NEW DELHI – Thousands of Indians gathered in several cities Wednesday to protest recent violent attacks across the country targeting minority Muslims.
Carrying placards saying “Not In My Name,” the protesters decried the silence of the Hindu nationalist government in response to public lynchings and attacks on at least a dozen Muslim men and boys since it took power in 2014.
In New Delhi, thousands of people, including the elderly and parents with young children, sang songs and lit candles.
The “Not In My Name” campaign began after a Facebook post by filmmaker Saba Dewan against the stabbing of Junaid. She sought to “reclaim the constitution” and “resist the onslaught” on the right to life and equality.
In Mumbai, people braved rains to come out in large numbers. Actors Shabana Azmi, Konkona Sena Sharma, Rajat Kapoor and Ranvir Shorey and social media activist Arpita Chatterjee were among those who participated in the protest held at Carter Road in suburban Bandra.
Azmi said these are not isolated incidents and there is a need for a stringent law against the perpetrators.
In Kolkata, among the protesters was filmmaker Aparna Sen. She said she was protesting against something which “we do not support and that is attacking any religious community”. She stressed that liberal voice has to be heard.
Protests were also held in cities like Allahabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna and Thiruvananthapuram.
Last Friday, about 20 men attacked four Muslims on a train in the outskirts of New Delhi, fatally stabbing a teenager and seriously injuring two others.
The Muslim men said an argument over seats quickly turned into a brutal attack, with the mob accusing them of being “beef-eaters.” Many members of the Hindu majority consider cows sacred. The slaughter of cows and eating of beef is illegal or restricted across much of India.
Much of the recent violence has been focused on cows. Several fringe Hindu groups, apparently emboldened by the stunning political rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, have attacked Muslim cattle traders and dairy farmers.
Muslims constitute about 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, while Hindus comprise 80 percent.
Rights groups say government officials, including the prime minister, have been slow to strongly condemn the attacks and that police action against perpetrators has been inadequate.
Five of the killings, almost all of them in broad daylight and in busy public areas, have taken place in the last three months.