New Delhi: Even as thousands cheered Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump at a Houston rally, another group of people gathered at the venue to protest mob violence, Hindutva and the continued blockade in Kashmir.
The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), a “bona fide group of Indian Americans” were protesting “the undemocratic, anti-people and anti-minorities agenda” of the Modi government and the BJP. The coalition comprises groups of Indian-Americans across religions, such as Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), the Indian American Muslim Council and the Organisation for Minorities of India. The coalition does not have any connections with any other “nationality or separatist causes”, the AJA said.
Those present at the protest highlighted issues such as the rising instances of mob lynching, the dilution of Article 370 that granted Jammu and Kashmir special status, the National Register of Citizens in Assam, extra-judicial killings, religious persecution and caste oppression. One placard raised the conviction of IPS officer and whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt, while another drew inspiration from the movie Apollo 13 to say, “Houston we have a problem. It’s Modi.”
Speaking to The Wire, HHR co-founder Sunita Vishwanath said it was “extremely gratifying to gather such a diverse group of organisations and communities” to protest against two “bigoted and oppressive” world leaders.
She said the protest represented an intersectional and inclusive coalition, as people from organisations such as including Jewish Voice for Peace and Black Lives Matter had also participated in the protest. “We even had the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Houston saying that his struggle is ours, and our struggle is his,” she said.
Viswanathan said that during Modi’s speech, the prime minister tried to portray a false picture of the developments in India. “We know that there is an actual siege and communications blackout in Kashmir, regular mob lynchings of Muslims and Dalits, and a new program – the NRC – targeting Muslims to take away their citizenship and put them in detention camps, ten of which are being constructed,” she said.
She said the rally showed that the ideologies of Trump and Modi align. “They shared the stage in such warmth and camaraderie. Modi also endorsed Trump for re-election,” she said.
On Trump’s assertion at the rally that he wants to work for the “4 million legal immigrants from India”, not the “illegal immigrants from Mexico”, Viswanathan said that a rise in racist and anti-immigrant governments across the world will only see more people seeking refuge in the US or other countries.
“There are increasing numbers of Indians among the people crossing the border into the US and seeking asylum. These are Indian minorities fleeing religious persecution and other oppression in India. The NRC process, which may be extended nationwide, will add millions to the world’s refugee crisis,” she said.
She also hoped that the protest would change the perception of Indian-Americans towards Trump. “They will also note that several elected officials backed out of participating. It is our hope that masses of people who are alarmed and scared about what is going on, will be encouraged to join our movement for peace and justice,” the HHR co-founder said.