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Panel discussion on Indian Muslims in Washington
By Kaleem Kawaja

Washington DC: An interesting feature of the annual convention of the American Muslim Council (AMC) in Washington DC (June 27-30), was a 2 hour panel discussion entitled, "Muslims in India". The panelists in this session were: Kaleem Kawaja - The Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC; Manzoor Ghouri - Indian Muslim Relief Committee, San Francisco, CA; Dr Abdul Rahman Nakadar, American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin, Detroit, MI. Faiz Rahman, Communications Director of AMC moderated the session. 

The first speaker, Kaleem Kawaja, provided substantial information on the historical, political, socio-economic situation of Muslims in India and their plight, including frequent large scale violence against them, and the connivance of the government machinery with the Hindu fanatic marauders, in the last fifty years. He lamented the fact that even in instances of very large scale violence against the Muslims in India, eg demolition of Babri mosque and violence in many cities (1992); and the recent carnage in Gujarat (2002), almost none of the about 50 Muslim countries issued any statement condemning the massacres. Also none of them used their considerable leverage on India, vis-a-vis trade and supply of oil, to ask them to stop the violence and treat Indian Muslims with fairness. Similarly the human rights oriented Western nations also maintain deafening silence. He appealed to the Muslims in America to urge their senators & congressmen to pay attention to the 50 year long, continued oppression of Muslims in India. 

The next speaker Dr Abdul Rahman Nakadar, provided a detailed account of the horrible violence against Muslims in Gujarat in recent months, and the total indifference of both the Indian federal and Gujarat state governments, to the massacre of Muslims. He described the violence against Muslims in Gujarat as a pre-planned genocide. He described the efforts of Muslims living in US who have approached the US government to influence the Indian government, to stop the violence against Muslims in India. He also described the efforts being made by NGOs to provide relief to the victims in India. 

The last speaker, Manzoor Ghouri, made a very effective video presentation on the carnage in Gujarat, the horrible planned violence on Muslims in many cities/villages in Gujarat, and the miserable condition of the Muslim refugees in relief shelters. He stated that over 150,000 Muslim refugees are living in flimsy tents during the very hot summer and the torrential monsoon rains. He stated that so far the government has given no help to the relief centers and hardly any compensation to the victims. He urged the Muslims in US to come to the help of the helpless victims in Gujarat, by providing both financial help and lobbying support. 

A lively hour long question-answer session followed the presentations. Several people from the audience enquired why the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the fanatic Hindu group that is largely responsible for the massacre in Gujarat, and that collects large funds every year in US, is not being banned by the US government. Others in the audience suggested that the government and police officers in Gujarat who allowed this massacre to occur, must be somehow brought to justice. Several in the audience felt that even the global Muslim community does not have adequate information on the grievous plight of Muslims in India, and that greater effort should be made to disseminate such information to all.

The writer is a director of the Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC. 

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