Local activists say police estimate 3,000 people protested outside of San Jose's SAP Center Sunday during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Silicon Valley tour with tech leaders to draw attention to Modi's record on India's religious minorities (including Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians), women, LGBTQ people, historically marginalized castes, environmental issues, free speech issues, and free internet issues.
"Prime Minister Modi's 'Rock Star' visit to Silicon Valley can't make up for his rock bottom performance in human and civil rights," Virali Modi-Parekh of Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA) told NBC News. "Since Modi's been in office, violence against religious minorities has spiked. But Modi turns a blind eye while churches are burned and Muslims and Christians are being forcibly converted. There is a culture of fear and victimization, especially against minorities in India, which undermines Modi's standing as a business partner."
Modi's "unwelcome" included billboards across Silicon Valley drawing attention to Modi's human rights record; hundreds of bottles of Purell hand sanitizer sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, each with a name of a person killed in the Gujarat riots; challenges from South Asian LGBTQ employees of high-tech companies of India's Penal Code 377; a "faculty statement" from 125 academics on Modi's history; a "die-in" dramatizing continuing attacks against minority groups; and social media campaigns using the hashtags #ModiFail, #ChallengeModi, #ModiLiestoUS, #ZuckWashYourHands.
"There is no doubt that development for India is critical - but not at the cost of human rights and personal freedom," Modi-Parekh said. "India needs jobs, a strong economy, supportive infrastructure, and ultimately smart growth that lifts up diversity, innovation, freedom, and access for all."
Before becoming prime minister, Modi had been denied a visa to come to the United States from 2005-2014 for his role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat where more than 1,000 Muslims were killed.
Inside the center, an estimated 18,000 people (out of 45,000 people who had applied for a ticket via lottery) gathered to hear the Prime Minister speak about his plans for Digital India. The prime minister's schedule was packed throughout the weekend in San Jose as he met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Apple CEO Tim Cook.