The religious violence in Delhi last week has left the Indian student community in the US shaken.
Students Against Hindutva, a progressive activist group based in that country, has strongly opposed the riots that killed nearly 50 people during and after president Donald Trump’s maiden India visit. The violence, for the most part, was allegedly perpetrated by right-wing Hindu mobs against Muslims.
Founded by Shreeya Singh, a junior at Yale University in Connecticut, Students Against Hindutva has now planned a collective protest across universities on March 5. It is being called Holi Against Hindutva, taking after the Hindu festival of colours which falls on March 10 this year. Marking the festival almost a week early, participants will wear only black and, unlike in Holi, use only the colour white.
“The goal of this symbolic use of black and white is to signify that we are not in celebration but in condemnation of the Indian government’s actions,” the student body said in a statement.
So far, 21 universities across the US, include Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Princeton, among others, have signed up for the protest.
This is not the first time Indians students studying abroad have raised their voice against what they perceive as injustices in India. Students at Harvard University have participated in similar protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and a proposed national register of citizens in December 2019. In the UK, students at Oxford University, too, organised similar protests.
While the Indian diaspora is not monolithic—a sizeable number backs Modi—some students feel the need to speak up. “It’s important for the diaspora to understand that distance from India only necessitates greater responsibility. If we don’t stand up for a tolerant India, our omission will be read as acceptance of policies which are inherently inequitable for Indians,” said Vishwa Padigepati, legislative coordinator for Students Against Hindutva.
The student body has also turned Modi’s concerted efforts to woo an international audience on its head.
It believes that if students abroad protest, it could bring more accountability. “I believe it is the diaspora’s duty to stand behind the protestors risking their lives day after day for India’s secular soul,” said Singh.
Meanwhile, Delhi’s violence-hit northeastern areas seem to be limping back to recovery. Yesterday (Mar. 1), rumours of fresh rioting sparked panic. The police were quick to quell these rumours.