Indian Americans protest outside White House over Modi’s visit

Washington, DC September 25 (KMS): Dozens of Indian Americans gathered at Lafayette Square, the park in front of the White House, to protest against the visit of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to the US.

Chanting slogans and holding placards that read “Save India from fascism”, the protesters castigated Modi over human rights violations, persecution of Muslims and other minorities, new farm laws, and Indian brutalities in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

A number of people from Sikh community also staged a demonstration demanded freedom of east Punjab and creation of Khalistan.

The protesters called upon the US President to keep to his campaign promise of making human rights a central feature of the American foreign policy.

Last year, during the presidential election campaign, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris strongly condemned New Delhi’s crackdown in IIOJK, the implementation of a controversial citizens list (National Register of Citizens) in Assam state, and the passage of an anti-Muslim citizenship law that triggered nationwide protests and deadly riots in New Delhi. Dozens of Muslim activists and students were thrown into jail for protesting against the 2019 citizenship law that the United Nations called “fundamentally discriminatory” as it blocks naturalisation for Muslims.

Victor Begg, a 74-year-old community leader and activist, said he travelled all the way from Florida state to register his protest against Biden’s meeting with the Hindu nationalist leader. “What Modi represents is totally against American values. By allowing him into the United States and hosting him in the White House compromises our democracy as well,” Begg told Al Jazeera.

The activists raised the recent surge in the attacks and killings of religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, by the members of Hindu right-wing groups in various parts of India.

“Right now, we are witnessing a slow genocide of minorities. The lives of India’s 200 million Muslims are at stake, and the Biden administration can no longer afford to stay silent. This is the right time to send a stern message to India,” Syed Ali, the president of an advocacy group, the Indian American Muslim Council, said.

He also expressed extreme displeasure over a meeting between a senior US diplomat and Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the far-right ideological mentor of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On September 8, Atul Keshap, the US acting ambassador to India, visited Bhagwat in New Delhi.

Farhana Kara Motala, an activist with Justice For All, a Chicago-based advocacy group, raised serious concerns over the ongoing Indian state repression in IIOJK and urged the Biden administration to stand up for the rights of the Kashmiris. “US can’t stay as a mute spectator as India continues to violate all the rights of Kashmiris,” Motala said.

Arjun Sethi, a community activist and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, said India under Modi’s rule has become the world’s largest authoritative government, suppressing any dissent and criticism of its policies.

Sethi spoke about cases of police brutality meted out to the Indian farmers, who have been protesting for nearly 10 months on the highways leading to New Delhi, seeking repeal of three new anti-farmer agricultural laws passed by the Modi government in September last year. “They (farmers) organised peacefully to fight for their rights and food security in India, and in return, they were met with suppression and violence,” he said, adding, “We are here because we stand for the rights of minorities, Dalits, women, farmers, human rights defenders, and journalists in India.”

Linda Cheriyan, an activist with Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, said it is high time that Biden delivers on his campaign promises of promoting democracy and human rights globally, especially in India. “Fascist regimes can’t be America’s strategic partners,” Cheriyan said.

Modi is currently in the US to attend the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad Summit, with US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. The four-nation Quad alliance aims to check China’s growing military and economic power globally.

Modi will also address the ongoing United Nations General Assembly in New York, today. Various organizations representing Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Sikhs and Indian minorities have announced protests outside the UN on the occasion of Modi’s speech. KMS—7M