Braving extremely inclement weather, with a flood-like situation, Singha Bahini, a grassroots organization in India, held a pro-Israel rally in Kolkata, India on August 16, 2019. Over 10,000 people braved the heavy sudden downpour and flooding, which caused bumper-to-bumper traffic and clogged roads. Many thousands more could not make it through the treacherous conditions to the rally site. While the organization SinghaBahini is just a year old, the organizers have been on ground helping in the existential battle for the Hindus in the villages of Eastern India for over a decade.
Pro-Israel rallies are not new to the founder of the organization Devdutta Maji, who was instrumental in organizing two large pro-Israel rallies in India: 20,000 people in 2014 and 70,000 people in 2018. At the rally, demonstrators held placards saying, “We Support the Jewish People in their 2,000-Year-Old Struggle,” “India and Israel Friends Forever,” and “We Support Israel in Her War against Terrorism.”
The rally reflects the positive turn in the India-Israel relationship under the leadership of 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 as seen recently, ties between India and Israel and between the Hindus and Jews worldwide are expected to strengthen further.
Devdutta Maji visited Israel in 2018 was hosted by several Israel based organizations and activists including the Israel-Education Office of StandWithUS. He told the audience:
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.
Devdutta has continued with his efforts to bring the people of India closer to the people of Israel despite challenging situations in West Bengal. Until recently, it had 35 years of continuous communist rule, and with that rule came propaganda campaigns against Israel. It also neighbors Bangladesh, where Islamic fundamentalists often organize anti-Israel rallies.
The pro-Israel rallies were on the backdrop of the day observed as the remembrance of the Great Kolkata Killings of 1946. On that day, the Muslim League leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, called on Muslims to engage in direct action in support of the creation of a separate nation, Pakistan. To that end, the League attempted to inflict sufficient violence on the local Hindu community so that there would be a Hindu exodus. Estimates of the death toll of the ferocious attack range from 5,000 to 20,000. Gopal Mukherjee led the Hindus in stiff resistance, and Calcutta, now Kolkata, remained majority Hindu.
Devdutta Maji and the thousands of Indians who stand with him are inspired by Israel, a tiny nation that, although under siege for over 70 years, is growing and thriving. Devdutta drew parallels between the two peoples and the two democracies and their determination to thwart terrorism. “Jews have a right to exist. Hindus also have a right to exist. 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. We must stand up for ourselves. If the tiny beautiful nation of Israel can stand strong against terrorism, we Hindus need to say NO! Never again will we permit terrorism on our own soil.”