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Hold MP Arya Accountable for Inciting Hate

1 October 2022

Dear Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Trudeau,

As concerned academics, activists, and citizens of Canada, we are writing to condemn the actions of Mr. Chandra Arya, the Liberal Party’s Member of Parliament (MP) for Nepean Constituency. On 5 July, 2022, MP Arya tweeted publicly that a poster for the film Kaali, by Torontobased queer Indian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, was “painful” to him. His tweet clubbed her artistic piece with“Hinduphobic articles in media” and demanded an apology from the Aga Khan Museum where Ms. Manimekalai’s film was launched. Chandra Arya’s tweet is an attack on academic freedom and a classic case of artistic censorship. Backlash resulting from MP Arya’s tweet, among others, seems to have prompted the Aga Khan Museum and the Under the Tent program at Toronto Metropolitan University (for which the film was made) to remove Ms. Manimekalai’s name and film from their websites.

Moreover, and importantly, MP Arya’s tweet seeking to censor Ms. Manimekalai’s artistic expression contributed to intensifying her harassment and the hate directed at her, including multiple police cases and threats of gendered violence. These have prevented her from returning to India, even to grieve the death of a close family member, and rendered her effectively stateless. Ms Manikmekalai continues to be subjected to vile abuse and horrific threats, almost three months after the film was screened.

Ms. Manimekalai is an awardwinning filmmaker whose films have engaged with important social issues in India including violence against women, casteism, antiTamil repression, and rural and coastal livelihoods. She has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ activism in India. Ms. Manimekalai’s films and activism highlight the failures of the federal and state governments in serving the interests of the most marginalized communities in India. As a graduate student in the prestigious Master of Fine Arts program at York University, Ms. Manimekalai has received several awards and scholarships. Her film Kaali was the output of a project that she was shortlisted and funded for as part of the Under the Tent program, a storytelling initiative funded by the Canada Excellence Research Chair at Toronto Metropolitan University to explore belonging under Canadian multiculturalism.

MP Arya is using his position of power as MP to engage in dogwhistle politics. His claim that artistic political expression challenging dominant religious norms is “Hinduphobia” mirrors the tactics used by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling Hindu nationalist party in India, to silence and suppress its critics. The BJP has been widely condemned by human rights groups for attacking dissent and religious minorities. Groups such as “Overseas Friends of BJP” have been active in importing to Canada this hatred of religious minorities and critics of its Hindu supremacist project.

Ms Manimekalai challenges MP Arya’s use of the term “Hinduphobia,” arguing that, as someone born into a Hindu family, it is her “absolute freedom to claim and own the deity she grew up with from Brahminical [privileged caste] appropriation and keep [the goddess] Kali inclusive for all people from all kinds of backgrounds.”

Describing her trauma, Ms Manimekalai writes: “I am totally derailed by this grand scale witchhunting, personally and professionally. I am still not able to fathom my “stateless” condition that has paralysed me, even unable to run for safety. I find it hard to comprehend the fact that I have eleven police warrants in seven different BJPruled states in India, a court case demanding the injunction of the poster and the film, and the unconstitutional calls for beheading on blasphemy charges, all for a film poster. People like Chandra Arya in powerful positions validated and even encouraged the organised hate crime of unleashing thousands of tweets with death/ rape threats, filthy abuse, and slander in the name of religious sentiments. Is Trudeau aware that his own MP is part of the Hindu fundamentalist outfits who want to rape a living woman in order to save their “goddess”?”

MP Arya’s tweet does not behoove an elected MP of the Liberal Party of Canada. It is appalling that an elected MP would put Ms. Manimekalai,an international student in Canada and a queer artist, in harm’s way through a tweet whose consequences he was surely aware of. We would like to underscore again that the tweet contributed to Ms. Manimekalai receiving numerous threats of sexual violence and even death.

Further, MP Arya’s tweet does not bode well for protected free expression in Canada nor for the future of Canada’s politics. While the Liberal Government rightly condemned the attack on  Salman Rushdie, their own MP seems to have used a different set of rules. Elected representatives can and should bring important political issues to the fore. However, Mr. Arya’s targeting of a queer woman artist when she exercised her Charter-protected right to free expression in the form of artistic critique and his inciting of hatred and gendered violence is unacceptable. Mr. Arya’s actions also have a profound impact on members of Canada’s Christian, Dalit, and Muslim communities of Indian origin, many of whom came to Canada to escape this very atmosphere back in India.

Given the gravity of threats facing Ms. Manimekalai, we urge Prime Minister Trudeau to take urgent action to rectify the situation. In particular, we demand that:

  • MP Arya is required to apologize publicly to Ms. Manimekalai and delete his tweet.
  • An investigation is carried out into MP Arya’s activities in India and Canada and he is asked to step down as a Member of Parliament if it demonstrates affiliation to parties and organizations that promote intolerance and hatred.
  • The government strongly affirms that the promotion of hate and of violence against women will not be tolerated in Canada.
  • The government seeks an assurance from the Government of India that Ms. Manimekalai will not be put in harm’s way upon her return to India.


