WASHINGTON – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced a mock indictment and trial Tuesday in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House that was organized by Sikhs for Justice,a human rights advocacy group.
At the time of the mock trial that included a jury,Modi was in a meeting with President Barack Obama. His effigy stood in the defendant’s box as presiding judge,actor Mary Suib,listened to the charge sheet read by Salman Yunus,a research director at Sikhs for Justice.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,you have gathered here today to decide on the culpability of the defendant relating to the crimes that the prosecution alleges he committed,” Suib said.
The charge sheet included genocide,first-degree murder,rapes and sexual assaults,torture,witness tampering and obstruction of an investigation.
The group’s complaints date to Modi’s time as head of India’s Gujarat province when riots in 2002 ended in the deaths of more than 1,000 people,mostly Muslims. Residents of Gujarat and the majority of Indians are Hindus.
The government denied Modi a visa to travel to the U.S. after that. As his country’s prime minister,Modi travels on a diplomatic passport and has diplomatic immunity.
The mock trial indictment was meant to create awareness about the alleged wrongs committed by Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.
In a statement,Amarjit Singh,director Khalistan affairs center,said the only solution is an independent solution for Sikhs in India. Khalistan is the name given to the proposed nation or state that has been the source of contention between Sikhs and the Indian government for some time.
“It is very disrespectful to the American people that you are greeting an individual who is a human rights violator,” Gurpatwant S. Pannun,legal adviser for Sikhs for Justice,said.
Americans for Justice last month got a summons from a New York court against Modi after filling a suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act,which allows U.S. courts to take on cases that violate international law,and the Torture Victim Protection Act,which allows victims of torture to sue those responsible.
The summons followed an unsuccessful We the People petition last month to have the White House cancel Modi’s visit.
The petition lost traction following the discovery of what Caitlin Hayden,White House spokeswoman for the National Security Council,termed anomalous signatures – or fakes.
On the other side of the park opposite the White House,Modi supporters were celebrating his trip to Washington and meeting with Obama.
“This is part of a small group of people who are trying to get attention during Modi’s visit,” Paresh Patel,39,owner of a 7-Eleven in Frederick,Md.,said.
The Washington protest follows similar protests in New York,even as Modi filled Madison Square Garden for a speech.
In the Washington trip,Modi and Obama visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. In an op-ed in the Washington Post,the two noted that King’s civil rights work was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.
“So,I want to wish him luck in what I’m sure will be a challenging but always interesting tenure as prime minister in India,” Obama said.
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