- Leading civil rights groups in the state met with the mayor and have demanded immediate investigative and legal action from the DoJ, DHS and FBI against the Overseas Friends of the BJP and the parade organizers.
Edison, New Jersey Mayor Samip “Sam” Joshi has acknowledged that a bulldozer at the India Day Parade 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 18th edition of the annual parade was hosted by the Indian Business Association and held on Oak Tree Road, covering the townships of Woodbridge and Edison. Actress Kajal Aggarwal was the special guest, and BJP national spokesperson Dr. Sambit Patra was the grand marshal. Also in attendance were lawmakers like New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).
The bulldozer at the parade had a photo 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.
The mayor’s statement comes 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.”
Minhaj Khan, former president of IAMC- N.J., and Selaedin Maksut, executive director of CAIR, N.J., addressed the press conference. “Hindu and Muslim Indian Americans are peace-loving communities in Edison,” Khan said, as per the press release. “We will not allow Hindu extremists to disturb that peace by hate speech and rhetoric,” he said. “This parade has created a sense of fear of potential hate violence among the Indian Muslim community in New Jersey,” he added.
Khan also informed the attendees that Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, who had joined the Aug.14 parade, “denounced it after he learned of the symbolism of the bulldozer.” He said the mayor has “assured us he has already launched an investigation into the parade.” According to Khan, McCormac “told their delegation that he would reject future permits to hate parades, ensure float inspections beforehand, and vet speaker lists so that hate speeches are prevented.”
Maksut said it was “important that the symbol of the bulldozer and the usurpation of Indian Independence Day by international political influence is universally recognized as wrong.” Noting that “Mayor Joshi and Mayor McCormac recognize the divisive and discriminatory motivation behind it,” he said “the precedent is now established to take extra care in preventing this from happening again or withhold official participation while maintaining the rights to free speech and assembly.”