Human rights groups in the United States have said that the use of a bulldozer by Hindutva groups during an Independence Day parade in New Jersey on August 14 was a “brazen display of hate”.
At least three rights groups have issued statements calling upon two local mayors and the Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly who attended the parade in Edison township, to criticise the use of the bulldozer.
Rights group Hindus for Human Rights said on Tuesday that it was “deeply disturbed by the symbolism”. Bulldozers have become a “symbol of state repression and violence against India’s minorities”, it said in a statement.
The bulldozer used in the parade carried photos of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a placard with the words “Baba ka bulldozer” written in Hindi. Baba is a moniker often used for Adityanath.
Over the last few months, BJP state governments in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and civic bodies run by the party in Delhi, have conducted several demolition drives in the name of removing encroachments. Most of these drives were targeted at properties owned by Muslims.
On Tuesday, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relation, and rights groups Indian American Muslim Council and Hindus for Human Rights issued statements calling out the use of the bulldozer in the parade.
“While we support Indian Americans’ right to celebrate their heritage and independence from British colonial rule, we condemn the use of a bulldozer and the glorification of Hindu nationalist figures who have a deeply anti-Muslim track record,” said Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation.
The organisation urged mayors of Edison and Woodbridge townships, Samip Joshi and John E McCormac, and New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who attended the parade, to also criticise the bulldozer parade.
Mohammed Jawad, president of the Indian American Muslim Council, noted in a statement that Muslims in India were vulnerable to mass violence.
“We need to contextualise what it means to march with bulldozers emblazoned with the images of two openly Hindu supremacist leaders,” Jawad said. “Today in India, 200 million Muslims are at risk of mass violence from a radicalised majority population. Marching with these bulldozers shows support for forced homelessness and mass violence against a vulnerable minority.”
The Hindus for Human Rights wrote to the mayor of Edison, saying it was disgusted at the parade.
“We firmly reject the Hindutva movement’s weaponisation of our Hindu faith in service of a hateful, majoritarian political agenda, and firmly condemn the use of such imagery,” the statement noted.