DOJ, Homeland Security, FBI probe sought against Overseas Friends of BJP for anti-Muslim hate parade
- Department of State urged to revoke BJP leader Sambit Patra’s visa
- Charges of hate crime filed with Edison Police Department
- Mayors of Edison and Woodbridge denounce parade, vow probe
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EDISON, NJ (August 22, 2022) – Leading civil rights organizations in New Jersey have demanded immediate investigative and legal action from the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation against the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) and the Indian Business Association (IBA) for their roles in organizing an anti-Muslim hate parade in the state on August 14, 2022.
The rights organizations urged the US Secretary of State’s intervention to immediately revoke the visa of Sambit Patra, an Indian national and a spokesperson for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Patra, a known hate-monger, presided over New Jersey’s hate parade as “Grand Marshal.”
At a press conference held at Edison Township in New Jersey on Monday, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Council on American Islamic Relations-New Jersey (CAIR-NJ), Black Lives Matter (BLM), American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) said they had met with attorneys from the US Attorney General’s office and the New Jersey Attorney General’s office to seek legal action against the parade’s organizers. They said they had filed charges with the Edison Police Department against the IBA and sought police investigation into the hate parade.
The August 14 parade featured a bulldozer with a picture of Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of the Uttar Pradesh state. The placard with the picture read “Baba Bulldozer,” a reference to his illegal and criminal usage of bulldozers to demolish homes, businesses, and places of worship of Muslims and Christians.
Global watchdog organizations have denounced India’s federal and BJP-led state governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Assam for illegally using the bulldozer to demolish properties without due process, court orders, or even notice.
On August 19, Edison Mayor Samip Joshi told these organizations’ representatives that the bulldozer was “a symbol of division and is absolutely unacceptable. I would like to see an apology from the Indian Business Association.” Joshi told them that he was unaware of the bulldozer’s presence at the parade when he attended it.
“Hindu and Muslim Indian Americans are peace-loving communities in Edison. We will not allow Hindu extremists to disturb that peace by hate speech and rhetoric,” former IAMC New Jersey President Minhaj Khan said, “This parade has created a sense of fear of potential hate violence among the Indian Muslim community in New Jersey.”
Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director, CAIR, New Jersey, said it was “important that the symbol of the bulldozer and the usurpation of Indian Independence Day by international political influence is universally recognized as wrong. Mayor Joshi and Mayor McCormac recognize the divisive and discriminatory motivation behind it. The precedent is now established to take extra care in preventing this from happening again or withhold official participation while maintaining the rights to free speech and assembly.”
BLM’s Zellie Thomas said bulldozers were being used “to terrorize” Muslim and other Indian minorities. “Just as black Americans were lynched from trees, and the noose became a tool to both intimidate and terrorize black communities, so too are bulldozers being used to remind Indian Muslims of the constant threat they are under,” he said.
Dr. Ali Chaudry of AMD said, “the inclusion of the bulldozer as the symbol of hate in the August 14 India Independence Day parade here should not be treated any different than an antisemitic, racist or Islamophobic incident.” He demanded that such symbols of hate must never be allowed to be used in any future parades.
The IAMC’s Minhaj Khan said Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, who had joined the August 14 parade but denounced it after he learned of the symbolism of the bulldozer, had “assured us he has already launched an investigation into the parade.” McCormac told their delegation that he would reject future permits to hate parades, ensure float inspections beforehand, and vet speaker lists so that hate speeches are prevented.