A group of 1,660 Indian-Americans so far, including from organisations like the India Civil Watch International and Hindus for Human Rights, came together to protest against what they have termed as an “Islamophobic billboard” that was projected in New York City’s Times Square on Wednesday, 5 August.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya, the ‘Ram Mandir’ billboard beamed across Times Square in New York. However, a section of Indian-Americans petitioned against the billboard display, calling it a “celebration of hatred”.
WHAT PETITION TO NY MAYOR SAYS
Addressed to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, the petition states, “Our coalition stands opposed to the far-right Hindutva nationalism of the BJP government in India, which has trampled on the rights and lives of minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Dalits, as well as dissenters.”
The organisation behind the Times Square billboard is the American Indian Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The petition urged the New York Mayor to take action against them for “projecting an Islamophobic billboard in Times Square, which celebrates the destruction of a nearly 425-year-old mosque that led to one of the worst communal violence India witnessed, resulting in the death of nearly 3,000 people.”
“AIPAC should instead spend the massive funds used to display advertisements advocating for the development of India, for the millions of the people living under poverty line, who cannot afford three square meals, cannot achieve decent education, or secure good healthcare.”Petition to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio
Appealing to the secular, inclusive values of New York, the petition demanded that “such a blatant act that celebrates violence against Kashmiris and Indian Muslims be resisted and stopped”.
Earlier, another organisation, the South Asian Solidarity Initiative (SASI), called for Indian-Americans to come out and demonstrate against the billboards on 5 August.
WHAT ORGANISERS OF THE AD SAY
“It shows how successful Indians are in America – our Ram Temple and tricolour are on the most iconic screen in the world. It is a proud moment for India and Indians,” Jagdish Sewhani, community leader and President of the AIPAC said as the visuals were being displayed at Times Square.
Talking about its decision to put up the ads, Sewhani had earlier told PTI, “This is an event that comes once in the life of mankind. We had to give it a befitting celebration – and what better place than the iconic Times Square to commemorate the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi shilanyas.’”