The Silicon Valley Protests That Indian Media Blacked Out

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Huge protests greeted Prime Minister Modi's visit to the Silicon Valley on Sunday but they were mostly blacked out by Indian media.

Huge protests greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Silicon Valley in United States but they were mostly blacked out by Indian media

Protesters held signs, chanted, and connected with communities impacted by Modi’s policies in India via social media. An actor donned a Modi mask to stage a mock trial, indicting him for his involvement in the pogroms of Gujarat in 2002

Web Desk

SAN JOSE, California — Passionate crowds of protesters greeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with loud slogans and a sea of placards upon his arrival at San Jose’s SAP Center for a carefully choreographed Silicon Valley “community reception.”

The posters, chants, and surprise banner drop challenged the Modi PR team’s attempts to whitewash the controversial politician’s record. The protest was the culmination of a month-long campaign to educate Silicon Valley leaders and elected officials about Modi’s troubling human rights record. However, the Indian media largely blacked out these protests by diverse communities and rights groups.

The Indian American community is sharply split on Modi’s performance during his first year in office, and that was obvious in the huge crowds of protesters filling up the designated protest zones and sidewalks in front of the SAP Center. Organizers estimated the number of protesters above 2,000. In addition to the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), a large progressive umbrella group, other groups also gathered in front of the SAP Center—most notably the Sikh community that showed up in large numbers.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the turnout, which was much higher than we anticipated,” said Bhajan Singh, a community leader with the AJA. People came from cities as far away as Los Angeles. The numbers are a testament to the strong feelings that Modi evokes because of his poor record on religious rights, women’s rights, caste, digital freedom, LGBTQ equality, and environmental justice.”

Protesters enacted a “die in” to dramatize the attacks against Muslims, Christians, Dalits, women, and other communities that are occurring with increasing frequency under the Modi administration. As in India, Modi die-hards threatened and attacked protesters, including Dalit and LGBTQ Indians, leaving them shaken.

Local Politicians Not Impressed

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, in whose district the event took place, chose not to attend. Congressman Honda, who has the largest number of Indian American constituents, issued a statement stating that he is “well aware of the controversy that surrounds Prime Minister Modi’s visit…I will neither overlook nor forget my duty to be a strong advocate for human rights.”

Ro Khanna, who is running against Honda, issued a statement saying the US-India partnership “must be rooted in a respect for civic dissent, for human rights, for a robust public square that engages NGOs, and for religious tolerance and liberty.” AJA ran an outreach campaign to local elected officials, educating them on Modi’s failed civil rights record; many subsequently declined the Modi invite.


Speakers representing the wide variety of groups in the alliance addressed the gathering and the media. They recounted the repeated and increasing violence visited upon India’s most vulnerable communities by Modi’s government and his supporters.

Said Virali Modi-Parekh, “Modi talks about Digital India, while ignoring millions of Digital Indians demanding an end to Internet censorship, restrictions on online privacy, and arrests of social media users.” Added Neil Tangri, “Since 2014, the Modi government has tried to shut down Indian civil society organizations, including targeting frontline groups, cracking down thousands of NGOs like Greenpeace India and the Sierra Club, and intimidating journalists who expose inconvenient facts.”

“It’s important to compare Narendra Modi’s words versus his actions,” explained Sabiha Basrai of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action. “This is a man being praised for tweeting #SelfieWithDaughter, even though he actually slashed funding for the Ministry of Women and Child Development by 50 per cent just months before.” Imam Zaid Shakir said, “Modi was banned from the United States by successive administrations for his egregious human rights violations. Winning an election doesn’t change the facts.”

Protesters held signs, chanted, and connected with communities impacted by Modi’s regressive policies in India via social media. The die-in honored those who have lost their lives due to Modi’s policies, ranging from victims of the Gujarat genocide to the 100,000 Indians who die every year due to the dirty coal expanded by the current government. An actor donned a Modi mask to stage a mock trial, indicting him for his involvement in the pogroms of Gujarat in 2002.

The month-long campaign included some of the following highlights:

Billboard campaign


The Modi PR team announced to the media that they raised nearly a million dollars from companies wanting to do business in India, in order to whitewash his image with the SAP Center reception. AJA responded by launching a billboard campaign telling the other side of the story. The billboards were linked to the #ModiFail campaign, which highlighted the gap between Prime Minister Modi’s words and his actions.

Zuck, Wash Your Hands!

A week before Modi’s arrival, Silicon Valley residents started mailing packages of Purell hand sanitizer to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, so he could wash off the stain after shaking hands with Narendra Modi, who was accused by Human Rights Watch of presiding over the killings of about 2,000 Muslims in 2002. Over 250 bottles have already been sent, with more pouring in; each package is dedicated to a named victim of the Gujarat pogroms.

9 COMMENTS

  1. No images of Sikh protestors? They made up the biggest portion for the human rights activists at this site and there was an abundance of images on the internet.

    • Manjeet Kaur ji …can u enlighten me ..what were the sikhs protesting against Modi for ???? do the sikhs have any issue with Modi , atleast i fail to recall ….congress i can understand but modi ???

      • Sikhs have plenty to protest against Moody, for he is silent while his henchman going after the minorities Muslims, Christians, do you think anyone is safe….. Reminds me of the poem “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—”

  2. Would these Muslims, comfortably living in US, raise their voice against Saudi Arabia where human rights had been thrown out of windows. Many of them would have entered US seeking ‘fake political asylum’ from Islamic countries, where they had no future. Ask them to shut up and obey US laws and not shariat.

    • Er….how did you figure out that the protestors were all Muslims – can you tell that only a small section of the crowd is visible in the photographs? Moreover, don’t know where you are from but India does not aspire to be Saudi Arabia and frankly, I find the comparison to be odious. In case you hadn’t noticed, Muslims come from all parts is the world and are an ethnically diverse community. Why would those coming from the Middle East be bothered about Narendra Modi.

  3. What human rights are being talked about? In early school, you are taught; first deserve then desire; by that norm though I live in India, I don’t think we deserve any rights till we learn and practice our duty to the society and the country. Another teaching of early years is violated by almost every Indian at some stage or the other viz “don’t do unto others that you wouldn’t want to be done to you”. Till these basics are put into our heads and GOI creates ‘commission to lay down and monitor, lay down punishments for violation of citizen duties,” Human rights commission must be abandoned. A. Malik

  4. Why should anyone’s comments be moderated, please introspect. Have you forgotten another fundamental law of nature, “When you point one finger at someone, three are generally pointing at you? Why the normal practice of ‘forward’ not appearing on this mail message?

  5. Modi is not FIT to be a PM of a country like India……He is too busy brushing the cobwebs ( of his Misdeeds,& abstentions) under the Carpet. He spends too much TIME & TAXPAYERS MONEY travelling overseas , completing neglecting the Domestic problems which are worsening day by day.

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