- In a letter addressed to Edison and Woodbridge mayors, IBA President Chandrakant Patel admitted that “certain aspects” of the parade “reflected poorly on our organization and offended the Indian American minority groups, especially Muslims.”
The Indian Business Association, the organizer of the India Day Parade in Edison, New Jersey, has apologized for the inclusion of a bulldozer in its 18th annual parade earlier this month. In a letter issued to Edison Mayor Samip “Sam” Joshi and Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, IBA president Chandrakant Patel said the organization is sorry for “certain aspects” of the parade “that reflected poorly on our organization and offended the Indian American minority groups, especially Muslims, from the local area and across the state and country.” He continued saying that “the parade should be and has always been about a celebration of our Indian heritage and inclusion and diversity among our many cultures and religions.”
The parade, held on Aug. 14 on Oak Tree Road, covering the townships of Woodbridge and Edison, included a bulldozer, which symbolizes the demolition of Muslim properties in India. The bulldozer was decorated with photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. A banner saying “Baba ka Bulldozer” was seen next to Adityanath’s photo. BJP national spokesperson Dr. Sambit Patra was the grand marshal of the parade.
The letter further noted that “the divisive image” does not reflect IBA’s mission, but admitted that it offended many who have been impacted by events happening in India, as well as those who attended the parade or heard about it. IBA did not intend to offend anyone by the symbol or the comments made by their guest speakers, the letter said. “Our parade should never be about politics and should never include these blatant divisive symbols. Our parade should recognize us as South Asians living in two of the best towns in the country.”
Patel also pledged on behalf of the IBA that it will “not allow these symbols in the future and that it will work with all different groups of South Asian heritage to ensure that our parade remains the best in the state.”
The Indian American Muslim Council, shared the letter on its social media, noting that “anti-Muslim hate is not welcome in America.” It also reiterated its call for a governmental investigation into the role played by India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and OFBJP-USA in interfering with Edison’s parade.
Last week, Joshi issued a statement acknowledging that the bulldozer was used as “a symbol of division and discrimination.” In a statement sent to American Kahani, he stressed that although the parade is “independently run and not a township sponsored event, any symbol or action that represents discrimination is unwelcome in Edison Township as we are committed to celebrating and working in harmony with people from all cultures.” He ensured that his office will be working with stakeholders “to ensure that celebrations in the future serve the best interest of our community.
The mayor’s statement came after an Aug. 19 meeting with members of leading civil rights organizations in New Jersey including the New Jersey chapter of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and Hindus for Human Rights, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), Black Lives Matter (BLM), and American Muslims for Democracy (AMD). Earlier, some of these groups, including the IAMC and the HfHR had sent a letter to Joshi and Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, condemning the inclusion, calling the bulldozer, “a symbol of Muslim home demolitions in India.
At a press conference held after the meeting, the groups demanded immediate investigative and legal action from the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation against the Overseas Friends of the BJP and the IBA, according to an IAMC press release. Additionally, they urged that the Secretary of State “intervene to immediately revoke the visa Patra.”
Representatives of the groups noted in the press release that they had met with attorneys from the Attorney General’s office and the New Jersey Attorney General’s office “to seek legal action against the parade’s organizers.” and had “filed charges with the Edison Police Department against the IBA and sought police investigation into the hate parade.”
Several lawmakers including Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, Senator Vin Gopal and Assemblywomen Shama Haider, Sadaf Jaffer, and Ellen Park, issued a joint statement condemning the incision of the bulldozer, and applauded Joshi “for offering to take steps to ensure an incident like this does not recur.”