A coalition of community members and activists have come together under the name of Americans for Free Speech to protest the removal of Narendra Modi from the Wharton India Economic Forum on March 23.
According to one of the organizers of the protest, Satya Dosapati, the group was able to confirm their right to protest with Penn’s Division of Public Safety today after announcing its intention to peacefully protest at Penn several days ago.
According to the organizers, the protest will be held from 12-2:30p.m. across the street from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where the forum will be held. Dosapati estimated around 200 people will attend.
Americans for Free Speech is a conservative organization based in Washington D.C., according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Arish Sahani, another organizer of the protest, said that they planned to have “four buses come in from the New York [and] New Jersey area[s]” to bring in protestors from the Indian-American community.
The protest is against the decision of the WIEF to remove Gujarat chief minister Modi from the guest list of speakers.
“It’s an issue of free speech,” Sahani said. “How someone gets invited first and gets rejected again, just because three professors don’t like it.”
Modi, a chief state minister in the state of Gujarat, was first invited to the forum to speak as a keynote speaker via teleconference.
His invitation to speak was rescinded after a petition from three Penn professors — English professors Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul and School of Social Policy & Practice assistant professor Toorjo Ghose — was sent to organizer of WIEF. The petitioners were against Modi speaking due to his handling of the 2002 Hindi-Muslim riots in Gujarat.
The organizers rescinded Modi’s invitation shortly after the petition was sent.
In a statement given to the press on March 2, the organizers of the forum explained why they canceled the invitation.
“Our team felt that the potential polarizing reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base, student body, and our supporters, might put Mr. Modi in a compromising position, which we would like to avoid at all costs, especially in the spirit of our conference’s purposes,” the statement read.
The organizers of the forum further added that they “stand by” their initial decision to invite Modi.
However, they added in the statement that uninviting him was “the most appropriate and in line with the multiple stakeholders involved.”
Protest organizers of Americans for Free Speech have extended invitations to several well-known figures to speak at the protest, including U.S. congressmen, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Ron Somers, president of the U.S.-India Business Council and a keynote speaker for WIEF and Penn professors.
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