California Congressman Brad Sherman wants his colleagues to participate in a rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to the U.S. later this month. Modi, who is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 27 in New York, will be addressing the Indian-American community at the NRG Park in Houston, Texas, Sept. 22.
The Daily Beats reported that Sherman, a Democrat, sent a letter to members of Congress on Aug. 23, asking them to join the Sept. 22 event. The report, quoting Sherman’s letter said that 50,000 people will be attending the event which will be broadcast to more than 300 million people. It will also “include a segment honoring the great work of human rights leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” letter said, according to the Daily Beast report. Sherman also promised his colleagues “a bit of airtime” and said they will be introduced on stage right before Modi’s talk, the report said.
Organizers of the Sept. 22 event, in a press release said that the event is sold out with 50,000 people registered and several others waitlisted. “The ‘Howdy Modi’ summit has been organized with the support of more than 1,000 volunteers and 650 Texas-based Welcome Partner organizations, an extraordinary feat by the Indian-American community of coming together to celebrate and strengthen the ties between the two nations,” the press release said.
However, the Daily Beast reported that there was opposition to the letter.
A member of Congress, who didn’t want to be identified, told the Daily Beast that although “India is a friend and ally, no member or senator should join a pep rally for Modi as long as India is holding people without charge, cutting off communications to people in Kashmir, and provoking a nuclear-armed neighbor.”
Brad Adams, who heads the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch warned members of the Congress from participating in the rally, and talked about Modi’s role in Kashmir and the Gujarat riots when he was chief minister of the state. “It’s hard to believe that any members of Congress who would attend such an event,” he told the paper.
The Daily Beast report said that Sherman, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific — which has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to South Asia as well, recently announced that he would soon convene a hearing on the situation on Kashmir. He said he came to the decision after meeting with a cross-section of his Kashmiri American, Pakistani and Muslim American constituents. In a press release posted on his website, Sherman said: “We have invited Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells, who oversees State Department policy towards South Asia, Sam Brownback, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, and other State Department officials, and we seek to accommodate their schedules. We also expect to hear from private human rights activists on the issues.”
In June, Sherman was honored with the Friend of the Community award by the Hindu American Foundation “for his efforts confronting terrorism in South Asia, particular in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack in India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir, including pushing for getting Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.”