SAN JOSE, Calif. – An estimated 3,000 people from various Bay Area organizations lined up outside the SAP Center Sept. 27 afternoon to protest Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged ill-treatment and indifference to the country’s minorities.
The protests were organized by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability – an ad-hoc coalition of several South Asian American organizations – Sikhs For Justice, and Trikone, which supports gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender South Asian Americans.
Virali Modi-Parekh, spokeswoman for AJA, told India-West: “We believe that development in India should not be happening at the cost of human rights and freedom.”
“This rock star cannot make up for his rock-bottom performance,” she said, countering the enormous adulation Modi has received from Indian Americans since he took office over 16 months ago.
Violence against religious minorities has increased by over 25 percent since Modi was elected, stated Modi-Parekh, alleging that the prime minister has turned a blind eye to the issue. Of particular concern is the increase in Christian churches being burned down. At a Congressional hearing last June, Joshva Raja, research supervisor, University of Amsterdam, alleged that Christians in India today are targeted and attacked by Hindutva forces and are being supported by the BJP government in India.
Raja claimed there have been 192 attacks on Christians and Christian institutions over the past year, an increase of 75 percent over the previous year.
At the SAP Center, AJA protestors held a “die-in,” with several young people reading out an account of an attack against Muslims, Christians, Dalits, women and other communities. As each person fell to the ground, fake blood was poured over them.
“It was a performance piece to commemorate the rise in Hindutva-related deaths,” said Modi-Parekh.
The Indian American activist said she wants to see smart growth “that will lift the boat for all of India’s people.” Responding to Modi’s announcements of initiatives that would allow digital connectivity for all of India’s villages, a plan to increase the education of girl children and to create a skilled labor force from India’s rural population, Modi-Parekh stated this was a “white-wash” of the prime minister’s agenda.
She said that Modi has slashed funding by 50 percent for the Women and Child Development Ministry. The Indian Express reported that the WCD will receive about Rs. 10 crore this year, down from more than Rs. 21 crore in the previous year. The decrease in funds will result in cuts to a child nutrition program and halt the building of 6,000 new government schools.
Modi has also banned foreign funding for several international NGOs, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Fund, whose bank accounts have been frozen by the government, noted Modi-Parekh.
The AJA posted billboards throughout the South Bay Area’s highways a week before Modi came to town, decrying his human rights violations. The organization also sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 250 bottles of Purell hand sanitizer, to “wash his hands of the blood on Modi’s hands” stemming from the 2002 riots in Gujarat, which killed more than 2,000 Muslims and 53 Hindus. Facebook has not responded to the mailing, but the campaign has gone viral, with more than 10,000 views, according to Modi-Parekh.
Sabiha Basrai, a Muslim American whose family hails from Gujarat, told India-West she participated in the SAP Center demonstration to protest increasing violence against Muslim women in India.