WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several dozen Indian Americans staged a “sit-in Satyagraha” peace rally in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue opposite the Indian Embassy in D.C. organized by the Association of Indian Muslims (AIM) and the Young India Association (YIA), under the aegis of a coalition called ‘We the Diaspora’ to highlight “the need for pluralism in an ancient and heterogeneous society like India.”
The ‘sit-in-Satyagraha,’ two days after the 72nd death anniversary of Gandhi, was coordinated by Kaleem Kawaja, executive director of AIM and Rohit Tripathi, founder and president of YIA, who have both being organizing and coordinating several protests and demonstrations opposite the India embassy following the Indian government’s repeal of Article 370 that provided Kashmir special status and the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which has been called discriminatory against Indian Muslims and led to several peaceful protests and demonstrations in the U.S., but violent protests across India, with over 20 people killed in Uttar Pradesh.
During the satyagraha, speeches were also made in the memory of the Mahatma by some of the participants, remembering him and the many freedom fighters who waged a peaceful struggle under his leadership to liberate India from the British colonialists and ultimately help India gain independence.
But the permeating theme, in the current context over what has been happening in India, in the wake of the situation in India and the enactment of the CAA, was the need to protect and preserve the pluralism and secularism professed by Gandhi and enshrined in India’s Constitution.
Kawaja, in his remarks, expressed sadness at the recent ongoing turmoil in India “caused by the BJP government promulgating the CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizenship)Acts that are making the Indian citizens of various religious communities prove once again that they are citizens born in India.”
He and several other speakers argued that “fact that these new laws give naturalization citizenship to non-Indians of all religions except Muslims is discriminatory.”
They warned that it could also result in dividing India “along the lines of religion,” an anathema and a blatant violation “of the secular Indian Constitution.”
Kawaja invoked the “illustrious legacy of Mahatma Gandhi” and led participants in reading the preamble of the Indian Constitution and in singing several patriotic songs in praise of the Indian nation.
He expressed the strong hope that “India can utilize Gandhi’s legacy to resolve the current turmoil to remove any religious tests for becoming an Indian citizen.”
Tripathi, in his remarks, said, "We have gathered here to remind us of Mahatma's message, method and also insistence to activate our conscience in times of trial.”
“The world's two largest democracies have found themselves in positions where many see democratic evolution is under duress," he said.
Tripathi said the “objective” of the ‘sit-in Satyagraha“is to send a message to the people that the achievement of mass participation can only be done through non-violence.”
"The Mahatma believed that the goal of every confrontation is ultimately to move all parties forward together. Today, as many in India walk the path of non-violence in their response to the happenings of the day, we here stand in solidarity of the methodology that we have adopted that of non-violence," he said.
Tripathi said, "He showed us the power of satyagraha in demanding dignity but with the intent of reconciliation. That's what the scores of women led sit-ins across India have shown us all," referring to the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The program concluded with the participants forming a human chain around the Gandhi statue and the singing of the Indian national anthem.