Monday, May 22, 2017
NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the United States this week for a second time since coming to office. The highlights of the visit are a reception hosted by the Indian community in San Jose, a meeting with Fortune 500 CEOs in New York, and a visit to Silicon Valley, which will include a meeting with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
PM Modi’s social media accounts are full of posts regarding the visit, with a detailed itinerary being spelt out. What’s missing from the narrative, however, are the events running parallel to the PM’s agenda, including protests over the PM’s past record, demonstrations involving the Patel community, the launch of website www.ModiFail.com, and the demand for free speech protection in the context of digital rights.
The Citizen looks at the developments:
To kickstart this visit, PM Modi will address the United Nations sustainable development summit in New York and take part in a meeting hosted by President Barack Obama on peacekeeping.
Day 1-2: Address at UN sustainable development summit; Meeting on peacekeeping; Working dinner with representatives of Fortune 500 companies
On the address at the UN and the meeting on peacekeeping, PM Modi said in a Facebook post:
“On 24th September 2015, I will commence my visit to USA. This visit seeks to build on the substantial ground covered during my last visit to USA and President Obama's visit to India early this year.
“I am going to USA at a historic moment when the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary,” The PM added. “In New York City, I will address the UN Sustainable Development Summit for formal adoption of post-2015 new sustainable development agenda.”
“I will also participate in a summit hosted by President Obama on peacekeeping,” the PM said. “This year, India will host a summit of G-4 leaders in New York where the main agenda would be the UNSC reforms,” the post stated. There will be a working dinner where major Fortune-500 companies will be present to deliberate on investment opportunities in India……”
Note: Greeting PM Modi in New York will be a number of protesters, with the Patel community being added to a fray comprising of Sikh groups, some Muslim groups and an assortment of human rights advocates.
According to reports, hundreds if not thousands of Patels are expected to gather to demonstrate against the PM for his lack of support for their demand to scrub caste based reservation.
According to the Times of India, Alpesh Patel, who is one of the organizers rallying people under the banner of Sardar Patel Sena, said they had obtained the required permits from law-enforcement authorities and expected more than a thousand people to gather for the demonstration.
India Today states that “The Patels in the US have also decided to organise a protest rally in New York. They claim to have the support of 10,000 people. About 5000 are likely to protest in Silicon valley. They had also cut a black cake on PM Modi's 65th birthday on September 17.”
The Patel agitation has caught the attention of the US media, with the New York Times running a story titled “India’s Middle Class Revolt.” “It should come as no surprise that young Indians, especially those in the middle class like the Patels, are frustrated. Many have college degrees but still cannot land the kinds of professional jobs that they want,” the article concluded.
Day 3-4: Visit to Silicon Valley and San Francisco
On his visit to the West Coast, PM Modi said on Facebook:
“During my USA visit I will be visiting the West Coast on 26th and 27th September, where I will join several programmes… I will be part of a Townhall Q&A at the Facebook HQ along with Mr. Mark Zuckerberg... I will also see some recent technological innovations at the Google (Alphabet) campus and Tesla Motors. I will address a Renewable Energy Roundtable with USDOC and Stanford University.”
“An event that I am enthusiastic about is the ‘India-US Start-up Konnect”.
Note: PM Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley has angered some people, including a coalition of Indian-Americans who say they want to hold Modi 'accountable for both past and present attacks on the human rights of Indian communities'.
The efforts of a group calling themselves the Alliance for Justice and Accountability launched a website titled www.ModiFail.com and floated the hashtag #ModiFailDotCom. The site lists information about protests planned regarding the Indian Prime Minister’s visit.
“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,” the About US page on Modi Fail reads.
“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.”
A protest event was also floated by the US based organisation Sikhs For Justice.
The ‘Sikhs for Justice’ Page called on supporters to picket the FB headquarters in protest against Zuckerberg’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 27 . SFJ is an organisation committed to get justice for the victims of the 1984 violence in New Delhi. It organised major protests against PM Modi for the Gujarat violence during his visit to the United Nations last year, taking a lead in carrying out a mock trial on the lawns facing the White House in Washington. It has been using the FB page to mobilise support for the protests being held against the Prime Minister in New York, and California.
Final Day: Visit to San Jose
PM Modi’s trip to the US will end with the grand finale of a rock star concert-esque address at the SAP Center Arena in San Jose. Think along the lines of the Madisson Square Gardens extravaganza last visit.
PM Modi says:
“In San Jose, I will interact with the Indian community on the 27th September. The Indian diaspora has left no stone unturned in strengthening India-USA ties. We are very proud of the accomplishments of our diaspora that has made immense contributions to both our societies.”
Note: Protests are also planned outside at the SAP Center on September 27. “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,” a press statement said.
The statement reads:
“Join us to stand up for India’s religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, historically marginalized castes, Dalits and adivasis — as well as everyone who loves a safe and clean environment, free speech, a free Internet, and the right to openly debate and disagree.
Until 2014, Narendra Modi was banned from entering the United States and several other countries for his complicity in the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002 in which hundreds of Muslim men, women and children were brutally massacred by Hindu mobs. Since winning the election, Modi has used his diplomatic privileges to visit countries from which he was previously banned, trying to whitewash his global image. But Modi’s PR team can’t hide the facts. Join us on September 27 to demand real development and progress, to remember and honor those who have not received any justice, and protest the perpetrator of injustices.”
Some of the groups mentioned in this article had taken the lead in organising protests against PM Modi’s visit to the UN last year. Sikhs For Justice went as far as organising a mock trial on the lawns facing the White House in Washington.
Although the protests are located in grievances relation to the 1984 Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots, the groups have outlined a number of objections pertaining to PM Modi’s recent record. AJA states:
“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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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).
7. 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.”