Houston Protest Groups Gear Up for ‘Howdy Modi’ as Event Nears

As Prime Minister Modi lands in Houston, Texas for his third and biggest rally with the Indian diaspora in the United States, protest groups in the city – under the coalition called Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) – are preparing for the Howdy Modi mega-event with a briefing to local journalists on 21 September.

The AJA is protesting PM Modi’s visit and has been critical of a number of the Modi government’s policies, like the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the detention of those declared foreigners in the National Register of Citizens exercise.

They have also been vocal against Hindutva, the rising number of lynchings, and India’s treatment of minorities.
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The press meet was held at the office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Houston, with speakers from participating organisations like Hindus for Human Rights, Blacks Lives Matter, the Indian American Muslim Council, Dalit Solidarity Group and other individual speakers like south Asia analyst Pieter Friedrich.

Pieter Friedrich addresses press conference. 
Pieter Friedrich addresses press conference.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@PieterFriedrich)
Also Read : Here’s Why ‘Howdy Modi’ Works for Both Trump & the PM

WHO ARE THESE PROTESTERS

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability, a loose coalition of civil society organisations and NGOs, said in a statement on Saturday,

“We are a bona fide group of Indian Americans with roots in India, and not connected with any other nationality or separatist causes. 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.”
Alliance for Justice and Accountability Statement
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Also Read : ‘Howdy Modi’ Unites Indian Americans & Hindu Americans: Gabbard

Hindus for Human Rights co-founder Sunita Viswanath said, “We are horrified that our religion which teaches vasudaiva kutumbakam is being hijacked by extremists and nationalists,” adding, “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.”

Sunita Viswanathan, Hindus for Human Rights
Sunita Viswanathan, Hindus for Human Rights
(Photo Courtesy: Alliance for Justice and Accountability)
“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,” Viswanathan said.

Syed Ali, of the Indian American Muslim Council, (IAMC) – the largest registered organisation to participate in the protests – acknowledged a proliferation of separatists groups at the protests, but said they did not have AJA’s endorsement.

“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.”
Syed Ali, IAMC, at the press briefing
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‘Howdy Modi’ will be kicking off early on 22 September local time, and other protest groups have also promised to converge outside the stadium during the event. A number of these groups are pushing Khalistani and Kashmiri separatism, along with some Pakistani groups. Sikhs for Justice, a separatist group banned in India, will also be protesting at the event in favour of ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’.

Despite the thousands of protesters likely to show up on 22 September, the NRG stadium itself will be packed out by 50,000 people, largely from the Indian diaspora, all pumped to see PM Modi deliver his third and biggest address to them in the US.

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