Massive protests mark Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley

Massive protests mark Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley
Diverse communities join hands to counter the Modi PR machine

protest 3San Jose, CA: September 27, 2015: 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 stage-managed 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.

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. According to ABC7 News, police estimated the number of anti-Modi protesters at around 3,000. 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.

protest 5“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

protest 1Congresswoman 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 Modi. 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.

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is an Indian American coalition working to address attacks on Indian communities. We stand up for India’s religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, marginalized castes, Dalits, and adivasis — as well as everyone who loves a safe and clean environment, free speech, digital freedom, and the right to openly debate and disagree.


Dear Mark Zuckerberg…

Dear Zuck,

We would like to give you a heads up on the spontaneous campaign underway to send you bottles of Purell hand sanitizer. When the news came out that you have invited Indian Prime Minister Modi to the Facebook headquarters and will be shaking hands with him, many in the Bay Area became really concerned for you!

As you know, Mr. Modi was banned by successive administrations from entering the United States on account of his role in the massacre of some 1,921 religious minorities in India. Many among the killed were innocent children. Like Ahmed Mohamed, these children were the target of pure bigotry—only in this case, unleashed by Mr. Modi himself.

So when you meet Mr. Modi tomorrow, and shake hands with him, there will be a lot of blood on his hands that will stick to you. That’s a lot of blood to clean….and many people are mailing you bottles of Purell, each one dedicated to a victim of the Gujarat massacres, so you can get that blood off your hands.

Friends have launched a dedicated website to facilitate this effort:

Zuck, Wash Your Hands 

Hope the Purell reaches you in time. Your concerned neighbors have already mailed some 250 bottles to your office earlier this week, and many more requests are pouring in.

Zuck, please do wash your hands.

With love,

—your friends at the Alliance for Justice and Accountability


PS: The media may be asking about the Purell at the Town Hall tomorrow

83 news stories about #ModiFail

The word is getting out. Here are 83 news stories, from the BBC to The Hindu, that tell the story of the #ModiFail campaign:


photo credit: Jon S, CC-By

7 photos of #ModiFail billboards around the San Francisco Bay Area

Over the past week, billboards on major San Francisco Bay Area freeways have been educating traffic-weary commuters on the real record of Indian PM Narendra Modi.

While his jet-setting ways are being used to project an image of modernity and change the public perception, the billboards shed light on the truth: Narendra Modi is and has been, a gross violator of human rights and India’s democratic ideals.


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#ModiFail billboards educate Silicon Valley on Modi’s human rights record

As part of the #ModiFail campaign, the Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is using billboards to raise public awareness about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration’s attacks on personal freedoms and human rights in India. AJA hopes this series of billboards in the San Francisco Bay Area will inform the American people that Modi’s upcoming Silicon Valley PR tour is being used as an excuse to whitewash his dismal record as Prime Minister, and before that, Chief Minister of Gujarat.

The billboards are visible from I-580 in Oakland, I-280 in Daly City, Highway 92 in Hayward, Highway 84 in Newark, I-880 in Newark, I-880 in Milpitas, and Highway 101 in Santa Clara.

The billboard highlights, the AJA’s online report card highlighting the facts behind some of Narendra Modi’s most egregious failures during his 16 months in office as Prime Minister.

India’s celebrated values of pluralism and tolerance are under severe attack since Mr. Modi assumed office as Prime Minister. According to the Modi government’s sources, attacks against religious minorities are up 25% since last year. His own ministers are engaged in a malicious hate campaign against Christians and Muslims.

Narendra Modi speaks eloquently of Digital India, but individuals posting comments against Modi or his peers on Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media sites have repeatedly faced arrest; when the Indian Supreme Court struck down the hated “Facebook arrest” law, the Modi government expressed interest in passing replacement censorship legislation to skirt the ban. The Modi government has been particularly vicious in its attacks on free speech, as it increasingly equates dissent, even in the form of social media posts, with sedition and “waging war against the state.”

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) is a diverse coalition led by progressive Indian American communities. AJA members work for pluralism, civil rights, religious freedom, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and environmental justice in India and beyond.

#ModiFail billboard with context
#ModiFail billboard on I-880 in Milpitas, CA

LA Times story on Narendra Modi censored on Facebook

LA Times journalist Shashank Bengali writes a variety of stories on South Asia, including a very positive recent article on Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming trip to Silicon Valley. But when he published a new story critical of the Modi administration, his story was targeted for online censorship.

His new Los Angeles Times story, “India police officers feel targeted for offering evidence against prime minister”, is a damning look at the attacks faced by whistleblowers against Narendra Modi:

“One police official saw his promising career flatline and was dogged by minor misconduct charges until he took early retirement this year. Another endured a long suspension before being fired last month, but not before a sex video surfaced that purported to show him with a mistress. (Apart from the receding hairline and healthy mustache, his wife said, he looked nothing like the man on screen.) A third faces a possible inquiry into decade-old charges of disclosing sensitive information. It could cost him his pension. The three former officials say they have been targeted for offering evidence potentially damaging to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, in a protracted investigation into one of India’s worst bouts of religious violence in recent decades.” (source)

But when you try to share the story on Facebook, it gets flagged as unsafe content, forcing the user to complete a CAPTCHA:

LA Times share attempt screenshot
Screenshot of an attempt at sharing the exposé on Modi on Facebook


But it’s even harder to click on the story. When you try to click on a link to the story, Facebook tries to warn users that this may be dangerous:

Facebook click on LA Times story
Screenshot of an attempt at clicking on the exposé on Modi on Facebook

This censorship on Facebook may be the result of Narendra Modi partisans — either paid or unpaid — repeatedly clicking “report as spam/virus” on the story, forcing Facebook’s algorithms to treat it as dangerous content.

It’s outrageous for Facebook to be used a tool of censorship to bolster Narendra Modi’s PR, preventing American readers from reading an American newspaper article via an American social network.

Try sharing the link for yourself to see if this is still happening.

Alliance For Justice And Accountability (AJA) Launches #MODIFAIL: A Campaign to Protest Narendra Modi’s Silicon Valley Visit

September 16, 2015

San Jose, CA: In anticipation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the Bay Area on September 27, 2015, the Alliance for Justice And Accountability (AJA) – a broad coalition of progressive organizations – has launched a campaign to hold him accountable for past and present attacks on the freedoms and human rights of Indian communities.

AJA will hold a protest at the SAP Center on September 27, 2015 under the banner #ModiFail, to expose the realities behind Modi’s alleged “accomplishments.” The Alliance will also reach out to elected officials and corporate leaders in the US to inform them about Modi’s failed and regressive policies that negatively impact human rights, religious freedoms, the environment, and overall: shrink the space for civil liberties under his rule.

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Unwelcome Modi to Silicon Valley, Sep 27

On September 27, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, will be welcomed at SAP Center in San Jose, California, as part of his global PR campaign. Join us at the event on September 27, in safe permitted free speech areas, to tell the other side of the story.

Please share the Facebook event, and register online!

Join us to stand up for India’s religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, historically marginalized castes, Dalits and adivasis — as well as everyone who loves a safe and clean environment, free speech, a free Internet, and the right to openly debate and disagree.

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