October 30, 2014 | By OFMI
Rancho Cordova, CA: Congressman Ami Bera’s political relationship with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, motivated Sacramento locals to take to the streets on Tuesday to protest outside Bera’s district office in Rancho Cordova, chanting: “No vote for Ami Bera!”
The diverse group of activists included Bhajan Singh, who held a sign declaring: “Ami Bera sides with oppressors of Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Sikhs, and Muslims.” Singh’s opposition to Bera begins with the representative’s close ties to Modi. Bera appeared alongside the freshly-minted Indian Prime Minister at a rally in New York City on September 28, saying: “I thank Mr. Modi… for the vision he laid out today. I look forward to continuing to work together.”
“Narendra Modi is a pioneer of the anti-conversion laws,” remarked Singh. “That means anyone who wants to convert to another religion would have to first get permission. Now he wants to bring these anti-conversion laws across India.”
Mohan Ram Paul, an activist from Organization for Minorities of India, noted: “All Modi’s anti-minority policies are directed at the poorest of the poor, the Dalits, the low-castes, the Untouchables. Ami Bera advances discrimination by supporting Modi. Bera’s friendship with Modi puts the most vulnerable at risk, which is why we say vote no on Ami Bera.”
Others were disturbed by the violence associated with Modi’s political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Pieter Friedrich, a Christian activist from American Religious Freedom Coalition, said: “Modi’s political party conducted a genocide against Muslims in 2002 and, in 2008, his party conducted a genocide against Christians. Modi’s party openly promotes a policy of ‘India is a Hindu nation for Hindus only,’ and they put that into practice by murdering non-Hindus and criminalizing conversion.”
The outbursts of violence to which Friedrich referred took place in the Indian states of Gujarat and Odisha. The U.S. State Department reported last year: “In February 2002 the state of Gujarat erupted in communal violence. In response to a train fire reportedly set by Muslims, Hindu mobs killed 1,200-2,500 Muslims, forced 100,000 people to flee, and destroyed homes. Christians were also killed and injured, and many churches were destroyed.”
Additionally, the State Department reported: “In December 2007, in Kandhamal, Odisha, violence between Christians and Hindus resulted in several deaths, dozens of injuries, churches and homes destroyed, and displacement of thousands. The murder of an influential Hindu political leader in August 2008 sparked a further violent campaign targeting Christians, even though Maoist extremists claimed responsibility. The State Department reported 40 deaths, 134 injuries, the destruction of churches and homes, and over 10,000 fleeing the state.”
Neil de la Cruz, a Filipino Christian, held a poster featuring a photo of a girl whose face was burned during the Odisha violence, with the caption: “Christian girl burned by Indian PM Modi’s political party in 2008.” Asked about the connection to Bera, de la Cruz said, “You can find out Ami Bera’s ties with Prime Minister Modi… and the oppression that Prime Minister Modi has set upon the people of India, and the systems he’s placed, along with anticonversion laws. If someone were to be in support of Prime Minister Modi, as Ami Bera has shown himself to be, he should not be supported.”
The group said they met with Bera’s staff in January to warn him about violence against minorities in India and encourage him to support House Resolution 417, which would recommend the U.S. make human rights and religious freedom a cornerstone of dialogue with India. Bera did not react as they hoped. “Instead of standing for human rights,” said demonstrator Anthony Birju, “he ignored his constituents and led 82 other representatives in writing a letter to the House leadership demanding Modi be invited to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress, saying we share ‘core values.’”
On Wednesday, Bera was joined by former President Bill Clinton and fellow representative John Garamendi at a campaign rally on the UC Davis campus. Demonstrators showed up again, this time distributing flyers headlined: “Stop politicians who partner with Christian killers.” An estimated 1500 flyers were distributed to the thousands of students waiting in line for the rally.
About American Religious Freedom Coalition: ARFC is an effort to preserve individual liberty to choose one’s faith, change one’s faith, and spread one’s faith. An interfaith coalition, it formed in Winter 2013. Our first project was an advocacy campaign to support House Resolution 417, a pending congressional resolution to speak in defense of persecuted minorities in India.
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