CHANDIGARH : A US-based human rights NGO Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has decided to picket the White House if US President Barack Obama hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Capitol Hill.
As part of Washington’s efforts to woo New Delhi, Obama had invited Modi to visit the US next month – a move which has irked the NGO. A ‘We the People’ petition, signed by more than one lakh people, urged the US President to come out with an official response to the demand to bar Modi from setting foot on American soil. The SFJ plans to picket the White House on September 30 with the help of Muslims and Christian organisations, if the Obama administration pressed ahead with its plan to host Modi. The invite to the Prime Minister in itself is an effective reversal of the 2005 ban on Modi’s entry and visa to the US imposed by the then George W Bush administration.
During US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to India, he had assured that the PM would be granted US visa to attend the upcoming UN General Assembly session and the summit-level talks with Obama at the White House. The Sikh rights group also used Facebook to garner grassroots-level support from the Americans and the one lakh threshold was achieved a week before the White House deadline of August 20. “The overwhelming response to the petition indicates that strong anti-Modi sentiments exist among the American public, who want the White House to cancel the invite to a known human rights violator,” SFJ spokesperson Gurpatwant Singh Pannu said.
Reasoning why Obama should cancel the summit with Modi, the petition cites a US media dispatch of April 16,which had said, “ Mobs of Hindus rampaged, raped, looted and killed in a spasm of violence that raged for more than two months. Mothers were targeted, children set ablaze and fathers hacked to pieces. About 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were destroyed, and roughly 1,50,000 people were displaced.”
As per the White House Petition portal, “The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution”.
Pannu added that as the petition has crossed the required threshold, the Obama administration had to answer the Americans as to why Modi will be hosted at the White House. “Obama’s invite to Modi is a deliberate violation of the US laws, which prohibit entry of officials who have committed gross human rights violations,” he alleged.