While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama focused on building bilateral bonhomie at the White House an increasingly heated atmosphere gripped Lafeyette Park steps away from the two leaders’ meeting venue, as Kashmiri and Sikh groups and some non-affiliated protestors waved placards and shouted slogans.
On Monday evening things seemed to reach a boiling point when, according to reports, police on site had to intervene after members of the Kashmiri American Council squared off against supporters of Mr. Modi during a “sit-in” coinciding with the private dinner between the Prime Minister and Mr. Obama.
Another organisation, Sikhs for Justice, the human rights group that has campaigned for justice for the 1984 riots, was also gathering “several hundreds” of protesters outside the White House on Tuesday it said, as a broader discussion between the two nations was taking place within.
SFJ’s high-visibility Citizens’ Court held at the venue, including a “indictment” of Mr. Modi on “charges” related to his alleged role in presiding over the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, occurred even as the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission had made plans to “discuss India’s failure to prosecute the architects of the  pogroms; discuss the importance that accountability will have for India’s future; and provide recommendations for U.S. foreign policy in relation to India.”
The Commission also picked the date of the bilateral summit at the White House to screen “The Widow Colony,” an award-winning documentary that amplified the voices of Sikh widows who lost loved ones in November 1984.
This week pressure from Capitol Hill on the Obama administration also came in the form of a letter that eleven Congressmen from both parties wrote to the President on Monday, urging him to seize the “opportunity to discuss religious inclusion and the protection of religious minorities in India,” with the Indian Prime Minister.
They noted that there had been “an increase in violence against Muslims and Christians in the first hundred days of [his] term [that had] echoes the deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat, which happened while Prime Minister Modi was Chief Minister of the region.”