Four months after “Howdy, Modi!,” some Indians abroad protest over citizenship law

1 / 5
Protesters rally against India's new citizenship law during a demonstration in Houston, Texas, U.S. January 26, 2020. (REUTERS)
2 / 5
Protesters rally against India's new citizenship law during a demonstration in Houston, Texas, U.S. January 26, 2020. (REUTERS)
3 / 5
Protesters rally against India's new citizenship law during a demonstration in Houston, Texas, U.S. January 26, 2020. (REUTERS)
4 / 5
Protesters rally against India's new citizenship law during a demonstration in Houston, Texas, U.S. January 26, 2020. (REUTERS)
5 / 5
Protesters rally against India's new citizenship law during a demonstration in Houston, Texas, U.S. January 26, 2020. (REUTERS)
Short Url
Updated 28 January 2020

Four months after “Howdy, Modi!,” some Indians abroad protest over citizenship law

  • India’s economy has been sputtering because of an ailing banking sector and tepid rural demand, while protests in India, in which at least 25 people have been killed, have revived the specter of social unrest after years of stability under Modi

BENGALURU/MUMBAI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a thunderous reception when he addressed a crowd of more than 50,000 Indian-Americans in a stadium in the US city of Houston last September.
But four months after the event dubbed “Howdy Modi!,” intended to deepen relations with the wealthy Indian-American minority which has influence in India, some members of the diaspora have been protesting against a new citizenship law.
In the past month, small demonstrations from Harvard to San Francisco have underlined criticism of what detractors say are Modi’s divisive identity politics.
The law, which was promised by Modi before he was re-elected and was approved in December, in effect granted Indian citizenship to non-Muslim religious groups fleeing persecution from three neighboring Muslim-majority countries.
Critics say it is a prelude for the marginalization of Muslims and an affront to India’s secular constitution.
“It is still only a minority, but the disenchantment (in the diaspora) is real and deep,” said a 50-year-old sociologist who gave her name only as Nidhi to avoid straining relations with older relatives who attended Modi’s rally in Houston.
Nidhi emigrated to the United States when she was five and has taken part in demonstrations against the citizenship law in the US state of Texas.
“If we as Indo-Americans don’t raise our voice, we are complicit,” she said.
The latest protests were outside Indian diplomatic missions on Sunday, India’s Republic Day. A large proportion of the rallies attract student, academics and religious minorities — groups that have long been worried by Modi’s rise.
Many in the diaspora cheered Hindu nationalist Modi to an election victory in 2014, convinced he would transform India into an economic powerhouse.
But India’s economy has been sputtering because of an ailing banking sector and tepid rural demand, while protests in India, in which at least 25 people have been killed, have revived the specter of social unrest after years of stability under Modi.
Microsoft Corp’s India-born CEO, Satya Nadella, told Buzzfeed News this month the citizenship law was “bad.”
Even so, a significant chunk of Indians abroad remain die-hard Modi supporters who have staged their own rallies in favor of the law.

SOCIAL MEDIA PUSH
Vijay Chauthaiwale, chief of the foreign affairs department of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said overall diaspora support was intact.
“People believe in the conviction of Mr. Modi. Some transient issue will not affect his popularity,” Chauthaiwale said. The BJP has launched a social media push with the diaspora, circulating testimonies from “persecuted minorities in Pakistan” who could benefit from the citizenship law.
But Modi’s critics say cracks are appearing in his overseas support.
“Those who are educated are saying, ‘Hey, this is not what we were expecting,’” said Sam Pitroda, the opposition Congress party’s head of overseas affairs.
Chicago-based Pitroda was unable to provide data, but said he was getting many calls from worried Indians abroad.
Retired engineer Krishna Vavilala, 82, was excited by Modi’s rise and recounted being photographed at “Howdy, Modi!” — which took its name from what is a popular greeting in Texas — because his beard made him look like the Indian leader.
But recent developments have given him pause.
He suggested that Modi, who has not answered questions at a press conference in India since coming to power six years ago, speak to more reporters. Vavilala also urged Modi to clarify “perceptions” that he wants to sideline minorities.
“His heart is in the right place,” said Vavilala. “But the euphoria of “Howdy, Modi!” has lost its shine.” 


World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

Updated 25 February 2020

World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

  • Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home
  • The news came less than two weeks after Watanabe was officially recognized by Guinness World Records

TOKYO: A Japanese man recently named the world’s oldest living male has died aged 112, a local official said Tuesday.

Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home in the same prefecture, the official said.

The news came less than two weeks after he was officially recognized by Guinness World Records.

Watanabe, who had five children, said the secret to longevity was to “not get angry and keep a smile on your face.”

He admitted a penchant for sweets such as custard pudding and ice cream.

The oldest man in Japan is now Issaku Tomoe, who is 110 years old, according to Jiji Press, although it was not clear if Tomoe holds the title globally.

The oldest living person is also Japanese, Kane Tanaka, a 117-year-old woman.

Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and has been home to several people recognized as among the oldest humans to have ever lived.

They include Jiroemon Kimura, the longest-living man on record, who died soon after his 116th birthday in June 2013.

The oldest verified person — Jeanne Louise Calment of France — died in 1997 at the age of 122, according to Guinness.