Mahendra Patel of New Jersey blows a conch shell to herald the arrival of Narendra Modi in New York City. Photo: Hari Adivarekar

At 7:30 a.m. on June 21, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his first state visit to the United States (and sixth U.S. trip since his travel ban was overturned in 2014), expounded on the benefits of yoga at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Outside the gates of the U.N., at the verdant Dag Hammarskjöld plaza in Midtown Manhattan, four groups of Indians had gathered. 

Pro Modi supporters cheer as a digital ad truck praising the Indian Prime Minister passed by them at the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza in Midtown Manhattan. Hari Adivarekar
A truck bearing anti-Modi facts drives past the pro-Modi supporters drawing jeers and jibes. Hari Adivarekar

The largest one comprised pro-Modi supporters from the tristate area, some dressed in saffron, waving Indian and American flags and vociferously shouting pro-Modi slogans.

Three smaller groups were separated from the pro-Modi brigade and each other by long lines of police tape and dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers who kept a close eye on the proceedings. The City of New York was clearly taking no chances.

KSH Sunil Singha (C), the President of the North American Bangladeshi-Manipuri Society holds up a banner asking for a resolution of violence in the East Indian state of Manipur. Photo: Hari Adivarekar

The smaller groups were made of anti-Modi protesters shouting slogans against Modi’s ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), a group of Khalistan supporters (the Khalistan movement consists of  separatist groups fighting for a homeland for Sikhs in Punjab), and finally a group demanding that the Indian PM take cognizance of the civil unrest in the tiny northeast Indian state of Manipur, where dozens have been killed and injured in recent incidents of violence between ethnic groups and the dominant Meitei community. 

An anti-Modi protester waves a homemade banner against the BJP, the current ruling party in India. Photo: Hari Adivarekar

While the pro- and anti-Modi groups often directed verbal jibes at each other, the protests remained peaceful and dispersed once the crowds realized that Modi had moved to another stop on his packed itinerary in New York City.

Hari Adivarekar is an independent photographer, film director/producer, journalist, podcaster, yoga practitioner, urban explorer, and in a different life, a singer in a rock and roll band. His work has...

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