Protesters get ready for Narendra Modi’s Houston rally

‘As people devoted to secular idea of India, what we see happening in our homeland is worrying’, says activist

September 21, 2019 12:59 am | Updated 12:59 am IST - WASHINGTON DC

Photo: Facebook/@AllianceForJusticeAndAccountability

Photo: Facebook/@AllianceForJusticeAndAccountability

With 24 hours to go for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Houston, where 50,000 Indian-Americans are registered to attend, protesters with different affiliations are preparing to battle the security arrangements for Mr. Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump and take on thousands of supporters of both the leaders. With tropical storm Imelda bringing a heavy downpour and the threat of flash-floods since Thursday, Houston is expected to see more rains on Sunday.

Part of AJA

New York-based activist Sunita Vishwanath, who founded “Hindus for Human Rights,” that is part of a group called the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), says she will join the groups that will picket Houston’s iconic NRG stadium — the rally venue.

“All of us are of Indian origin and the reason we are motivated to go to Houston to protest is because as people devoted to the secular idea of India, what we see happening in our homeland that we love is worrying,” Ms. Vishwanath told The Hindu.

Several Kashmiri and Khalistani separatist groups, and a number of Pakistani-American groups have also planned to protest at the venue.

In a statement, the AJA, which includes Hindus for Human Rights, the Indian American Muslim Council and Organisation for Minorities of India led by Sikh-American Pawan Singh, said their coalition is “totally distinct from other non-Indian American protesters or those who challenge India’s territorial integrity.”

Heightened security

Several Kashmir and Khalistani separatist groups, and a number of Pakistani-American groups have also planned to protest at the venue. Indian Embassy officials, as well as advance security teams that have arrived in Houston, have been working round the clock to ensure that none of the protesters is able to disrupt the proceedings. Clearly, the presence of the U.S. President will ensure heightened security, and is expected to dissuade several American protesters from joining. Organisers also moved swiftly when they realised that a Pakistani promoter had reportedly funded a concert by Punjabi singer Diljit Dosanjh on September 21, so as to attract a bigger crowd of Pakistani supporters to Houston. Mr. Dosanjh subsequently cancelled his concert after a group alerted the Ministry of External Affairs.

‘Publicity stunt’

On Friday, diplomats dismissed concerns over what they called a “publicity stunt” by Khalistani lawyer-activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who secured a summons for Mr. Modi from the South District Court of Texas over the communication shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, saying such actions are routine.

Organising officials also pointed out that while more than 20 U.S. lawmakers have written letters of criticising the detentions, Internet shutdown and reports of excesses in Jammu and Kashmir, none of them is expected to be at the protests in Houston on Sunday.

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