Indian Writer, Feminist and Social Activist Noor Zaheer in Montreal, Canada.


Under the Hindu fundamentalist BJP, India is sliding towards fascism as massacres of non-Hindu minorities and murders of perceived “enemies of the nation” remain unpunished and unapologized for, says journalist, writer, feminist and social activist Noor Zaheer.


Dr Zaheer last night addressed a packed hall in Montreal on the issue of “Nationalism and Intolerance in India Today”, as part of a speaking tour of Canada.


With roots going back to the British Raj, and links to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, the BJP singly formed its first majority government after winning only 31% of the vote in the 2014 elections. It governed twice before but always at the head of broad-based coalitions.


“Secular democratic forces, from the Congress Party to the Marxist and other Left parties, and also the regional state-based parties, are powerless , in disarray, and can’t seem able to put together an anti-fundamentalist strategy and Plan of action of a Common Front type”, said Ms Zaheer, whose father Sajjad Zaheer was a writer and a leader of the Communist Party of India in the independence struggle.


“But new forms of struggle are emerging, with the student movement at JNU in Delhi and Hyderabad U, and with women workers going on strike and forcing the male-dominated trade unions to back specific demands for women – like separate bathrooms in textile mills”, she said. “And these struggles are having a nation-wide appeal as people rally behind the call for Aazaadi (Freedom)”, she added.


Harassed, manhandled, arrested, defamed in doctored mainstream media videos, punished by the authorities, students at JNU, including Ms Zaheer own daughter, have been on a hunger strike since May 1st amid an outpouring of solidarity from across India.


“This is more than just a student movement restricted to just one campus”, she said. “On campus, professors and lecturers as well as manual workers have rallied behind the students”, she stressed. “The mainstream media, held by big corporate interests which brought the BJP to power, play down what’s happening, distort or trivialize it, or just ignores it, but social media is abuzz with continuous fresh news and commentary that keep people informed», she added.


Noor Zaheer has two books in English, both devoted to the fight for equal rights for Muslim women in India, My God Is A Woman, and Denied By Allah. “That fight can only be won if India becomes truly secular”, she said, “and the rule of the Hindu fundamentalists sets us back because it only stiffens Muslim fundamentalism as a form of reaction”. She also writes in Hindi and Urdu.

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