Indian American groups in Washington organize Satyagraha on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary

Participants read passages from the Indian constitution at the Satyagraha held in Washington, DC, on February.
Participants read passages from the Indian constitution at the Satyagraha held in Washington, DC, on February.

In the backdrop of ongoing anti-CAA protests, participants form a human chain around Gandhi Statue in Washington, DC.

On February 1, dozens of Indian Americans gathered for a sit-in “Satyagraha” in front of the Embassy of India in Washington, DC. The event was to mark the 72nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The event, which was held from 11.00 am to 1.00 pm, saw people from various fields come together to be a part of it. “It’s not a protest,” said Rohit Tripathi, one of the organizers behind Saturday’s Satyagraha, as people gathered around the Gandhi Statue in front of the Embassy. The event was organized by a coalition of Indian Americans  under the banner “We the Diaspora of India,” which included Indian American Hindu, Muslim and Christian participants.

Held in the background of an ongoing protest against India against the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act, participants read passages from the Indian constitution.

In an act of remembrance for Gandhi and other Indian freedom fighters, they reiterated the importance of Gandhi’s decades-old message and ideology. One of the highlights of the event was the formation of a human chain around the Gandhi Statue, a modern Washington landmark that has over the years become a hub of India-related social and cultural activism.

And in carrying Gandhi’s message and ideology, Tripathi told the crowd, “Words matter … We made it a point to call this a Satyagraha. It’s a positive thing. It’s basically saying ‘this is what my soul is telling me to do and I’m going to do it.’”

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“It’s not about ‘I’m doing this because somebody else did something else. It’s not a protest. It’s not a negative emotion. It’s a positive emotion,” he added.

Another speaker and organizer of the rally, Kaleem Kawaja, Executive Director of the Association of Indian Muslims of America, expressed sadness at the ongoing turmoil in India.

“The fact that these new laws give naturalization citizenship to non-Indians of all religions except Muslims is discriminatory,” he said. “It also may result in dividing India along the lines of religion. It is also a violation of the secular Indian constitution.”

Kawaja invoked the illustrious legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and expressed the hope that India can utilize Gandhi’s legacy to resolve the current turmoil to remove any religious tests for becoming an Indian citizen.

Anti-CAA protests have been going on across the United States. Recently on January 26, India’s Republic Day, more than 1,200 people gathered in Washington, DC, to protest against the CAA and the proposed National Registry of Citizenship, which is considered discriminatory toward India’s nearly 200 million-strong Muslims.

While Saturday’s Satyagraha lacked last week’s numbers, the participants did not seem discouraged. They sang a number of Indian devotional and revolutionary songs, including Vaishnava Janato, one of Gandhi’s favorite songs, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge. The event culminated with the singing of the Indian national anthem.

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