Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 28, 2020
Mr. President: The photo of the U.S. President and the First Lady standing in front of
the iconic Taj Mahal is as expected of a visit to India. It is also emblematic of Muslim
rule from the late 12th century until the 18th when the Mughal Empire disintegrated,
eventually enabling the British to cobble together the pieces.
The Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his
beloved wife Mumtaz -- hence Mumtaz Mahal, corrupted by the local dialect to Mumtaj
and abbreviated to Taj.
He had intended to build a corresponding structure in black marble on the opposite
bank of the river as his own burial place but he was deposed by impatient,
quarrelsome sons, of whom Aurangzeb emerged victor after a bloody civil war. Overly
religious and ascetic, he was not inclined to such extravagance, and had the old king
buried next to his wife. It is why the Queen occupies center stage in the Taj and the
King is to one side.
The man whose name Trump could not pronounce, giving up in his attempt, Yogi
Adityanath is an ardent Hindu nationalist and current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh,
having been appointed by Modi in March 2017. He is notorious for removing the Taj
Mahal from the state's tourism list, and substituting it with "temples from Mathura,
Ayodha and Gorakhpur." So reported New Indian Express. Born Ajay Singh Bisht
and all of 5 ft. 4 ins, the fiery Yogi's rhetoric has been yielding results.
Added to by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra who warned
police to clear the anti-CAA protesters or there would be consequences. The CAA or
Citizenship Amendment Act is seen by many as anti-Muslim.
Consequences there were and 13 people were killed during the Trump-Modi bro love
fest. Since then the toll has risen to 27 dead and a couple of hundred injured while
Muslim neighborhoods of Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Mustafabad and Shiv Vihar have been
vandalized. Mosques have been attacked, vehicles burned and buildings set alight.
Muslims have been seen fleeing their homes carrying whatever belongings they can.
Reminiscent of 1984 when Sikhs were the target of militant Hindu mobs, local Hindu
residents say the perpetrators are outsiders.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is sufficiently concerned to have asked for the
army to be brought in to restore order as the police are heavily outnumbered -- one
policeman has been killed.
Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi blames the BJP Home Minister Amit Shah, and has
called for his resignation. He has a history of polarizing tactics to win elections.
The highly respected human rights organization, Amnesty International, has accused
the Trump and Modi governments of anti-Muslim policies. Margaret Huang,
Amnesty's US executive director, did not mince words saying, "Anti-Muslim sentiment
permeates the policies of both US and Indian leaders [and the new] shared values [of
the U.S. - India relationship] are discrimination, bigotry and hostility toward [Muslim]
refugees and asylum seekers."
Noting also the Kashmir lockdown, which is having devastating economic
consequences as reported by the BBC and others, Amnesty International India
executive director Arvind Kumar called on Trump and Modi to address Amnesty's
concerns in their bilateral talks.
These talks are over but defenseless Muslims in India continue to be marginalized,
attacked and even killed.