Indian-American men, women and children wearing colourful Indian attire have gathered to greet the prime minister since early morning to hear him speak with long lines of people waiting to enter the venue. Modi’s fans were seen carrying the Indian tricolour and wore traditional Indian garb with several groups of performers carrying drums and ‘dhols’ to give him a rousing welcome.
There was also a group of Tibetan women carrying banners in support of Modi. The excitement is palpable as chants of “Modi Modi” rent the air. Strict security arrangements are in place with police barricades at several locations.
There is also a large group of anti-Modi protesters who have gathered outside the garden shouting slogans against the prime minister. They are carrying banners reading “Modi – visa still denied”, “Wanted Narendra Modi for crimes against humanity”,
“India must end oppression of minorities”, “Hindutva will destroy India” – led by the Alliance for Justice and Accountability. Robindra Deb, an anti-Modi protester said, “We have gathered outside Madison Square Garden to remind the people of what happened in 2002 (Gujarat riots) under Modi’s governance.
Modi needs to be held accountable. Not the entire Indian American community supports him”. At least 46 elected US officials, including a governor and 45 Congress members, have confirmed their participation at the reception being hosted for Modi by the Indian-American community.
Modi will address the community at a packed Madison Square Garden, while speaking from a 360-degree rotating platform, and those in attendance would include over 16,000 general public and about 2,600 VIP guests including a Governor, Senators and other elected officials in the US.
Besides the main venue, there would be at least 50 other locations across the country where special arrangements have been made for the live telecast of the prime minister’s speech and other events that include a nearly two-hour-long entertainment programme.
There is tremendous interest in the community in the US-India relationship and the event at Madison Square Garden has been oversubscribed by more than 10,000 people. At 16.4 percent, Indian-Americans are the third largest Asian-American group in the US, numbering 2.8 million strong, which is almost 1 percent of the US population.