terrorism, the numbers of which have jumped this year.
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So Modi/Shah’s claims that industries will be set up leading to development lay
exposed because no industry can be set up, with the threat of terrorism looming
large. The locals are instead being pushed to the brink of poverty and severe debt.
This would lead to distress selling their lands, which can then be bought over by
domiciles of other states, brought in to upset the demography of the state.
The governor, Satya Pal Malik, had promised 50,000 jobs, after the abrogation.
Instead, four lakh jobs have been lost, with a loss of an estimated 40,000 crores to the
economy, after factories and businesses, were closed.
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The fact that the Supreme court busied itself with the final hearings of the
Ayodhya temple issue, days before the chief justice Ranjan Gogoi retired last
November last year, ignoring petitions challenging the constitutionality of the J& K
Reorganization Act, several Habeas Corpus petitions for urgent relief, as well as
petitions relating to the detentions of various leaders, the withdrawal of 4G
services and the misuse of draconian preventive detention legislation, has resulted
in further gloom.
The Supreme Court had declared that the demolition of the 500-year-old Babri
Masjid was illegal, and the culprits should be punished, which of course did not
happen. Despite stating that there was no evidence of a temple under the Babri
Masjid remains, Gogoi still cleared the way for the temple, in complete violation of
Narendra Modi, in allowing his party Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda around Ram
Mandir to take center stage, proved once again that he was never the prime
minister of the entire country and there is no power to stop him from being so.
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