New Delhi,UPDATED: Aug 17, 2023 10:47 IST
US Congressman Ro Khanna met violence-affected Muslims from Haryana, Umar Khalid’s father, Tushar Gandhi and a group from Manipur on Wednesday. During the meeting, the group narrated what happened to them and said those who protested had to pay a price with their homes being destroyed, sources told India Today.
Commenting on his meeting with violence-affected Muslims, Khanna told India Today, “One of the first things they said to me was that they love India and lived here for generations. They just want to be able to live in India with dignity and respect. In many cases, they have that experience with ordinary society, but they wanted to share their perspective because of their love for India. It was important for me too to hear from the people on the ground. I always do that back home in my constituency.”
The US Congressman was leading a bipartisan delegation to Delhi to participate in the Independence Day celebration on August 15. The delegation also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
The Indian-American lawmaker held separate meetings with three groups of people where sources said, “they had a frank conversation, shedding light on the tough situations faced by the Indian citizens who are living under fear and insecurity.”
Tweeting about his meeting with Ro Khanna, Tushar Gandhi wrote, “I met with US Congressman @RoKhanna in Mumbai. I briefed him about the situation in India, the nation’s plunge into an abyss of hate, divisiveness and violence. He, I believe, wanted to meet the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who he says is his inspiration.”
Gandhi added, “I was warned that Ro oscillates. I discovered a sincere man and a shrewd politician. No better, no worse. I told him, like in 1930 what Bapu asked humankind, secular liberal inclusive India asks for world sympathy in battle of right against might today. And that we looked at people like him for it. Ro met with the PM and Union Ministers. They thwarted his meeting with Rahul Gandhi, but he met Umer Khalid’s father and representatives from violence ravaged Manipur.”
While appreciating Ro Khanna for meeting these diverse groups and finding out for himself about the situation in India, Tushar Gandhi also asked Khanna to stand up to the right wing elements in America as well.
“Now I hope he will support our cause and stand up to the Hindu right wing in the US and not go soft on them. @RoKhanna we count on you keep showing the same courage you showed in Delhi,” wrote Gandhi.
RO KHANNA MEETS KUKIS
Members of the Kuki tribe from Manipur were more vocal about their problems and wanted their voices to be heard. They spoke of their uprooted condition in a place where they don’t have the majority. They are vulnerable and often taken advantage of. Hence, they made an appeal for help and for to be given a voice that would support their cause.
“They feel vulnerable and they wanted to make sure that they have some voice. They are outnumbered. They don’t have the same representation in the state or in the parliament. They wanted to make sure that someone is speaking up for them,” Khanna said.
Ro Khanna also met SQR Ilyas, father of former JNU scholar and activist, Umar Khalid, who has been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in the larger conspiracy surrounding the communal violence that broke out in February 2020 in the Indian capital. Khalid has been behind bars since September 2020.
When asked about meeting Ilyas, Khanna said, “He was part of the group. I didn’t even know that he was Umar Khalid’s father till he introduced himself to me. We met. Don’t want to add anything else right now.”
However, he did not share details of the organisers of his visits. “I don’t want to get into that. Some of the people wanted it to be private,” he said.
Sources told India Today that the delegation had sought a meeting with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who also had served as Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs and on Informational Technology. While Tharoor was open to meeting the delegation, he was out of town and therefore a meeting could not be scheduled.