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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Human Rights Groups Protest Visit of India's PM and US Court Issues Summons for Him to Answer for Human Rights Violations

Starting this weekend, India's newly elected Prime Minister is visiting the United States. His itinerary includes a sold out reception at Madison Square Garden and a dinner with President Barrack Obama in Washington, D.C. He will also be addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

However, human rights groups feel that the enthusiasm surrounding Mr. Modi's visit is undeserving. They are countering with protest in front of Madison Square Garden on Sunday, September 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., during Mr. Modi's reception. The protest will be held on 7th Avenue and 32nd Street. A diverse group of over 5,000 protesters are expected.

Jasjit Singh Hundal, spokesperson for the North American Sikh Alliance, explained, "We are concerned that Mr. Modi is being treated with such great fanfare during his visit to the United States, when in fact, he should be treated with great caution. His human rights record has been deplorable, so deplorable that the US and other western nations stripped him of his right to travel to their country. However, now that he has been elected as Prime Minister of India, he is being hosted with great celebration. We feel that the fact that a man with his track record has become a head of state should be a cause for alarm, trigger scrutiny rather than entitle him to a free pass."

Indeed, Mr. Modi had been stripped of his right to travel to the US in 2002, following horrifying violence that targeted religious minorities in India's western state of Gujarat. Human rights organizations who investigated the violence almost unanimously found that Mr. Modi, who was the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was complicit in the violence. These findings are the basis of a case filed by the American Justice Center in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which has issued a summons directing that Mr. Modi answer for his alleged involvement in crimes committed against innocent civilians in 2002.

In light of his human rights record, how did Mr. Modi become India's Prime Minister in May 2014? The answer is that the Hindu nationalist agenda promoted by him and his political party – the Bharatiya Janta Party – which fueled the 2002 Gujarat violence, has great appeal amongst India's Hindus. Hindus constitute an overwhelming 80% of the country's population. And, the resulting domination of Hindu nationalism over India's political scene has been increasing ever since the country was declared an independent nation in 1947. This is precisely what minorities feared would be India's political fate. The outcome for minorities has been expectedly tragic. In addition to the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat under Mr. Modi's watch, Hindu nationalist, hand in hand with government security forces, conducted pogroms in New Delhi in 1984 against the Sikh community that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Hindu nationalists have also killed Christians, burned their churches, and forced them to "reconvert" to Hinduism. In fact, torture and extrajudicial killings of those who resist Hindu nationalism is a daily occurrence in India.

Given this context, Mr. Modi's election as Prime Minister is a frightening development for India's minorities and underserved communities. To raise awareness of their concerns, the North American Sikh Alliance and other human rights groups will be protesting at Mr. Modi's reception.

SOURCE Sikh Alliance
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