Posted on August 30, 2022

Tempers Flare as Indian Organisers Refuse to Apologise for Bulldozer at New Jersey Parade

Azad Essa, Middle East Eye, August 26, 2022

New Jersey’s Indian Business Association (IBA) has said it will not apologise for bringing a bulldozer to an India Day Parade earlier this month, in a saga that has turned the spotlight on the rising role of Hindu nationalism in US politics.

Speaking on the sidelines of a marathon four-hour township council meeting in Edison, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Chandrakant Patel, the chairman of the IBA, told Middle East Eye that his organisation would not apologise for the incident “because it had not done anything wrong.”

“This is a prejudiced complaint. The bulldozer only represents the demolishing of illegal structures on government land (in India),” Patel said.

On 14 August, organisers arranged for a bulldozer to roll through Edison’s streets as part of a rally marking the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. The excavator was decorated with posters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath, an Indian politician from the state of Uttar Pradesh who is known for his incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Adityanath, who is a vocal supporter of the Islamophobic “Love Jihad” campaign that aims to stop Muslims from marrying Hindu women, has pejoratively earned the nickname “Bulldozer Baba” over his extensive use of excavators.

In recent years, bulldozers have become a symbol for Hindu nationalists with authorities using them to demolish the homes of Muslim activists under the pretext of the structures being illegal.

Both the UN as well as several international human rights groups have called the practice an act of collective punishment.

Several Indian-American Muslims told MEE on Wednesday that they were particularly aggrieved that the IBA would decide to bring these symbols of hate to Edison given the discrimination plaguing India’s religious minorities.

Likewise, organisations such as the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) have demanded action be taken against the IBA.

“In the name of an India parade, they are parading racist Hindutva ideology through the streets of Edison,” said one Muslim activist who requested to remain anonymous.

“And if someone says ‘I don’t know what the bulldozer is’, I am sorry you are a liar,” the activist added.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, tensions flared as several residents accused council member Ajay Patil of a conflict of interest given he was also vice-president of the IBA.

Patil was asked to recuse himself from the issue with residents noting that at the first council meeting after the incident, he was the only member who refrained from condemning the incident.

“Could it be that the one person who did not condemn the act happens to be a vice-president of the IBA?” Bishop Nikolaos G Brown, from Ignite Church, asked the council rhetorically at the meeting.

Another resident, Tony DePasquale, echoed the sentiment: “He should have said nothing or should have been part of the solution, instead he diminished the feelings of people.”

Addressing concerns at the end of the meeting, Patil said he wasn’t privy to IBA’s plans prior to the event and that he did not think he needed to excuse himself from commenting on the issue.

But an official in the Edison Township Municipality, who asked to remain anonymous, told MEE that it was unlikely he wasn’t aware and unthinkable that he would characterise himself as an impartial stakeholder.


Several representatives and surrogates of the IBA attended Wednesday’s meeting and defended the inclusion of the bulldozer at the rally, describing it as a symbol of “law and order” in India.

They argued that the Indian Muslim complaints were baseless and disrespectful to the Indian government as well as to Hinduism.