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Protesters march against Wharton snub to Modi

Narendra Modi

Washington, March 24 (IANS) About 200 Indian-Americans marched in protest against the controversial withdrawal of an invitation to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to speak at the Wharton India Economic Forum.

Marching under the banner of a group called Americans for Free Speech, they chanted: “We want Modi!” as the Forum held its conference Saturday afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.

The march, followed by a series of speeches from guest speakers, was held across the street from the conference to which members of the press were denied entrance, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

About 200 protesters from across the US gathered for the march with two buses from New Jersey and one from Queens, New York bringing people to the protest.

During the march, a sign was posted outside the conference hall by the protesters that read: “In memory of Free Speech 1776-2013. Killed at Wharton by the English Department.”

The march is “carrying the funeral of free speech”, Narain Kataria, a speaker at the event, was quoted as saying.

Protesters held up signs that read “First they came for the Hindus”, “End McCarthyism against Hindus”, and “Stop Academic Jihad”, among others.

One organizer shouted to the crowd that the march was as important as that of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, the newspaper reported.

People on stilts and a jazz band marched with the protesters to “push the excitement”, said musician Devon Taylor. Bystanders watched as the crowd of protesters slowly moved their way to Franklin Field.

Modi, who has been denied a US visa for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, was disinvited to speak at the forum by live video on a petition from a group of Pennsylvania university faculty and students not connected with Wharton.

Following the withdrawal of invitation to Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, founder of Aam Aadmi Party, was invited to speak via live video-conference.

Speaking from New Delhi, Kejriwal said he was “not a supporter of Mr Modi”, but was “troubled” and “dismayed” at Wharton’s decision to issue an invitation and then cancel it “under pressure”, calling it “very wrong”.

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