Protest was held in Heidelberg on July 17, last in a series organized this summer by #ChainFastingForPeace in Heidelberg, Würzburg, and Munich, attended by a small crew of core protesters who set up posters, both in English and German, that explained why Hindutva should not be confused for Hinduism, detailing Hindutva’s alleged proto-fascist roots, and its “continued admiration” for Mussolini and Hitler.

The posters showcased BJP’s new crop of parliamentarians and thought leaders, each known for “open hate speech and incitement of violence, daily undermining the constitution of a secular, democratic India”, said a witness present on the occasion.

Jakob Lindenthal, the German exchange student to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai, whose visa was retracted by Indian authorities in December 2019 for his peaceful participation in anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, joined the protesters all the way from Dresden.

Jakob and Suniti Sanghavi, a scientist at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory, currently conducting research at the Heidelberg University, engaged in conversations with several interested students and passersby, stating, there was “hijacking of a modern democratic constitution by a Hindutva ideology, a propaganda driven machinery of hate, fear and extremism.”

Giving details of the protest, Sanghavi said, “A recurring concern was the parallel between Modi’s India and Putin’s Russia, the future of democratic freedoms and human rights, and the global implications of a sixth of the world’s population falling prey to authoritarianism.” She added, “A woman from Ukraine was especially moved by the call for democratic awareness, and exhorted us to continue our activism to prevent the rampant spread of authoritarian regimes.”

Noted Sanghavi, “We also had a Modi supporter who liked Modi’s style of governance. In typical style, he defended Modi’s eschewal of press conferences because ‘Modi doesn’t have time for questions’. In regard to serious problems of injustice, he said over and over again that one could not expect Modi to solve problems overnight. We tried in vain to help him see that we were not seeking overnight solutions but a democratic debate on the way problems were solved. He praised Modi for what he considered a booming Indian economy.”
She continued, “When confronted with the very small numbers of Indians benefiting from today’s economy, he refuted all reports of rising inequality, unemployment and poverty as ‘mere speculation’.” On the matter of Jakob’s expulsion from India without legal justification, he resorted to outright victim-blaming, suggesting that Jakob should have sought a lawyer instead of leaving the country, while firmly refusing to fault the responsible Indian official for abusing their authority over a young 24-year old foreign student.”

Commented Sanghavi, “Our protests so far suggested the need for more democratic dialogue with immigrants in Germany, and innovative ways to incorporate the spirit of democracy in day-to-day life that is empowering to all its stakeholders.”

She added, “Through increased international dialogue between humanitarian democrats the world over, we will continue to work together towards a freer, fairer, and more sustainable future for our globalized planet.”

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