After 20 years, Narendra Modi is back in New York. As India's new Prime Minister, he was greeted at a star-studded event at Madison Square Garden today (September 28). Despite some controversy, most Indian-Americans welcome his visit, and look to Modi to inject new hope into India.
Narendra Modi spoke for an hour on a rotating stage at Madison Square Garden, addressing both his countrymen and Indian-Americans attending the event. As Newsweek reported, he is inviting many of them to return to India to help reinvigorate his country's economy. Drawing comparisons to Ghandi's journey as an immigrant who made his way back to India, Modi encouraged the Indian diaspora to return. As The New York Times states, India has the largest number of people living outside its borders.
The New York City event was put on by the Indian American Community Foundation, and cost $1.5 million. It featured successful Indian-American celebrities and artists, such as hosts Hari Sreenivasan, a PBS anchor, and Nina Dauluri, last year's Miss America winner. The owner of the Sacramento Kings basketball team, Vivek Ranadivé, had his daughter, Anjali, sang the American national anthem. Classical singer Kavita Krishnamurthy sang the Indian national anthem, accompanied by violinist L. Subramaniam. The event also included a laser show and a holographic recreation of a famous speech by Swami Vivekananda that introduced Hinduism to America in 1893. Over 18,000 people attended for free through a lottery system that received over 30,000 applications hoping to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak. Also in attendance were a number of politicians, including Indian-American Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley (R).
During his five-day visit, Narendra also appeared on-stage with Hugh Jackman during the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, met with world leaders at the United Nations, and paid his respects at the September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, as documented by The Indian Express. Modi will meet with United States President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow.
As recounted by Time, Narendra was supposed to appear at Madison Square Garden in 2005, but found his visa revoked. Narendra Modi was then chief minister of Gujarat, a state in western India which was the site of a violent riot between Hindus and Muslims three years earlier. The Bush Administration denied his diplomatic visa and revoked his non-diplomatic visa on the grounds of his being a government official "who was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom."
Since that time, Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party rallied, and earlier this summer, won the biggest single-party parliamentary majority in three decades. The previous Congress was found corrupt and responsible for India's failing economy. With Narendra injecting new hope into the country, Obama invited him to the White House.
Narendra Modi's New York visit has been celebratory, but the questions of rights abuse from the 2002 Gujarat riots haven't been forgotten. A day before Modi landed in the United States, a New York court issued a summons for the prime minister to respond to a lawsuit accusing him of human rights abuse. He has 21 days to respond.