Over 70 US lawmakers ask Biden to raise human rights violations with Modi, invoke Gandhi in letter

The letter urged the US President, Joe Biden, to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi questions concerning the rise of religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities

US Congress (Photo courtesy: The Indian Express)
US Congress (Photo courtesy: The Indian Express)

NH Digital

75 members of the US Congress urged the US President, Joe Biden, to raise questions regarding the violation of human rights in India, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington on June 21.

In the letter to Biden, the lawmakers wrote,“A series of independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India toward the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access. Specifically, the State Department’s 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in India documents the tightening of political rights and expression.”

Highlighting the state of affairs in the country, the letter delves into the curtailing of freedom of religious expression and, consequently, the growing intolerance and violence promulgated against religious minorities.

The signatories of the letter demanded that US President, Joe Biden, discuss the “full range of issues important to a successful, strong, and long-term relationship between our two great countries.” The signatories also stated in the letter that they would welcome the Indian Prime Minister in unison.

The lawmakers, in the letter to Biden, pointed out that since he had made respect to human rights, press freedom, religious freedom, and pluralism, core tenets of American foreign policy, US must apply them equally to friend and foe alike.

The members wrote, "Both the United States and India enshrined human rights—including free speech, freedom of the press, and religious freedom—in our constitutions. And we share a special bond through moral leaders who shaped our histories. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who gave his life in pursuit of building the beloved community here in the United States, was an ardent student of the teachings of the Mahatma Gandhi, known in India as the “Father of the Nation.” Both King and Gandhi had the vision of building a more perfect union among people from different backgrounds, races and faiths — Gandhi in India, and King in the United States. We share their vision."

The letter was led by US Representative Pramila Jayapal and US Senator Chris Van Hollen, with the signatories being prominent faces in American politics, such as Democrat Presidential candidate and US Senator, Bernie Sanders, Massachusets Senator, Elizabeth Warren, Illinois Senator, Richard Durbin, California Representative, Barbara Lee, California Representative, Juan Vargas, former Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, former Governor of New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen, businessperson and Congressperson, Sean Casten, among many others.

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar took to Twitter to announce their boycott of Modi’s address on US Congress floor.

The Congresswoman tweeted, “It’s shameful that Modi has been given a platform at our nation’s capital—his long history of human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, targeting Muslims & religious minorities, and censoring journalists is unacceptable. I will be boycotting Modi’s joint address to Congress.”

Modi is visiting United States of America to strengthen ties between the two countries. This is his fifth visit to the country.

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