The supporters of Rahul Gandhi, the former president of the Indian National Congress, hosted “Mohabbat Ki Rally” at Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Saturday, May 27.
Gandhi will be visiting California, Washington, DC, and New York from May 29 to June 4.
His supporters have organized a series of events, during which he is to interact with university students, professors, representatives of non-profit groups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, think tanks, political leaders, and members of the Indian diaspora.
Sandeep Vangala, general secretary of the Indian Overseas Congress in San Francisco, which hosted the rally, said it was meant “to give a strong message back home. For the past nine years, there has been false propaganda about the party. It’s about spreading love and affection in the community.”
Shan Sankaran, an entrepreneur who woke up at dawn to be part of the rally, says “India went into its dark ages in the past nine years, promoting nafrat [hate]. We want to remind people about our roots: unity in diversity, love and harmony.”
Sankaran told indica, “A man [Gandhi] has walked thousands of miles [across India] to prove this, and he won millions of hearts. He loved those even who hated him. He welcomed them to his shop of love even though they have set up a street for selling and manufacturing hate in Nagpur [a reference to the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that counts among its members many in the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in India].”
Participant Jamir Shaikh said that while he has never been involved in politics, India is “challenged by a politics which has very low moral value. [But now] I feel the same energy and vibe as when Barack Obama’s first presidency after eight years of deteriorating U.S. policies.”
According to him, “Indian society is now highly toxic. It started as islamophobia in 2002” before going after all minority groups.
Vinod Kumar, another Gandhi supporter who woke up at 4:30 am to be at the rally an hour later, hopes he could be involved in bringing back unity in India, which he believes is diminishing.
“I wish Rahul succeeds in his mission and unites Hindus and Muslims and stops the hate,” he said.
He conceded that he did not think the Congress was perfect, but said he was concerned that BJP targets churches, mosques and gurdwaras. Kumar argued that freedom of speech is not valued and that the BJP ignores India’s constitution, putting the country in peril.
Gandhi will speak on democracy at UC Santa Cruz’s Silicon Valley campus on the morning of May 30 at an invite-only event hosted by the university’s Center for South Asian Studies.
In the evening, he is to attend a public event titled “Silicon Valley Mohabbat Ki Dukan with Rahul Gandhi,” at the Marriott.
On May 31, Gandhi will visit Plug and Play, an accelerator program center in Silicon Valley, where he will talk about AI and human development with startups. Later, he will speak at Santa Cruz University and Stanford University.
The same day, at 5 pm, he is to speak on “The New Global Equilibrium” at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
He is to visit Washington, DC, to meet members of think tanks, and journalists at the National Press Club, and have dinner with political heavyweights.
Gandhi is to go to the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, and meet with academics at Roosevelt House in New York.
Gandhi is also set to speak on “A Secular and Democratic India” on June 4 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.