Indian Americans and Civil Rights Orgs Raise Alarm Over Surveillance at Anti-Modi Protest
Washington, DC (June 29, 2023) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and Hindus For Human Rights (HFHR) expressed deep concern at being filmed by the leader of a Hindu nationalist organization at an anti-Modi protest in Washington D.C. Utsav Chakrabarti, executive director of HinduPACT, the advocacy wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), a Hindu far-right organization was spotted filming protesters of Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. on June 22nd, provoking a hostile encounter which had to be resolved via police intervention. While we recognize the right to film in public, the IAMC and HFHR condemn the abuse of this right for the purpose of intimidating or harassing protesters.
“Critics of the Modi regime in India face constant surveillance, harassment, and abuse at the hands of online trolls and the Indian government itself. Much of this repression through American Hindu Supremacist groups circulating pictures and videos of activists online. Tuesday’s protests proves that such intimidation only emboldens Modi’s critics,” said IAMC executive director Rasheed Ahmed.
Mr. Ahmed added, “We have seen China and Iran extend their repressive apparatuses to American soil, surveilling political critics, and targeting domestic activists in this country. We are extremely concerned that Mr. Chakrabarti’s filming represents a similar threat emanating from the Modi regime and call on U.S. officials to protect freedom of speech on U.S. soil.”
“In the face of constant trolling and surveillance, both in India and the USA, it is clear that the Modi regime poses a serious threat. However, let’s not forget that we are fortunate to be safe here in the USA. It is the Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and courageous human rights defenders in India who are in desperate need of our concern and support,” said Sunita Vishwanath, Executive Director of Hindus for Human Rights.
Chakrabarti’s organization HinduPACT advocates for political causes on behalf of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), an US offshoot of the VHP. VHP leaders in India routinely call for mass killings of Muslims, conduct which contributed to the group being designated a “religious militant organization” in the CIA World factbook. Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative on Islamophobia notes how VHP members played crucial roles in the orchestration of the Gujarat Pogrom of 2002, in which more than 2,000 predominantly Muslim Indians were killed, and the destruction of the Babri Masjid, an act of violence aimed at destroying India’s Muslim heritage.
Considering that the VHPA is the American counterpart of the VHP, and that the VHP is part of the Hindu nationalist movement alongside Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian Americans expressed concern that Mr. Chakrabarti’s filming of U.S. activists could constitute intimidation of U.S. based activists by foreign governments. U.S. based activists, including HFHR Executive Director Sunita Vishwanath and IAMC NJ chapter leader Tazeem Ansari have recently been the target of an extensive misinformation and intimidation campaign, propagated on national television by senior BJP officials in India. The Chinese government has intimidated and surveilled U.S. based pro-democracy activists via overseas police networks, and Iranian foreign agents who have also threatened Iranian women’s rights activists based in the U.S. Indian Americans called for a thorough investigation into Mr. Chakrabarti’s filming of U.S. activists as well as his organization’s ties to foreign militant organizations.
Indian American Muslim Council
Hindus For Human Rights