Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Arab Emirates to inaugurate the largest Hindu temple in that country, in the capital city of Abu Dhabi on February 14, will also see ‘Ahalan Modi’, one of the biggest diaspora events to be addressed by him, which will take place a day before with at least 6,000-7,000 blue collar workers of Indian origin among the attendees. ‘Ahalan’ in Arabic means ‘hello and welcome’.
The diaspora event will take place at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi and registrations for the event have crossed over 60,000, with confirmations for attendance currently going out. Speaking to The Hindu, Nisha Singh, a senior virologist and spokesperson for the event, said that the last diaspora event in UAE for Mr. Modi, ‘Marhaba Modi’, had been held nine years ago when he had visited Dubai in 2015.
“He had visited UAE even after that, but without a big diaspora event as part of it. This time, a few of us, around 350 people at the India Club, got together and decided that this should be organised,” Dr. Singh, who manned the COVID-19 helpline for Indians living in Dubai from the Indian Consulate there, said. She added that her involvement stemmed from her work with the community, and with Indian and UAE officials.
During his 2015 visit to the UAE, Mr. Modi had visited the ICAD Residential Labour Camp in Abu Dhabi, which houses migrant labourers from the Indian subcontinent in their thousands within one square kilometre. An interaction with 300 Indian workers had been organised by the Ministry of External Affairs then as part of the PM’s visit.
School children are also expected to attend the forthcoming event. “There will be a cultural programme by community people, and all of the funding and work is on a volunteer basis. There are 1,500-plus volunteers on that day to take care of arrangements inside the stadium,” Dr. Singh said.
The main event of the PM’s visit will be the inauguration of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Hindu Mandir. Work on the temple, which has come up on about 27 acres of land in Abu Dhabi, began in 2019. Land for the temple has been donated by the UAE government.