December 12, 2002
Strains of the famous protest song “mandir masjid girja ghar ne baant diya bhagwan ko, dharti baanti, sagar baanta, mat baanto insaan ko” were heard reverberating through the commercial district of Jackson Heights on the afternoon of December 8th. Community members were seen enthusiastically cheering about 30 marchers as they held placards that read, among others, “Food not fundamentlism” and “the people united will never be defeated”. The occasion was a PEACE MELA, hosted by INSAF (International South Asia Forum), to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Mosque and to raise their voice against religious fundamentlism in South Asian communities.
INSAF volunteers were joined by members of Workers’ Awaaz, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, South Asians against Police Brutality, Youth Solidarity Summer and members of the community. The march concluded at the famous Shaheen Restaurant where community members were treated to a free, unique cultural program featuring poetry, music and dance from all corners of the Indian subcontinent. The program was ably hosted by Raza Mir, who enthralled the audience with his ability to fluently switch between five languages. He brought attention to the new STOP FUNDING HATE report, recently released by Sabrang Communications and South Asian Citizens Watch to stop the flow of funds from Indian Americans and US corporations to right-wing Hindu organizations in India. The report links the India Development and Relief Fund (an organization that collects money supposedly for relief and charity in India) to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, organizations part of the Hindutva family (Sangh Parivar).
The program included an Odissi dance performance (Muna Hoque from the Humanist Center), two poetry readings (one in urdu by Vinod Mubayi of INSAF and one in bengali by Sushmita Mukherjee), an irreverent and celebratory performance piece (Sunita Mukhi, Sujata, Rizwan Mirza and Maya Chandra), a unique saxophone performance (Satish of Indofunk City) and finally a short clip from the film “War and Peace” (Anand Patwardhan).
In between the performances, the host invited representatives of the co-sponsoring organizations (Manavi, South Asians against police Brutality, Workers Awaaz, Youth Solidarity Summer) to provide a brief on their organization’s involvement in the community. We thank members of all co-sponsoring organizations for their support in making this event successful. In addition, we also wish to thank the owner of Shaheen restaurant, who not only attended the program but was also inspired to donate some money.
For more information on INSAF and its activities, please visit the website, or contact Ashwini K Rao (917-279-4923; or Sekhar Ramakrishnan (917-692-5261;
(Prerana Reddy and Ashwini K Rao on the scene in Jackson Heights)