1. Aditya Dewan, Faculty, Dawson College

2. Adrian Smith, Associate Professor and York University

3. Ajay Parasram, Associate Professor

4. Alan Wong, English Professor, Vanier College

5. Alessandra Renzi, Associate Professor, Concordia University

6. Amar Bhatia Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law, York University

7. Amitoz Singh, Indian Farmers and Workers Support Group

8. Anna Flaminio, Assistant Professor, Ryerson University

9. Anita Badami

10. Anne-Marie Singh, Associate Professor, Criminology, TMU

11. Annette Lengyel, Human rights activist

12. Annie Khatchadourian

13. Anzar Hassan, Concerned citizen

14. Aparna Sundar, Independent Scholar

15. Ayesha Vemuri, McGill University

16. Baljit Nagra, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa

17. Banazeer Yaqoob, University of Alberta

18. Birinder Dhillon, Manager

19. Bruce Katz, Co-president Palestinian and Jewish Unity

20. Charlotte Kates, International Coordinator, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

21. Chinnaiah Jangam, Associate Professor, Carleton University

22. Dalbir Singh Bala

23. Daljeet Singh, Member, Punjabi Literary & Cultural Association, Winnipeg

24. Deepika Papneja, St James Town Community Corner

25. Denise Nadeau, Affiliate Assistant Professor, Concordia University

26. Dia Da Costa, Professor of Social Justice and International Studies in Education

27. Dipti Gupta, Teacher, Dawson College

28. Dolores Chew, Faculty, Marianopolis College

29. Donna Johnson.

30. Dorothy Geller, Research Affiliate, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University

31. Dr. A. Goldenberg

32. Dr. Sujith Xavier, Associate Professor & Director, Transnational Law and Justice Network (TLJN)

33. Dr. Swapna Gupta, Retired Child Psychologist, Alberta Children’s Hospital, Calgary

34. Enver Domingo, A concerned citizen and activist for human rights

35. Fahad Ahmad, Assistant Professor, Toronto Metropolitan University

36. Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

37. Fayyaz Baqir, Writer

38. Feroz Mehdi, General Secretary, Alternatives International

39. Freda Guttman, Artist, activist

40. Ghazala Munawar, Coordinator at South Asian Women’s Community center

41. Gisele Amantea, Artist

42. Hamid Akbar, Retired Tax Auditor

43. Hesham Khbolli, Co-founder HRK International

44. Ian Angus, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University

45. Ingrid Mittmannsgruber

46. Irina Ceric, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor Faculty of Law

47. Jacky Vallée,Teacher, Vanier College

48. Jaswant Guzder, Professor

49. Jillian Rogin, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor, Faculty of Law

50. John Greyson, Associate Professor, York University

51. Joshua Sealy-Harrington, Assistant Professor, Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University

52. Juvaria Yasser, Centre Manager

53. K. Kersplebedeb, Publisher

54. Kaleem Siddiqi, Professor of Computer Science, McGill University

55. Kanwal Kalirai

56. Karen Rodman, Executive Director, Just Peace Adovcates

57. Leila Bdeir, Teacher, Vanier College

58. M. V. Ramana, University of British Columbia

59. Madhav G. Badami, McGill University

60. Malavika Kasturi, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

61. Mali Daimee, Canadian citizen

62. Mangaie Saravanabavan, South Asian Women’s Community Center

63. Mansoor Ali

64. Marie Boti, Women of Diverse Origins/Femmes de diverses origines

65. Marika Hadzipetros, Humanities Teacher, Vanier College

66. May Chiu, Attorney

67. Mela Sarkar, Associate professor, McGill University

68. Mélanie Ederer

69. Michelle Hartman, Professor, McGill University

70. Mukhtiar Singh

71. Nafees Ahmad

72. Natalie Kouri-Towe, Assistant Professor, Concordia University

73. Naved Bakali, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor

74. Norma Rantisi, Professor, Concordia University

75. Paul F. Wilkinson, PhD, Applied Anthropologist

76. Peter White, Independent Curator and Writer

77. Pieter Friedrich, Journalist

78. Qaseem Khan, Retired

79. Rachel Berger Associate Professor of History, Concordia University

80. Radhika Desai, Professor, Dept. of Political Studies, University of Manitoba

81. Rahul Varma, Artistic Director, Teesri Duniya Theatre

82. Ricky Chohan, Canadian citizen

83. Riley de Groot

84. Rita Acosta

85. Riyazuddin Mohammed, Consultant

86. Robert Hornsey, Executive Board Member, West Coast Coalition Against Racism

87. Saadatou Abdoulkarim, Doctorante en sociologie à l’UQAM

88. Sailaja Krishnamurti, Gender Studies, Queen’s University

89. Salman Siddiqi

90. Sam Boskey, Former Leader of the Opposition, Montreal City Council

91. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, Assistant Professor (Department of Pediatrics) and Associate Member (School of Population and Global Health), Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, McGill University

92. Sandra Wesley, Executive director, Stella, l’amie de Maimie

93. Satwinder Bains, Director, South Asian Studies Institute

94. Shiri Pasternak, Assistant Professor, Toronto Metropolitan University

95. Sima Aprahamian, Ph.D., Research Associate, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University

96. Sonia Sikka, Professor, University of Ottawa

97. Sophie Toupin, Concordia University

98. Sudharshana Rajasingam, psychotherapist

99. Suja Selvaraj

100. Sunita Viswanath, Executive Director, Hindus for Human Rights

101. Tanisha Ramachandran, Associate Teaching Professor of religion, WFU

102. Tess Sheldon, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of WIndsor

103. Thashika Pillay, Assistant Professor, Queen’s University

104. Thelma Castro, Member, Women of Diverse Origin

105. Vasanthi Venkatesh, Associate Professor, University of Windsor

106. Vijay Puli, South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network, Canada

107. Vincent Wong Assistant Professor, University of Windsor Faculty of Law

108. Vrinda Narain,Associate Professor, Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, Faculty of Law, McGill University

109. Zahir Kolia, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, TMU

110. Zahra Moloo, Filmmaker and PhD student, University of Toronto


And 100 others who wished to withhold their names from the media


The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Honourable Anthony Rota, Speaker of the House of Commons

Mr. Jagmeet Singh, Leader, New Democratic Party

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Indian Civil Watch International (ICWI) is a non-sectarian left diasporic membership-based organization that represents the diversity of India’s people and anchors a transnational network to building radical democracy in India.