President Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed each other onstage at a rally in Houston yesterday that drew over 50,000 mostly Indian-origin attendees. Modi feted Trump as a leader who had moved “from the boardroom to the Oval Office,” while Trump praised the achievements of Indian-Americans in the technical sector and vowed that the U.S. is “committed to protecting innocent Indian-Americans from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism,” a comment received with a standing ovation.
Not all of the South Asians there wanted the rally to go forward, however. A coalition of South Asian organizations called the Alliance for Justice and Accountability held a counterprotest outside the event to “expose the undemocratic, anti-people and anti-minorities agenda of Mr. Modi’s government and BJP party,” according to a statement it released in advance. Speaking to Indian news service The Wire, the co-founder of one of the coalition’s member organizations, Hindus for Human Rights, said that during Modi’s speech, the prime minister falsely represented developments in India. “We know that there is an actual siege and communications blackout in Kashmir, regular mob lynchings of Muslims and Dalits, and a new program – the NRC – targeting Muslims to take away their citizenship and put them in detention camps, ten of which are being constructed,” she said.
Several South Asian activists attempted to disrupt a similar event in Lombard last year - the Chicago-area meeting of the World Hindu Congress. The event had welcomed Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist volunteer organization with between 5 and 6 million members that mobilizes grassroots support for the BJP. As Bhagwat was about to speak, the activists broke out into chants of “RSS turn around, we don’t want you in this town,” before being immediately shouted down, spit on, and in one case, choked, by a mob of attendees. The activists were thrown out of the building and two of them were arrested by the Lombard police department. Two of the activists, Mansi Kathuria and Anar Parikh, join today’s show to talk about why they tried to disrupt the event, and how it plays into Hindu nationalism’s popularity in the Indian diaspora.