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Anti-Modi demonstration in Houston

23 September, 2019

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HOUSTON: Hundreds of people belonging to various ethnicities came out to hold an "anti-Modi demonstration" outside NRG Stadium, where they called attention to the "racist Modi regime" and its ongoing human rights violations in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

"People of every race, colour, gender, and age have taken to the streets to condemn the acts of Modi's racist regime. The mass protest stands against the supremacist government's brutal interference in Kashmir," a post on Twitter by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said.

One of the participants, Maria Kari, said that buses had been arranged to go around the Houston area to pick up protesters.

"There are at least three groups that have organised protest rallies," said Kari. "A lot of Muslims and Pakistanis have gathered here. Tons in fact."

The crowds beat drums, chanted slogans and some used rap lyrics as a way to communicate their message, calling for world leaders to end the suffering of Kashmiris.

Last month, the Indian government repealed Article 370 of its constitution, stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status, and imposed a strict lockdown and communications blackout in the region that has snapped off ordinary people's internet and mobile telephone service across much of occupied Kashmir. The lockdown entered its 49th day on Sunday.

Thousands have also been reportedly arrested or illegally detained in the disputed territory.

Inside the stadium, deafening drums marked the entrance of President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi as they clasped hands and walked across the stage, sending a message of unity between the world's two largest democracies despite trade tensions.

Instead of dwelling on trade, Trump highlighted the growth of US exports to India, the billions of dollars India is spending on US-made defence equipment and joint military exercises with New Delhi.

“India has never invested in the United States like it is doing today,” Trump said, adding that “we're doing the same thing in India.” The president also discussed border security, an important campaign issue for Texas, which shares a border with Mexico.

“We are taking unprecedented action to secure our southern border and stop illegal immigration,” Trump said.

About 50,000 Indian Americans attended the rally, where the crowd chanted “Modi! Modi! Modi!” as he took the stage to introduce Trump as “my friend, a friend of India, a great American president.”

Modi even used Trump's political slogan to say the president had a strong resolve to “make America great again.”

“When I met him for the first time, he said to me 'India has a true friend in the White House,'” Modi said.

“Mr President, this morning in Houston, you can hear the heartbeat of this great partnership in this celebration of the world's two largest democracies.”

Trump said Modi invited him to the rally — one of the largest US gatherings of the Indian diaspora in history — when they met last month in France, and Trump told reporters on Sunday that “I love India,” explaining his decision to attend.

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