More than a hundred demonstrators hailing from various Canadian cities gathered in Ottawa to bring attention to the pressing need for addressing human rights abuses in India and countering the surge of extremist Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) ideologies within Canada.
The protestors took to the streets “to oppose hatred and to amplify their voices in safeguarding democracy, while also advocating for a diverse, multi-faith, and multi-ethnic vision of India”. Additionally, they condemned the “alarming proliferation of Hindutva groups or Hindu supremacist factions within Canada, which they said are “propagating hate through educational institutions, online platforms, and community gatherings”.
“This rally is more than a demonstration; it’s a resolute stand for the rights and dignity of minority communities both in India and Canada. The threat of Hindutva extremism and erosion of democratic principles demand our attention. Today, we’ve united under shared human rights values and declare that we will not be silent spectators to fascist forces that seek to divide and oppress the most vulnerable.” said Taha Ghayyur, Executive Director of Justice For All Canada.
Organised by an alliance of twenty diaspora organisations and diverse community partners from across Canada, the march started at the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa. Giving an opening speech, Chinnaiah Jangam, Associate Professor of History at Carleton University and co-founder of the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network (SADAN), emphasised the sentiment of the protest: “SADAN stands in solidarity with all the victims of violence orchestrated by the Hindu right-wing forces in India and will firmly stand against hate and fight for the protection of democracy and the constitutional rights of all citizens.” Speaking about the situation here in Canada he added, “there is growing violence against Muslims and Dalits in India. Caste supremacy is overtly present in Canadian public life and Dalit and other marginalised communities especially children experience caste-based violence and discrimination in schools and playgrounds. Moreover, Hindu right-wing organisations are posing a serious threat to the multicultural society of Canada.”
According to human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, India’s ruling BJP government is responsible for hate speech and discriminatory laws empowering systematic marginalisation of minority communities, making way for the emergence of Hindutva groups promoting exclusionary ideologies in India and Canada. As a result, minorities in India are facing unprecedented violence and racism with near impunity from state authorities.
Protestors proceeded to Parliament Hill and then to the Prime Minister’s Office to symbolically deliver a joint letter with over 80 organisational signatories. The letter calls for the Canadian government to take tangible steps to combat hate and stay true to NEVER AGAIN, including:
– Addressing Human Rights Abuses: To acknowledge and condemn the escalating human rights violations, especially the alarming situation in Manipur and other identified regions.
– Publicly Denouncing Rights Breaches: For the Federal government to issue public condemnations of documented human rights violations.
– Strengthening Trade Oversight: To enhance scrutiny and oversight mechanisms in trade agreements with India to ensure human rights are central to any bilateral cooperation, particularly under the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
– Probing RSS-Linked Entities: To investigate and monitor organisations in Canada such as SEWA Canada and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh that enjoy charitable tax status that have known affiliations or ideological ties with the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the paramilitary organisation and ideological parent of the right-wing BJP, assessing their actions under prevailing hate speech laws.
– Investigating Election Meddling: To investigate potential interference by RSS-affiliated entities within Canadian democratic processes.
The protestors also highlighted how India is borrowing the Israeli playbook in its oppressive treatment of the minorities.
In his remarks at the protest, Denis Kossem of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), underscored the parallels between the struggles for Kashmiri sovereignty and Palestinian self-determination: “The India-Israel alliance is an alliance of institutionalised racism; both states use the alibi of security as justification for their respective illegal occupation. The parallels between the occupation of Kashmir and the occupation of Palestine are glaringly obvious. Both occupations are illegal (not to mention morally reprehensible and politically untenable). PAJU stands in solidarity against Hindutva nationalism and supports Kashmiri sovereignty. Western countries look on in complicit silence. Canada, shamefully, is one of them.”
Shivangi Misra, international human rights lawyer and organiser in Ottawa, said “India’s public institutions have been systematically eroded to serve the interests of Hindutva ideology and the far-right. There is a severe lack of accountability and access to justice for the ongoing extreme violence against minorities, the state-led destruction of their homes, dilution of workers’ rights, and for silencing human rights defenders with false cases. People in India need urgent international support and solidarity for the atrocities that minorities, especially Muslims, Dalits, Christians, and women, are facing.”
The organisers concluded with a call to solidarity. “We witnessed an extraordinary unity among individuals, organisations, and communities, all of whom recognise the urgency of confronting the challenges posed by the rise of extremist ideologies,” stated Titas Banerjee, spokesperson for SADAC. “The demonstration has served as a platform to amplify our voices against hate and discrimination and we call on Canadian civil society to voice their opposition to hate groups in Canada and support democracy, justice, and equality in India and Canada.”