They came in large numbers, represented different faiths and ideological persuasions, and from across the United States. Protesters outside the Madison Square Garden event on Sunday in New York City, came to stand up for seclarism, and to convey some firm and simple demands to visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under the banner of “Alliance for Justice and Accountability.”
The Alliance, a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, attracted a large and spirited group of Indian Americans with one thing in common: they were demanding justice and accountability in the case of Mr. Modi, and an end to repression of minorities and crony capitalism in India.
“The protests have demonstrated the rejection of a leader who represents a hateful and divisive agenda, ” said Robindra Deb, a key AJA organizer of protest on September 28. “We represent the 70% of Indians that did not vote for Mr. Modi,” added Mr. Deb.
AJA protesters were required by law to share protest space with all other groups protesting at MSG. “While we share human rights concerns, AJA does not endorse separatist calls by other groups protesting outside of MSG. These groups were not part of the Alliance” said Shaik Ubaid, a spokesperson for the Alliance.
The first 100 days of Mr. Modi’s tenure as PM have shown to the world the grave dangers posed by the Hindu nationalist ideology to pluralism and the rule of law. Since the national elections that brought Modi’s party to power, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh alone has witnessed over 600 incidents against the Muslim minority . Mr. Modi has imposed severe restrictions on civil society institutions including world-renowned organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace, and is using India’s Intelligence Bureau to tarnish reputed NGOs in India and the diaspora as “anti-national groups.”
Placards could be seen in the large crowd, demanding that Mr. Modi himself be brought to justice and demanding an end to the sectarian agenda of the Hindutva ideology he espouses. Protesters also expressed determination that they would not let the victims of the Gujarat pogroms of 2002, or the subsequent extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions in Gujarat be forgotten. The anti-conversion agenda espoused by Modi’s party has now spiraled into major polarization campaigns led by Hindu nationalist militias to restrict the religious freedoms of minority communities.
Mr. Modi was banned from entering the US by the State Department, under the International Religious Freedom Act for his “egregious violations of religious freedom.” With his election to the post of Prime Minister, the US decided to lift the travel ban, an exemption often given to heads of state.
Protesters also referred to the report released by The Ghadar Alliance (a constituent of AJA) that evaluated Mr. Modi’s first 100 days in office. The meticulously researched report details the ways in which the new government has increased repression of minorities through brazen violations of human rights and religious freedom, dismantled democratic protections, while increasing corporate giveaways. The full report can be found at:http://www.modifacts.org/
“The protests have sent a clear message. The so-called ‘welcome’ given to Mr. Modi by the Indian diaspora is far from being uniform,” said Sonia Joseph, an organizer with SASI in NYC. “On the contrary, a large section of the diaspora has decided its time to stand up and be counted among those who will defend secularism and pluralism in India against the onslaught of Hindutva.” she further added
“Economic development on the graveyard of human rights and rule of law can never go right” said Parchi Patankar, another spokesperson for the Alliance.
The majority of protesters came through chartered buses from New Jersey, Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia.