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Howdy Modi? 'Houston Chronicle' recalls Kashmir, human rights, attack on minorities

By Our Representative
Commenting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's big show in the town, "Houston Chronicle" (HC), even as calling Modi visit "historic for a foreign leader", as it "strengthens bonds between the world’s two largest democracies", has warned that "Texas’ hospitality should not be confused with an endorsement of India’s recent actions in Kashmir nor of Modi’s troubling brand of Hindu nationalism.
In an  editorial, "Howdy, Modi! Now, about Kashmir…", HC says while "Modi could not have chosen a better place than Houston", seeing India's economic interests behind the big show in the NRG Stadium where more than 50,000 had gathered to welcome him.
It says, "Our region boasts a vibrant Indian-American population that enriches us culturally and economically", with Houston proposing to be a "major player" as sanctions on Iran "spur India’s need to look elsewhere for oil and gas", adding, "The country has already committed to billions of dollars in new imports, and Modi was scheduled to meet with major energy company executives while in town. Several deals are in the works."
However, the editorial underlines, "But neither increasing business ties with India nor their economic benefits should lead us to turn a blind eye to concerns among human rights groups over increasing hate speech, alienation and violence targeting religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, and Modi’s empowerment of Hindu hard-liners."
Especially referring to Kashmir, the editorial states, "The ongoing problem in Kashmir is of particular concern. In August, Modi revoked the constitutional autonomy granted in 1949 to Jammu and Kashmir, with security forces taking control of the region, detaining thousands and instituting an ongoing communications blackout."
An anti-Modi rally in Houston
It adds, "Indian officials defend the move as a way to curb terrorism and bring the region in line with more progressive social and economic federal policies, but the crackdown on the Muslim-majority area follows other accusations of targeting religious minorities.
The editorial quotes Nidhi Trehan, a visiting scholar at the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs as stating, “There has been an erosion of constitutional norms under Modi.There’s been an attack on minorities, hate crimes have increased, and Rohingya asylum-seekers have been mistreated.” It adds, "These accusations may sound familiar; in some circles, Trump is known as the 'American Modi'.”
The editorial says, "This hasn’t stopped a bipartisan call — including by Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham — for the president to press Modi on Kashmir. In a letter to the White House earlier this month, a group of senators asked that India fully restore telecommunications and internet services, lift the lockdown and curfew completely and release detained Kashmiris."
It urges Trump "to take this high-profile moment, with the eyes of the world on Houston, to demand nothing less", as India is and will "continue to be an important partner for America".
 The editorial concludes: "Friends also tell each other the truth. And the truth is it’s time for Modi to clearly signal — through action, not words — his respect for human rights. That starts with ending the crisis in Kashmir."

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