Narendra Modi will visit the US this weekend, and a welcome befitting a rockstar awaits him. Even the king of Bollywood would be envious of Modi’s reception in New York City: crowds, dances, fireworks.
But not every Indian American is swept up in the excitement. An anti-Modi group is planning a rally against the Indian prime minister on Sept. 28 in Manhattan.
Modi will deliver a speech to more than 18,000 people at Madison Square Garden (MSG), New York City’s iconic sports and entertainment arena this weekend. The event, which is completely sold out, will perhaps draw the largest ever gathering to hear a foreign leader speak on American soil. A livestream will be up at Times Square and at viewing parties around the country. (And on Quartz India.)
But, a US group dubbed the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) has organised a protest against Modi’s visit to the MSG. They accuse the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader of “genocidal Islamophobia” and want him to face a “courtroom and a judge for his crimes against humanity.” According to PTI in Washington, AJA comprises individuals and organisations that had earlier formed Coalition Against Genocide, which had successfully campaigned against a US visa for Modi while he was Gujarat chief minister.
“We cannot join the chorus of the blind and shameless praise that Narendra Modi and the BJP has received,” writes the group on its Facebook page. Rights groups have long alleged that Modi didn’t do enough to curb the 2002 sectarian violence that engulfed Gujarat in 2002 and killed more than 1,000 people, predominantly Muslim. But he has not been found guilty by any court.
After his thumping election victory earlier this year, questions about Modi and 2002 had largely subsided. If protesters manage to pull off a rally in Manhattan during this high profile visit, it will be disconcerting for the prime minister.
A Tumblr page called Diaspora says no to Modi has also been created by South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), a group within AJA, and Indian families are being asked to submit photos “voicing opposition to Modi agenda.”
An open letter addressed to Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, is also included on the page. Davuluri is the first Indian-American to win the beauty pageant and will be one of the emcees at the Modi party in Madison Square Gardens. The letter asks her to withdraw from her speaking engagement.
“He (Modi) is a lifelong member of the RSS which is a Hindu nationalist organization that has amongst other things praised Hitler,” says the letter. “It is therefore disheartening to know that you will be speaking at the reception for Narendra Modi later this month.”