On August 15, India celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence. We ask, who in India is free?
The #AskIndiaWhy campaign was born out of a radical love for the people of the subcontinent and hope for their futures. We believe in freedom, justice and the right to self determination for all people.
We watched in awe as news reports filtered out from the country when youth and elders alike proceeded to the capital and set up protest camps — beseeching the state to recognize their precarious circumstances. When the farmers called for a day of action, an all-India strike, we watched as an estimated 250 million workers stopped work on December 8, 2020. All of this to convince the government to repeal 3 farm laws it had enacted, undemocratically, that were set to transfer agricultural power from the independent farmers to the hands of massive corporates — ensuring the extinction of the farmers' way of life and further subjugating 50% of the population that is employed in the agricultural sector of India's 1.3 billion citizens.
As rallies and protests picked up throughout the world — North America, to Europe and Oceania — we watched as South Asian diaspora united in common cause: to bring awareness to the largest protest in human history.
From Vancouver, we watched as well, and we made some predictions:
Our hope was that if enough people paid attention, if many eyes turned towards the subcontinent, the government would find it more difficult to enact violence without the cover of darkness.
We put together a simple strategy, and then we began convening meetings online. We put the word out through our networks of friends and colleagues. At a time when people seemed to be more interested in car rallies and live protest, we were hoping to cobble together a coalition of 20 or so people from different parts of the world. By January 10th, 2021, approximately 80 people showed up on a Zoom call, spanning Australia, Canada, Denmark, Malaysia, Netherlands, UK and USA. Some of the members thought we should only be focusing our attention on the farmers protest, but the vast majority liked the idea of focusing on India's human rights violations and the headlong rush into fascism under the Modi regime. All of these issues were related. All of this suffering was compounding.
We agreed that it was time people understood the realities of the Indian state — that this country is about more than yoga and chai, it was also about silencing, brutalizing and murdering its own to squash dissent.
The "yoga and chai" comment really touched a nerve.
For the record, we have nothing against stretching or tea. We just don't believe cultural affectations should be used to mask oppression and violence. India claims itself to be a democracy and promotes its contributions to technology, spirituality and world culture. However, the reality is far darker and bloodier than that. We hoped to bring these realities to light through our #AskIndiaWhy campaign. The premise was simple — we are not here to spread hate, we are not against the people of India, we are here for the betterment of all, we are here to ask questions.
As ridiculous as it sounds, our parent organization, the Poetic Justice Foundation, was accused of paying Rihanna $2.5m for a tweet — yes, you read that right. Further, they also associated us with Greta Thunberg and a cabal of international terrorists hell bent on the destruction of the country. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, we weathered the storm together. India's propaganda machine didn't work anywhere, except in India, and we saw a slew of prominent figures, from Meena Harris to Susan Serandon join the effort.
So, we continued. The #AskIndiaWhy campaign continues today as a perpetual means of bringing together marginalized and oppressed voices of the subcontinent. We are here to encourage the world to ask the most important questions:
The #AskIndiaWhy campaign has never preached hate and never will. Through this campaign, we will raise awareness about the rise of fascism in India and hope to bring the world's largest democracy back from the brink of failure. If India is allowed to fall to fascism, the repercussions will be global in scale and the foundations of democracy will be weakened everywhere.
Share the campaign and spread #AskIndiaWhy!
Help us spread the word. The more international attention, the less chance of violence in India, and the greater our ability to bring attention to those courageous, dissenting voices speaking truth to power.
The Indian government began “granting mining licences to private and multinational corporations as part of the liberalisation and privatisation of the economy in the early 1990s.” The current Maoist rebellion began in 2004 when People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) merged to create the Communist Party of India (Maoist) — this group is banned in India.
Since the annexation of the Sikh confederacy by the British in 1849, the Sikh peoples have been resiliently resisting foreign occupation and mobilizing to re-establish Sikh sovereignty in the Punjab. The manifestations of Sikh liberation movements since 1849 have taken a variety of forms that continue to inspire and drive Sikh self-determination today.