Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Silicon Valley
My Invitation and Ticket:
I had received an invitation and a ticket to attend Prime Minister Modi's reception at SAP Center. I thought about attending it long and hard. I was really conflicted about attending and, in the end, I chose not to.
Modi's Soaring Rhetoric:
As Prime Minister Modi wowed almost exclusively Indian-American techie audience in Silicon Valley, there were many who compared his rhetoric to US President Barack Obama's 2008 soaring speeches promising "Change" in America which, for many, have led to a huge letdown in the last 6 years. Modi led his audience with chants of "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and "Jai Baghat Singh" and the they responded by cheering the Prime Minster on with screams of "Modi! Modi".
“[India] has moved on from scriptures to satellites,” Modi said. “The world has started to believe that the 21st century belongs to India.”
"Unwelcome Modi" Rally:
As the Indian Prime Minister spoke to thousands of his adoring supporters inside San Jose Arena, a group estimated by some at 3000 staged a rally against him.
"Prime Minister Modi's 'Rock Star' visit to Silicon Valley can't make up for his rock bottom performance in human and civil rights," Virali Modi-Parekh of Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA) told NBC News. "Since Modi's been in office, violence against religious minorities has spiked. But Modi turns a blind eye while churches are burned and Muslims and Christians are being forcibly converted. There is a culture of fear and victimization, especially against minorities in India, which undermines Modi's standing as a business partner."
Campaign against Modi's presence in Silicon Valley included billboards across Silicon Valley focusing attention on Modi's human rights record; hundreds of bottles of Purell hand sanitizer sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, each with a name of a person killed in the Gujarat riots; challenges from South Asian LGBTQ employees of high-tech companies of India's Penal Code 377; a "faculty statement" from 125 academics on Modi's history; a "die-in" dramatizing continuing attacks against minority groups; and social media campaigns using the hashtags #ModiFail, #ChallengeModi, #ModiLiestoUS, #ZuckWashYourHands, according to NBC News.
Over 100 US academics wrote an open letter to Silicon Valley tech executives warning them against doing business with Prime Minister who came to push his "Digital India" initiative. The US professors reminded the technology executive that Modi and his Hindu allies are using their power to censor dissident voices in India.
Hindtuva activists allied with Modi have been attacking dissidents with impunity since the Prime Minister's elevation to power in Delhi. M.M. Kalburgi, a 78-year-old professor, was assassinated by the Sangh activists recently. Hours after Kalburgi's murder, Bhuvith Shetty, a member of the Hindu militant group Bajrang Dal, tweeted in celebration: "Mock Hinduism and die a dog's death. And dear K.S. Bhagwan you are next."
Two other high-profile rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, were shot point-blank 18 months apart in the western state of Maharashtra. Dabholkar, a 68-year-old activist who worked on behalf of villagers exploited by local gurus and so-called godmen, campaigned for the state government to pass an anti-superstition bill. It's been two years since he was killed in the city of Pune, and no one has been charged, according to a report in Los Angeles Times.
Facebook has published data indicating that India leads the world in censoring Facebook posts. Indian government demanded Facebook blocks 4,765 times in a six month period.India’s approach to Internet speech has been a flash point for years, with the government saying it wants to regulate content that is offensive to religious or ethnic groups, and companies such as Facebook and Google (GOOG) bristling at the restrictions, according to Bloomberg News.
There's no question that Mr. Narendra Modi is wildly popular with Indians at home and abroad. The Prime Minister has made a lot of promises to the Indian people. And the more he speaks, the higher the expectations. Meanwhile, India's exports have declined every month for the last 9 months and the corporate profits of Indian companies continue to be weak. At the same time, Mr. Modi's allies in the Sangh Parivar are stepping their activities challenging the "Secular" foundations of the Indian Constitution. So the question is: Is the Modi phenomenon beginning to unravel already?