Aam Aadmi Party supporters hold solidarity rallies across America

Ritu Jha–

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters in four US cities participated in simultaneous solidarity rallies on Sunday, April 7, holding banners of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh, and by chanting slogans demanding the release of jailed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and former Delhi ministers Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain.

The rallies were held in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Fremont.

AAP supporters protest in New York

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 21 as part of an alleged excise liquor policy case, and was later remanded in judicial custody by a local court. The Delhi High Court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict on Tuesday.

indica spoke to the protestors at Fremont, California who came to “protect democracy”, and to demand that the Indian government should “release the AAP leaders” and “stop killing farmers.”

Rauf Adil, an AAP supporter since 2014, told indica that he joined the demonstrators to protest the unconstitutional and illegal arrest of opposition leaders. “The issue is more than that,” he said. “Today all institutions in India — from the judiciary to law enforcement and media — are compromised. The BJP government is pushing to establish a state based on Hindutva, which favors fascism. Anyone who raises a voice is being silenced and political leaders are put behind bars on flimsy grounds.”

He added, “I believe in America’s First Amendment (Freedom of Speech) and I want India to be a nation where people are allowed to speak freely. Kejriwal is the victim of a racket.”

Another long-time AAP supporter Santosh Addagulla told indica, “Many NRIs that have gathered here today believe that Indian democracy is threatened and authoritarianism is growing.”

He said, “For a country as diverse as India, it’s important to stay democratic. The government should give full freedom to its agencies such as CBI, EC, IT, ED. The opposition parties should be allowed to campaign and fight elections in a free and fair environment. The focus should be more towards real issues and not on the emotive issues.”

Dr. Invinder S Gill, who has supported AAP since inception, told indica, “I am here as a volunteer. We support a better democracy. They have arrested not just Kejriwal, but Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain. For more than two years, they have been in jail and that’s our biggest concern,” Dr. Gill said. “For a healthy democracy, a strong opposition is important but here they have frozen Congress bank account, while they are enjoying electoral bonds. Where is that money? That is what our country wants to know. We are here to save the democracy and to give appropriate representation to the opposition.”

He added, “The US government, Germany, and even the UK have indirectly shown their concern about Kejriwal’s arrest. These countries understand what democracy is and that is why we are here, supporting and raising our voices. BJP should not do what they are doing; they should create an open democracy and there should be clarity on where these funds are coming from.”

When asked about Kejriwal, Dr. Gill said he is innocent, “The court has to decide, but no proof has been given to establish his guilt. If judges are pressured by the government, then what do you expect?” He believes that the government should teach people democracy and “not treat people on the basis of caste alone”

Sheena Sawhney, a South Bay resident who says her Twitter account was blocked on March 3, 2024, told indica, that she wrote nothing against the government and she is here to support anybody who supports democracy. She believes politics and religion should stay separate.

“I support the constitution. I have never spoken against the Modi government,” Sawhney said, adding that she has appealed to the government. “I am supporting safe democracy and any other opposition voices and farmers protesters. The central government should call them and listen to them. If you are protesting in your own country, it’s called democracy.”

AAP supporters held a rally in Dallas, Texas

Prabhat Sharma, who has been to India several times to volunteer for AAP since its inception, told indica that people are showing their solidarity towards Kejriwal across the world and in several places in the US including New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

He said, “Kejriwal’s arrest is totally unconstitutional and this is part of an agenda of the Modi government to destroy the opposition before the elections. Kejriwal’s arrest was carried out to divert public attention from the electoral bonds issue where BJP is on the backfoot. They wanted to bury that developing news by triggering a piece of bigger news. The other reason behind his arrest was to prevent him from proceeding with his election campaign. He’s a star campaigner and wherever he held a meeting in India people thronged in huge numbers to listen to him.”

Ravi Katiyar, who lives in Dallas, held a protest in front Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza, Irving, Texas. He told indica, “Kejriwal’s arrest is an injustice, and that too without any evidence of complicity. The Indian government is using agencies that are under their control, and they are using them to arrest people based on their whim.”

Katiyar, who is an AAP supporter since 2013, said, “The government cannot control the messaging that people like Kejriwal are giving out. They are giving the right, and real picture of India, what is the ground reality. For Modi, that’s not good. He doesn’t want that, so he’s trying other tactics in his toolkit to silence the opposition.”

He added, “Everybody across the globe is noticing the injustice being done in India to opposition parties and leaders. They have put someone behind bars who is clearly not a corrupt person. I have talked to people in India, and even Modi supporters agree that Kejriwal is not corrupt. Everyone agrees that he shouldn’t be behind bars. He has done nothing to deserve that. I think it’s working against Modi.”

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