The sound of dhols greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrived in New York today; about 500 members of the Indian community waited for four hours at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to welcome the PM.
One group was conspicuously silent – the faction of Patels in the US who had, for the last several weeks, claimed that they would protest outside the hotel today and outside the United Nations when Mr Modi addresses the Sustainable Development Summit on September 25.
Parveen Sharma, a strong supporter of PM Modi and a member of the Overseas BJP told NDTV, “The Patel group has become a welcome group. There is no more fighting. They realise PM Modi is the only option. Their protests were politically motivated.”
Alpesh Patel, a spokesperson for the group that had called the protest and who has a slot booked in his name outside the UN, told NDTV, “We have never spoken of protests, always spoken of a welcome rally. This is the creation of a handful of people and the media. We have a meeting with PM Modi tomorrow and will bring up two issues – the police atrocities in Gujarat and we will ask the PM to put pressure on Anandiben and other politicians.”
A massive agitation in Gujarat for reservation in government jobs and colleges for the influential Patel community in the state has found resonance in the US, which has about 1,50,000 Patels.
Last month, the brief detention of a leader of the agitation, Hardik Patel, after a massive rally in Ahmedabad, led to violence in many parts of the state.
22-year-old Hardik Patel has alleged police excesses in Gujarat against the Patels, who have been told by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel that the state government cannot accept their demand for inclusion among castes that benefit from affirmative action.
The wealthy Patels own an estimated 22,000 motels in America, a quarter of all motels in America, valued at nearly $130 billion.