Why US Congress reps are boycotting PM Modi's address

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Irhan Omar are among those boycotting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi together (photo courtesy CNN)
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi together (photo courtesy CNN)

NH Digital

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, member of the House of Representatives, has become the latest addition to the list of Congress members boycotting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s joint address to the Congress.

In her tweet, she stated that an invitation to a joint address is the most prestigious opportunity any statesperson can be accorded by the Congress, and providing such to a leader accused of human rights violations is against American principles.

Apart from Ocasio-Cortez, representatives Rashida Tlaib and Irhan Omar have announced their boycott of the joint address as well.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's letter announcing her boycott of the joint- address (Photo Courtesy: @AOC/Twitter)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's letter announcing her boycott of the joint- address (Photo Courtesy: @AOC/Twitter)

On June 20, House of Representatives member Pramila Jayapal and Senate member Chris Van Hollen led a bicameral letter asking US president Joe Biden to raise the question of human rights violations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The letter was signed by 75 members of Congress.

Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the prime signatories of the letter, tweeted on June 21, "Prime Minister Modi's government has cracked down on the press and civil society, jailed political opponents, and pushed an aggressive Hindu nationalism that leaves little space for India's religious minorities. President Biden should raise these facts in his meeting with Modi."

Earlier, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), had recommended the Biden administration to flag India as a 'country of particular concern' owing to a steep decline in religious freedom. Moreover, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had said on 12 April 2022 that the US was "monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials".

Mobile LED Trucks in New York (Photo Courtesy: @arjunsethi81/Twitter)
Mobile LED Trucks in New York (Photo Courtesy: @arjunsethi81/Twitter)

American citizens, both those belonging to the Indian diaspora and others, have taken to the streets to protest against the arrival of the self-proclaimed 'vishwaguru (world leader)' in the US. A particular truck mounted with LED screens along its sides was seen travelling the length of New York, demanding that Biden ask Modi a couple of questions: "Why is Umar Khalid still inside jail after 1000 days without hearing?" and a "Did You Know... mob lynchings against Muslims, Christians and Dalits have surged under Modi’s rule. With almost no accountability."

The Indian diaspora has also announced a protest at the Black Lives Matter Plaza, Washington DC, on June 22. The US-based group Hindus for Human Rights has also come through with a protest toolkit to enable the protestors to demonstrate peacefully and "exercise their First Amendment rights and do so safely".

A Pew Survey conducted from March 20 to 26 had found out that around 51 per cent Americans held a positive opinion on Indians; however, Narendra Modi remains an almost unknown figure among them. The survey revealed that only about 40 per cent of Americans knew about Narendra Modi.

Now, seeing the questions and pushback, it bears evaluation whether those who do know of PM Modi actually have a positive impression, far less a picture of him as a global leader for the US or the world to 'follow'.

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