NEW DELHI -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a rockstar reception when he visited New York in September 2014, and riveted the crowds at Central Park and Madison Square Garden on his maiden trip to the United States after winning the national elections in May.
This time around, the Indian-Americans on the West Coast are rolling out the welcome wagon, but there will be many from the influential Patel community, who intend to "embarrass" Modi at several pitstops on his visit, which include meeting technology entrepreneurs at Silicon Valley, and joining Mark Zuckerberg for a town hall-style Q-and-A at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
"They will assemble in black T-shirts and wave black flags wherever he goes," said Varun Patel, spokesperson of the Sardar Patel Group, an organisation spearheading the movement to secure reservations for the Patel community in the 'Other Backward Class' category.
"We want to cause him embarrassment until he listens to us. We are very tired of waiting for this arrogant government to respond," he told HuffPost India, railing against the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state and central government.
The Patel community agitation hit the national spotlight following their massive rally in Ahmedabad on August 25, which was led by 22-year-old Hardik Patel, who was part of the Sardar Patel Group until he formed the 'Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti.'
Nine people lost their lives in the violence that ensued after Hardik was arrested by the Gujarat police during the rally.
Escalating their quota-movement in the past few weeks, leaders of the Patel movement have said that their community members fail to secure positions in educational institutions, and lose out on employment spots, because those opportunities are taken by candidates in the OBC category even if they are less qualified or have poorer grades.
This sentiment echoes strongly with those Indian-Americans, who had to seek jobs abroad because they lost out to candidates in reserved categories during entrance examinations.
Keval Patel, great grandnephew of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first Home Minister, told the Indian Express that he supported the agitation in Gujarat, especially since he migrated to U.S. after losing out to reserved category candidates while seeking admission in an engineering college.
“If Patels get reservation in education, then we will have no reason to oppose Modi in the USA. Let us wait what happens within the 10-day deadline," he said.
Varun put the Gujarati community in the United States at 50-lakh strong, and he expects at least 25,000 of them to participate in the various events targeting Modi. One major program is to stage a rally outside the U.N. headquarters while Modi speaks at the U.N. General Assembly on September 25.
Meanwhile, the Patels in Gujarat are planning an Ekta Rally for September 19. Talks between Hardik and Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Monday did not yield any compromise or breakthroughs, but the state government has promised to look into concerns of the Patel community within 10 days.
While reservation remains their long-term goal, Varun told HuffPost India they also want Modi to push the Gujarat government to order an inquiry into the nine deaths following the rally, last month.
The central government is concerned about the Patels plan for disruption during Modi visit, according to the SPG spokesperson, who said that he was questioned by a senior official of the Intelligence Bureau, this week.
"They wanted to know about our plans during the PM's visit," he said.
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