Dancers promoting Indian culture, Krishna Bhajans, protests and people chanting “Modi” and “USA” created excitement around the 125,000-sqaure-foot NRG Stadium in Houston Sunday.
Supporters from across the US flocked to “Howdy, Modi” hear Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump who said, “We are creating a history.” Trump got a standing ovation.
The event, attended by an estimated 50,000 people, started around 9:25 a.m. but was delayed, forcing a few who visited from other states and countries to leave Modi’s speech part way through, but overall things went by peacefully.
Modi and Trump’s mutual admiration society was very much in evidence. Ahead of the event both said separately that they were looking forward to seeing each other again in Houston, and both predicted it would be a “great day”.
From the event stage, Modi all but endorsed Trump’s re-election bid, paraphrasing of his own election campaign in 2014. Modi called out “Abki baar, Trump sarkar” (never mind that Trump is already in the White House) and invited him to visit India with his family.
Trump on his part tweeted on his way to the rally that he had “tremendous respect” for Modi. At the event, he announced that the US ”loves” India.
Trump also warmed the cockles of many right-wing hearts in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and affiliated organizations by making a reference to radical Islamic terrorism, tying the religion once again with terrorism.
With Trump sharing the dais with him, Modi attacked Pakistan for expressing hatred toward India, the focus of its governance and for fostering terrorism.
The prime minister also said India had “bid farewell” to Article 370vof the constitution as it went against people-centric development in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is soon to be divided into two Union territories.
Outside the stadium, more than 1,500 demonstrators with various organizations chanted “End Hindutva” fascism, or called for Modi to go back home, as more than 400 local police officers watched protesters and helped maintained order.
“We love India but not the pluralism,” Sayyed Ali, supporting Alliance for Justice & Accountability on hosting the protest, told indica News. “We are asking justice in India, and the oppression happening against minorities in India, mainly Muslims and Christians, we are protesting against lynching in India and then 45 days so and not yet resolved.”
Illinois businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a friend of both Trump and Modi, welcomed the US president joining the Indian prime minister at “Howdy Modi” Community Summit. Kumar said it shows United States won’t abide by double-faced Pakistan and ISI or allow terrorism to persist.
“We have President Trump declared on 2016 on a New jersey rally that he will not tolerate cross border terrorism,” Kumar said. “A very clear sign, and he is the president who has fulfilled all his promises.”
He allowed liquid natural gas and advanced weapon system to India, foreign aid to Pakistan was brought down, and he took a strong stand on the Kashmir issue, Kumar said.
“So, you can count on him. So what is important is this is a moment which we have been waiting for a long time. I never thought this would come so quick,” Kumar said, referring to Modi and Trump speaking from the same platform.
Attending the “Howdy Modi” Community Summit was cardiologist Virendra Mathur, co-founder of AAPI.
“We donated plenty, but we are really happy and proud and had many Indian elected officials come for heart surgery, Mathur said. “What I am able to do here, that is why they are coming.”
His wife, Nalini, said she is very excited to see two world leaders. “I am very fond of Trump. And Modi’s doing well for India. Both the leaders are doing so well. We feel very proud to be around of all this.”
Another couple, Nayana and Ashok Vora, travelled from Tampa, Florida, commented that Modi gave a moving speech about India’s amazing progress, and they expressed gratitude for Trump help in fight terrorism worldwide. The pair said “howdy Modi” was a life-changing event they will remember forever and Modi made them feel proud.
Californian Debasish Bose travelled for Trump’s and Modi’s speeches. He said he liked the event, and to make the event fruitful and memorable he bought sweets and distributed them to kids who came along with their parents.
Talking about Modi’s speech, Bose said the way he highlighted the connection between the US and India. “I think this will cement the relationship between these two countries.
Alpa Shah, of Houston, a Modi fan reacting to the 5-hour long event, told indica News that the program could have been shorter.
“The entertainment was not extraordinary at all. Shah said. “It was hyped quite a bit. If the entertainment was curtailed then the program would have been shorter and enthusiasm would have been sustained. The senator who introduced Modi, his speech was too long.”
“Trump’s entry was last minute as he wanted the exposure to Indian crowd since election is coming,” Shah said. “So, he definitely gained votes as he talked about security at the borders for both the countries. Also, he said that America is against any terrorism. His speech was an election speech. It was inappropriate for him to bring domestic issues on this platform. But then it is Trump.”
“For Modi, he scored quite a lot. When the American president comes to someone’s rally, it certainly creates ripples in the world of politics.” Shah said. “Modi already has immense respect from all over the world. Now people will feel his strength.”
On what NRI gets from the Modi Community Summit, Shah said, “Respect, and we could show our solidarity. Businesses in USA should take this opportunity to take advantage of the soft ground of both the countries and expand the horizon.”