It is our moral obligation to support those fighting for India’s secular democracy

Sen. Baldwin is also speaking out on the fight for democracy in India

Masood Akhtar, of Middleton, and a group of dignitaries from Kashmir and Wisconsin met with Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November to discuss “Minorities under threat under Prime Minister Narendara Modi and Call to Action” (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)
Masood Akhtar, of Middleton, and a group of dignitaries from Kashmir and Wisconsin met with Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November to discuss “Minorities under threat under Prime Minister Narendara Modi and Call to Action” (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)

The diversity of protesters on the streets speaking out against the Citizens Amendment Bill (CAB) — a path to citizenship — reflects what true India is.  My hat is off to those people.  

It reminds me of India when I was growing up in the city of Shahjahanpur Uttar Pradesh, India. In my neighborhood, we had about 50% Muslims and 50% Hindus. I spent nearly 25 years of my early life in this neighborhood. We regularly participated in each other’s festivals, weddings and even funerals. We used to call ourselves proud Indians and always celebrated the true largest democracy in the world.  

We have been involved in bringing these issues to the attention of our federal representatives. And we are also thankful to our U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin for meeting with us and listening to our concerns on this subject. 

Masood Akhtar, of Middleton, and a group of dignitaries from Kashmir and Wisconsin met with U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan in November to discuss “Minorities under threat under Prime Minister Narendara Modi and Call to Action” (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)
Masood Akhtar, of Middleton, and a group of dignitaries from Kashmir and Wisconsin met with U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan to discuss threats to minority groups in India (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)

In fact, Sen. Baldwin posted the following statement on her Facebook page on Dec. 18 in response to a Washington Post article on the situation in India:

“India must live up to its position as the world’s largest democracy and end the internet shutdown in Kashmir, now the longest such shutdown ever imposed in a democracy.

“Excessive security lockdowns and communication black-outs are undemocratic actions that will only challenge any diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions in the region. At the same time, any retaliation from Pakistan would similarly undermine efforts to bring stability to the region,” Baldwin continued. 

“Additionally, President Trump should nominate a permanent Ambassador to Pakistan in order for the U.S. to provide steady and constructive diplomatic support in bringing stability to the region.”  

India is a home of 200 million Muslims — 14% of the national population.  Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is no longer a democratic country as is evident by the fact that the CAB recently passed by the upper house of India’s Parliament excludes Muslims.  

If this bill is signed into law, Muslims stripped of citizenship will end up in massive detention camps, and ultimately be deported. This is fundamentally unconstitutional destroying the secular and democratic tenets of India’s revered constitution. Under Modi, Muslims continue to face increased discrimination and violence.  

UN Human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also recently expressed concerns over “increased  harassment and targeting of minorities — in particular, Muslims.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also stated, “India is taking a dangerous turn in the wrong direction.” Modi is India’s version of Trump and is promoting exactly the same nationalist anti-democratic agenda as Trump is in the U.S.       

The CAB is also closely linked with India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) just announced.  Adolf Hitler created a similar registry for Jews; and Trump, Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions discussed the idea of starting a Muslim registry in the U.S in 2016. I countered the Muslim Registry idea by creating an Anti-Hate Registry (our group, now called We Are Many United Against Hate Movement) to bring people together regardless of their ethnicity or color or religion or even political affiliation in an effort to build an inclusive community and prosperous America free of violence and extremism.

Masood Akhtar receiving the FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC from FBI Director Christopher Wray 5/3/19 (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)
Masood Akhtar receiving the FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award at headquarters in Washington, DC from FBI Director Christopher Wray 5/3/19 (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)

FBI Director Christopher Wray recognized this movement by presenting me with the prestigious national FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC on May 3, 2019.  

The FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award (Photo courtesy of Akhtar)
The FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community
Leadership Award

In 2005, I was involved in a campaign that resulted in banning Modi from entering the U.S. because he and his party (Bhartiya Janata Party – BJP) were accused of inciting communal riots against Muslims, leaving more than 1,000 people dead. He continues to largely turn a blind eye to hate crimes by vigilante Hindus against Muslims, which have increased substantially since he took the office. 

 On August 5, Modi erased the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, which had previously enjoyed considerable autonomy over its own affairs.  Indian security forces brutally quashed demonstrators and locked up local leaders. The internet and telephone services were cut off, and media prohibited from visiting.

I am asking our elected officials to add Modi’s RSS (Rashtriya Sevak Sangh) group to the list of terrorist organizations like ISIS. RSS is an Indian-right wing and Hindu nationalist organization, which is also considered the parent organization of BJP. If you recall, Nathuram Godse (a member of RSS) was the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, who shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range in New Delhi on Jan. 30, 1948. 

Corporations currently doing business with India must stop if Modi doesn’t stop his anti-democratic agenda.

We also need to ask Modi to create a National Register of Unemployed Citizens (NRUC) not a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to address the 45-year high unemployment under his watch

While protesters in India will continue raising their voices against CAB and NRC, it is our moral obligation as Americans to join them in their efforts, which will ensure that India remains a secular democracy, where its constitution guarantees equality for all.

Silence is not an option.