Thousands protest against PM Modi during Howdy Modi event

Thousands of Indian Americans joined a protest rally against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sunday, during the Howdy Modi event, led by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), a coalition of Indian Americans.

The AJA comprises Hindu, Muslim, Dalit, Sikh and Christian groups, among others. They include the Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), a progressive Hindu group that opposes Hindutva; the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC); and the Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI).

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Black Lives Matter too joined it. Judge William Bill McLeod, who is currently running for Harris County civil court was present.

‘We are a bona fide group of Indian Americans with roots in India, and not connected with any other nationality or separatist causes,” the AJA said in a statement. ‘We have one and only one agenda: to expose the undemocratic, anti-people and anti-minorities agenda of Mr. Modi’s government and BJP party.”

HfHR Co-Founder Sunita Viswanath said her organization was joining the protest because Hindus cannot accept human rights violations in the name of Hinduism.

‘We are horrified that our religion which teaches Vasudaiva kutumbakam is being hijacked by extremists and nationalists who are lynching Muslims, trampling on democracy and law and order, and arresting if not murdering those who are speaking out,” Viswanath said. ‘We are especially appalled by the most recent nightmare of the Kashmiri people, and the situation of 1.9 million people in India who are rendered stateless due to the imposition of the travesty called the National Register of Citizens.”

Added Ashton P. Woods, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Houston: ‘Prime Minister Modi has committed atrocities that cannot be overlooked. While I am fighting for my rights, and I ask people to support me, I also extend my support to the marginalized. My right to exist is contingent to everyone;s rights to exist. And we cannot allow those guilty of ethnic cleansing to enter our country”.

Pieter Friedrich, an American author and activist who has exposed the Hindu rightwing operations in the U.S., presenting a detailed paper on how congress woman Tulsi Gabbard was funded hugely by the Hindutva groups including the Hindu Swayam Sevak (HSS), the international wing of RSS in USA, decried the participation of American politicians at the Howdy Modi event. ‘It’s shameful for any American politician to participate in a propaganda campaign by a pogrom-tainted foreign leader on US soil.”

At a press conference earlier, to announce details of the protest he also pointed out how even the local politicians like the mayor Sylvester Turner, who is up for re-election in November, is attending the meeting only because they stand to benefit from the presence of huge Indian diaspora in Houston.

He pointed out how Governor Brad Sherman had released a letter asking everyone to attend the event in August, but has now withdrawn, following cries of protest.

Ayman Elsawa, Egyptian activist, stated how president Trump bragged about Egyptian dictator Sisi, being his favorite, against whom 1000’s of Egyptians came on the streets recently, threatening to overthrow him, and who has gone into hiding, probably in US itself. His question to US president Trump therefore is if he is looking to replace Sisi with Modi, as his favorite dictator.

Sarah Philips, who represents student activist group, Azaad Austin, who’s grandparents moved to USA in the 70’s, stated that it’s a very worrying factor how the progressive politicians in USA are also getting connected to Hindutva groups in USA, which is worrying the minority groups here. She stated how it’s not possible to care for progressive politics in USA, but not care for rising Hindutva influence in India. ‘Since Modi came to power, the atrocities against minorities has jumped up by 500 %.” she stated

Daniel Cohen, a Professional Communicator with a Deep Love for Advocacy described Modi as someone who is building the world’s largest outdoor concentration camp. He thought it fitting that the US president would welcome him, because tyrants run together and will be on one stage. ‘Those who want to oppress, separate people, deny them their rights and liberties run together. What however doesn’t make sense is that the progressives who speak the same language as us, will join them, just to line their pockets”, he said.

Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector at the St. Stevens Episcopal Church, said in Modi’s India, minorities and Dalits are experiencing lynching and hate crimes. In the name of creating a Hindu country, despite the separation of religion and state in the Indian constitution, Modi and BJP are creating an atmosphere of hostility for religious minorities, leading to ethnic cleansing. She further stated that if Christians here ignore something like this in another country, they encourage something like this taking root in USA as well.

Syed Ali, of the Indian American of Muslim Council, (IAMC), pointed out that there are a lot of separatists groups, including Khalistanis who have joined the protests, AJA does not endorse them. ‘We support the Kashmiris, the minorities and Dalits. This is a free country where everyone is allowed to protest, but AJA has a larger agenda of countering Hindutva”.

Wasim Dhar, a Kashmiri Muslim, stated that they are raising their voices against issues of nationalism, fascism, denial of rights to minorities and Kashmir fits into all these issues. Indian politics has suppressed which has led to the death of 90,000 Kashmiri’s, rape of 8000 women and about 10,000 buried in mass graves which were recently discovered. The actions of August 5 are therefore no different from the actions before, but what it was laid bare the full desires of a Hindu Nationalist government, to dehumanize and delegitimize the rights of Kashmiris.

Leading activists who participated in AJA’s protest included Sarah Philips, Director of Operations at the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective; Prof. Samina Salim of University of Houston; Pawan Singh (OFMI); Rev. Lisa Hunt, Rector at the St. Stevens Episcopal Church; Zach Chatterjee Shlachter (JVP); Daniel Cohen, Professional Communicator with a Deep Love for Advocacy; and Cesar Octavio Executive Director, For Families and Their Education (FIEL).

‘India’s crackdown on Kashmir comes even as violence against India’s social and religious minorities — Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis — has escalated massively in the five years since Mr. Modi has been prime minister,” the AJA said.

‘Mr. Modi’s government, and the many state governments run by his political party, the BJP, have repeatedly protected the perpetrators of such violence against the minorities while bringing criminal charges against the victims of such violence.”

The AJA statement further said that the behavior of Mr. Modi’s Government and the BJP’s state governments is reflective of the long-held ideological agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which explicitly seeks to convert India into a Hindu supremacist nation with second-class status for Muslims and Christians

‘Over the last five years, Hindu extremist lynch mobs have killed nearly 100 Muslims in street across India simply because they were Muslims,” the AJA said. ‘In a number of such cases, the police have refused to bring criminal charges against the killer mobs.”

‘In a chilling reminder of the Holocaust, Mr. Modi is building detention centers in Assam. It is wholly unclear what will be done with these 1.9 million people, and they may well be staring at years of detention with mass torture, pushing them further into abject poverty and without any rights,” the AJA said.

Fully half a million of these 1.9 million people are Muslims. In a separate move, Mr. Modi’s government has announced that it will bring a law that would allow non-Muslim ‘foreigners” to be given citizenship in India. Which basically means that the Government’s only intention is to disenfranchise the Muslims. And now, Mr. Modi’s government has declared it will carry out the same exercise of finding ‘foreigners” throughout India. The aim is to disenfranchise millions of Muslims across the country since Muslims number 200 million of India’s 1.3 billion people.

‘This is a recipe for disaster and a threat to India’s integrity,” the AJA said.