Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-profile visit to Silicon Valley in the US and his much-anticipated address to the Indian diaspora in San Jose, California, might see a Kadva Patel blip.
Through the past week, the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP) has encouraged dozens of US-based Gujarati community outfits, including the Patels, to come out in support of Modi’s visit. But the support has primarily been from the affluent Leuva Patels. The Kadva Patels are yet to issue a single statement in support of the PM.
The Kadva Patels, to which Patidar anti-reservation leader Hardik Patel belongs, are upset at the police excesses against the Patidar agitation in Gujarat.
They plan to protests in New York and outside the SAP Centre in San Jose on Sunday by raising black flags.
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As the PM landed in New York on Thursday, 16 West Coast-based Gujarati community outfits issued a statement welcoming Modi to California later this week with “open arms”. These included the Leuva Patidar Samaj of Northern California, the Leuva Patidar Samaj of the US, the Charotar Leua Patidar Samaj of Northern California and the Surti Leuva Patidar Samaj of Los Angeles.
The Patel-dominated Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association has also welcomed the PM’s visit. Its chairman, Jimmy Patel, said the organisation owned 14,500 small businesses in the US. It claims to employ 600,000 people, accounting for an annual wage bill of $10 billion.
Meanwhile, the Kadva Patel community has stayed away. Amid the hundreds of Indian-Americans welcoming Modi to New York with chants of “Modi-Modi” and placards reading “America Loves Modi”, were some protestors from the Patel community. “We have not called off the protest. It will continue wherever Modi travels in the US,” said a protestor, adding security agents had allowed only 10 of his associates to come near the hotel.
Many have alleged the protests are politically motivated. In a press statement issued last week and later withdrawn, the OFBJP’s US chapter had suggested the protests were at the behest of the Congress party.
Apart from the Kadva Patels, some activist groups have also launched campaigns protesting Modi’s visit. These include a massive campaign on social media and a huge protest message on a billboard on a freeway in Silicon Valley by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA). The saffron-coloured billboard has a huge mugshot of Modi. “We stand against Modi’s regressive agenda,” it reads.
In a statement, AJA said it hoped a series of billboards in the Bay Area would inform the American people that Modi’s “Silicon Valley PR tour” was being used to “whitewash his dismal record” as PM. AJA is planning to hold protests outside the SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday.
The New York-based Sikhs for Justice has said it will hold protests before the United Nations headquarters here, as well as near the SAP Center in San Jose. It has also announced a reward of $10,000 to anyone who asks questions to Modi and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg during their scheduled meeting at the Facebook headquarters.
US-based Human Rights Watch urged chief executives of US technology companies to tell the PM that they would oppose any steps that eroded free expression or privacy rights.