Modi reception in CA is designed for “rehabilitating his image as a pogrom-tainted politician,” say protesters
San Jose, CA: Sept. 16, 2015 — A coalition of South Asian Americans and others concerned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to California marks an attempt to whitewash his human rights record are planning to protest him on September 27.
Modi, who will speak at San Jose’s SAP Center to an anticipated crowd of tens of thousands, will be officially “unwelcomed” by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA). Billed as a “rock-star reception” by Indian-American news outlets, AJA believes the event is designed for “rehabilitating his image as a pogrom-tainted politician.”
Bhajan Singh of Organization for Minorities of India, one of AJA’s member groups, says: “Modi is a monster whose regime is typical of the pattern of Indian State rule for the past decades. Sikhs faced state-sponsored terror in 1984 under Congress and Muslims faced it in 2002 under BJP, while Christians and Dalits and other communities are routinely terrorized with impunity and state complicity. By the power of the Almighty, we will stand and speak truth to power on September 27.”
In a press statement announcing the protest, the AJA reported:
In anticipation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the Bay Area on September 27, 2015, the Alliance for Justice And Accountability (AJA) – a broad coalition of progressive organizations – has launched a campaign to hold him accountable for past and present attacks on the freedoms and human rights of Indian communities.
AJA will hold a protest at the SAP Center on September 27, 2015 under the banner #ModiFail, to expose the realities behind Modi’s alleged “accomplishments.” The Alliance will also reach out to elected officials and corporate leaders in the US to inform them about Modi’s failed and regressive policies that negatively impact human rights, religious freedoms, the environment, and overall: shrink the space for civil liberties under his rule.
Modi, who was banned by successive US administrations from entering the United States, for his role in the 2002 Gujarat massacres, will now be travelling here under “diplomatic immunity.” The Gujarat genocide, in which nearly 2,000 people were killed, is considered one of the worst incidents of anti-minority violence in Independent India. Modi is widely held responsible for it by national and international rights groups. With his Silicon Valley visit, Modi’s supporters plan to hold a “rock star” reception aimed at rehabilitating his image as a pogrom-tainted politician. According to news reports, Silicon Valley corporations wanting to do business in India have been asked to contribute towards an $800,000 fund for the event at the SAP Center.
Narendra Modi was elected as Prime Minister in May 2014 with his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) receiving only 31 per cent of the popular vote. Since his election:
- India has seen a dramatic rise in mass violence against Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and other marginalized communities while Hindu nationalist militias responsible for that violence are being granted impunity from prosecution at the highest levels of government.
- The Modi administration has led a campaign against environmental and human rights groups across India. Since coming to power, Modi has blocked funding for over 13,000 nonprofits, attempting to shut down environmental groups like Greenpeace, 350.org, and the Sierra Club. His administration has even issued an ordinance banning the use of the phrase “human rights” in the names of NGOs.
- Narendra Modi has tried to cut funding for women and children by 50% in his 2015 budget, while refusing to speak out against rapes committed by members of his own party, the BJP.
- Modi and the BJP have refused to decriminalize homosexuality and protect LGBTQ citizens from state harassment — a move supported by every other major national party in India.
- The BJP-led government of Maharashtra has led a campaign to ban beef, followed by more recent bans on all meat during religious holidays in the state. Similar bans on beef now exist in other states like Karnataka and Haryana. Apart from the attack on personal liberty and choice, millions of Dalits, Muslims, Christians and other communities across India rely on beef as an inexpensive source of protein in their staple diets.
- Modi’s government has taken steps to re-write history textbooks in India, privileging a right-wing Hindu nationalist ideology and positioning India’s Muslims and Christians as untrustworthy “foreign invaders.” Modi has also made ideologically motivated appointments to several key educational and cultural positions, including the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR).
- Modi’s government has been actively censoring internet access and activity, with a unilateral blocking of websites, including that of GitHub, Vimeo, and the Internet Archive, while also trying to revive the online censorship law struck down by India’s Supreme Court in March. The government has also increased its censorship of the Indian media.
In fact, as the New York Times recently said in an editorial, it is ironic that while Narendra Modi “trumpet[s] India’s open society and vibrant democracy” when speaking to heads of state and business leaders, his government is “seeking to restrict freedom of expression.”
The Alliance for Justice and Accountability agrees. “Narendra Modi is visiting Silicon Valley to talk about ‘Digital India,’” says Anirvan Chatterjee of AJA, “but we’re worried by his record. Digital Indians deserve strong privacy and free speech protection.”
Pieter Friedrich with the Sikh Information Center at the Alliance, concludes: “Silicon Valley leaders and the general American public need to recognize how dangerous Modi’s record in office is. Rather than offering Modi and his supporters an opportunity to whitewash his past crimes and gloss over his present policies, we ask them to hold Modi and his government accountable for the severe threat to the freedoms and rights of all Indians.”