Hindu Crowd at Pro-Israel August Rally (Image Credit: Courtesy Singha Bahini)
Braving flooding in the city, the Indian grassroots organization Singha Bahini held a major pro-Israel rally in Kolkata (Calcutta) on August 16th of this year. More than 10,000 people came together in support of Israel. Bumper-to-bumper traffic and roads clogged by sudden heavy downpours and flooding kept many more attendees away who could not make it to the rally site.
Just one year old, Singha Bahini continues work on the ground to fight the existential battle for Hindus in the villages of Eastern India. For over a decade, the founder of the organization, Devdutta Maji, has been instrumental in working with others to organize two large pro-Israel rallies in India, with 20,000 people in 2014 and 70,000 people in 2018.
Singha Bahini has continued with this tradition, despite the fact that this area of India has a 35% Muslim population, 35 previous years of continuous communist rule and is neighbors with Islamic Bangladesh — home to Islamic fundamentalists who frequently organize anti-Israel rallies.
The August rally was held against the backdrop of a day of observance remembering the Great Kolkata Killings that took place in 1946 at the time of the transfer of power from the British to Indian leadership. In those riots, members and supporters of the All-India Muslim League killed thousands of Hindus in rioting aimed at causing a Hindu exodus from Kolkata, to ensure its inclusion in the Muslim state of East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. However, under the leadership of the Hindu hero Gopal Mukherjee, stiff resistance was mobilized and the plan was stopped.
While condemning terrorism against Hindus, and asserting that Hindus too have a right to exist, Singha Bahini President Devdutta Maji said, "Hindus for generations have been facing genocides. We have lost 400 million Hindus in the last 1,400 years. Fifty three million Hindus have simply vanished from Bangladesh alone. This must end. Hindus need to get organized and see inspiration in the tiny beautiful nation of Israel, on how they stop terrorism on its own soil and support its own people."
Placards supporting Israel at the August rally carried slogans such as: "We Support The Jewish People In Their 2000 Year Old Struggle"; "India And Israel — Friends Forever"; and "We Support Israel In Their War Against Terrorism." The relations between India and Israel have shown a positive turn under the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Indian Prime Minister visited Israel in July 2017 and Prime Minister Netanyahu reciprocated with a visit to India in 2018. With strong trade ties, people-to-people contact and rallies in support of Israel, ties between India and Israel and between the Hindus and Jews worldwide are expected to strengthen further.
In 2018, Maji visited Israel and met with several Israeli-based organizations and activists, including a visit to the Western Wall, meeting with Knesset members at the Knesset and with Ambassador (Ret.) Zalman Shoval in his office at Tel Aviv.
Maji told The Jerusalem Herald that "Today's rally will help to build on the foundations we have created for the India-Israel relationship on a people-to-people basis. The implications of these are bound to spill over to co-operation between the two communities worldwide, who share similar values, making us strong."
Crowd Listens to Speakers at Pro-Israel August Rally (Image Credit: Courtesy Singha Bahini)