Protests, Celebrations Grip Times Square Over Ram Mandir Billboard
Indian diaspora clashed in Times Square to both protest and celebrate the ‘Ram Mandir’ billboard ad.
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bharadwaj & Rahul Sanpui
Chants of “BJP has got to go!” and “Azadi!” filled the streets of New York on the evening of 5 August as Indian-Americans gathered to protest the Ram Mandir billboard in Times Square. The protest was organised by the South Asian Solidarity Initiative (SASI).
“The BJP victory in the legal contestation over the Babri Masjid site is being celebrated on the day of the Kashmiri annexation to create a spectacle of Indian nationalism...,” said Supriya J from SASI.
The protest brought together several South Asian diaspora groups in New York, including Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI), Queens Against Hindu Fascism, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus For Human Rights, among others.
Ads and Counter-Ads
As the billboard beamed images of the proposed Ram Mandir, a van rode across Times Square displaying counter-ads displaying images of the Babri Masjid.
“India is a very diverse country, and what this event at Times Square is doing is that it is presenting India as a very monolithic country on a world stage,” said Meraj Rizvi of Voices Against Fascism in India (California).
A counter-protest in support of Ram Mandir assembled at Times Square as well, with the two protests taking place face-to-face. The counter-protest assembled for a “diya lighting” ceremony, singing and dancing to celebrate the Bhoomi Pujan in Ayodhya, and the display of “Ram ji in Times Square.” This was following a tweet by Jagdish Sewhani, Chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Celebrations Committee of USA.
“Activists also raise other concerns about the government’s timing and emphasis on spectacle. India currently has the third-highest number of COVID cases in the world. The state has intensified the suffering of its most vulnerable people through a cruel lockdown – another occasion of a spectacle rather than a serious response to a deadly pandemic,” SASI has argued.
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