SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

NEW YORK

As a formal US announcement about the upcoming talks between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was made in Washington on Monday, American Sikhs responded by outlining their plans to picket the White House, where the two men will meet, to protest against the Indian leaders’ bid to marginalized religious minorities.

A New York-based Sikh civil rights body said that more than one hundred Sikh Organisations operating in the United States have forged an alliance to stage a demonstration outside the White House on September 30. Earlier in the day, the White House issued a statement, saying ‘?The two leaders will discuss a range of issues of mutual interest in order to expand and deepen the U.S.-India strategic partnership.’

A press release issued by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a civil rights group, said, ‘Sikh groups’ picketing of the White House is aimed at exposing the Obama administration’s policy of appeasing Indian Prime Minister who was banned by the Bush administration for his alleged involvement in 2002  massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.’

At the call of SFJ, the press release said, representatives of Sikhs organisations from across the United States gathered in New Jersey to devise a strategy for staging a protest against President Obama’s decision to host Indian PM, saying the move violated the US laws.It was pointed out that Washington denied Modi’s visa under International Religious Freedom Act due to his involvement in the massacre of Muslims.  

‘The landslide electoral victory of the Modi’s ultra nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has posed an existential threat to the already marginalized religious minorities in India,’ SFJ said. ‘While declaring Sikhs as part of Hindu religion, BJP-RSS have announced the launching of ‘Shudhi’ campaign from  December 23 for forcible conversion of Christians and Muslims into Hinduism,’ according to the press release.

SFJ’s legal advisor, attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, said that on Sept. 30, the Sikh community will gather in thousands reminding President Obama that upholding the religious freedom principle of US constitution is more important than signing business deals with those who pose threat to religious minorities.

‘While PM Modi is infamous for his role in 2002 massacre, his party BJP is notorious for participating in the attacks on places of worships belong to minorities, starting with the instigating Army invasion of the Golden Temple in 1984, carrying out demolition of Babari Masjid in 1992 and burning of Christian churches in Orissa during 2008,’ Dr Pritpal Singh, a Sikh activist.