Hunger-Strike Appeal: Ro Khanna, Stand and Speak For Manipur

On my 4th day of hunger-strike, here is my direct message to Ro

pieter friedrich

Hi Congressman Ro Khanna.

As you probably already know, today is the 4th day of my indefinite hunger-strike to demand that you use your powerful political platform in Congress to take the floor of the House of Representatives and speak out against the ongoing anti-Christian massacre in Manipur, India.

In my hunger-strike, I have now consumed zero calories for almost 96 hours — nothing but water, tea, and black coffee. I’m hungry, Ro. I’m hungry for justice for the suffering and besieged Christians in Manipur. I’m hungry for you to raise your voice on the issue.

I am here standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your grandfather, Amaranth Vidyalankar ji, and his vision for India. My satyagraha, my hunger-strike asking you to raise your voice on the House floor for Manipur, is in solidarity with the legacy of your grandfather.

You’ve declared it as your very own duty to “stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for all.” You’ve said that’s “the vision of India” that your grandfather fought for.

I want to remind you of the actions you yourself just called a “duty” in those quotes: standing and speaking.

Right now, Ro, as Manipur burns, that vision of India which your grandfather fought for is being torn apart. There are no equal rights in Manipur, pluralism has been exchanged for totalitarianism, and the fires that rage are being fueled by Hindutva. Everything that’s happening in Manipur right now directly contradicts the vision of India which you affirmed in the past.

Wouldn’t this be exactly the sort of time when your grandfather would have stood up and spoke out?

You’ve said that your grandfather inspired you to get involved in public service. You’ve also said that you “came to Congress to say that America should always stand for human rights.” You said that when you were publicly speaking out against an atrocity in another part of the world.

If you believe that Congress should always stand for human rights and you’ve publicly spoken out against atrocities in places other than India, why won’t you publicly speak out on the atrocities ongoing in Manipur?

Stand up and speak out. Those are duties you have imposed on yourself when it comes to equal rights and human rights.

Please keep your grandfather’s legacy alive by following in his footsteps. He raised his voice at great personal cost to his own freedom. Yet what is the cost to you, if any, of raising your voice for peace and justice in Manipur?

Amarnath Vidyalankar ji spent his life fighting for India’s independence, and one cost he paid was four years in prison. The first time, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment just for writing an article in a newspaper!

Right now, unlike your grandfather back during the struggle for India’s independence, you’re in a position where you can speak out without any fear of being jailed for doing it. The thing is, India today does not represent the vision of pluralism and equal rights that your grandfather fought for. India today has, instead, again become like it was in your grandfather’s time: a place where anyone who dares to stand up and speak out can be and often is swiftly jailed.

But, if you don’t stand up and speak out at a time when you face zero repercussions for doing so, then when will you do it, Ro?

Your grandfather, who is your inspiration, spoke out for India at a time when it cost him his freedom. Here, in America, will you, Ro, do what your grandfather would have done and speak out for Manipur at a time when there is no risk to your freedom?

So far, your only response to my hunger-strike has been to sidestep, completely ignore the Manipur issue, and instead merely say that you  hope I stay healthy and safe.

Don’t you get it yet, Ro? I hope you understand that I’m not eating because the issue is NOT about MY health and safety, but about the health and safety of so many Christians in Manipur whose very existence is at risk of being extinguished. I don’t need your words of concern for me.

What I do need is what the people of Manipur need, which is your words of concern for them as they are being brutalized, gang-raped, gunned down, burned alive, and even beheaded.

It’s a very small, simple ask of you, Ro. It’s the tiniest of requests. Please, embrace the legacy of your grandfather and stand up and speak out, even if just for a paltry few seconds, for equal and human rights for the people of Manipur, especially the besieged, bleeding, and dying Kuki-Zo tribal Christians of that state.

When you do so, you might just save lives and will definitely make history.

You have called your grandfather a “family legend.” Please remember, Ro, that legends don’t walk middle grounds.

Please, Ro Khanna, speak out for Manipur before it’s too late.

Pieter Friedrich is a freelance journalist specializing in analysis of South Asian affairs. He is the author of Sikh Caucus: Siege in Delhi, Surrender in Washington and Saffron Fascists: India’s Hindu Nationalist Rulers as well as co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at

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