Indian-Americans line New York’s streets to cheer PM before speech
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached the United Nations for his speech on Friday, a gathering of thousands of people from the Indian-American community gathered outside with festive cheer to welcome the PM for his third address to the General Assembly.
The turnout was in addition to protests against Pakistan, which included a fly-by of a small plane around the Statue of Liberty with a trailing banner urging the United Nations to stop human rights abuses by Pakistan in Balochistan. The protests coincided with the speech of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who spoke shortly after Modi.
“Modi came out with a higher-profile, looked well-behaved and a gentleman,” said Bharat Barai, an Illinois medical practitioner who had helped organise the demonstration by the Indian-American community to show support to the prime minister and also offset crowds of Pakistan supporters who were expected to have amassed.
Some of them danced to drums, others walked with placard supporting Modi and US-India ties.
Pakistan’s supporters, who had also turned out in sizable numbers, stood in solidarity with Khan and on the issue of Kashmir on another street nearby.
After his speech, Prime Minister Modi received congratulatory messages and selfie requests. “Congratulatory messages pour in after the UN General Assembly speech and so do the selfie requests,” @PMOIndia, the official Twitter handle of the PM, said in a tweet.
The plane around the Statue of Liberty was sponsored by the World Baloch Organisation, which first deployed trucks — in London and then New York and Washington DC — with large billboards that cruise around blocks slowly and quietly spreading their message.
Puneet Ahluwalia, a Washington DC-based lobbyist for organisations of Pakistani minorities, said the intention is to “highlight the cause of Pakistani minorities” and also hold countries “accountable” for abusing their minority populations.
“I expect the Indian Prime Minister will fully take the world into confidence with the issues he raises in his UN speech, be it the climate change, or terrorism,” Digambar, an Indian-American and member of Overseas Friends of the BJP, told ANI.
According to him, 5,000 people are believed to have gathered outside the General Assembly. “More people wanted to come but we had to put them on hold,” he added.
The UNGA address is part of a high voltage visit by the Prime Minister to the United States, where he also made a speech to the Indian-American diaspora along with US President Donald Trump. The event, in Houston, Texas, was attended by approximately 50,000 people and many of them are believed to be following the PM’s itinerary -- following him to New York to show support.