Accuse Biden of giving Modi a democratic platform amid persecution of minorities, crackdown on press and civil society
Hundreds of Indian Americans and their allies held a protest rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged assault on democratic values and human rights violations in India.
The protest, attended by individuals from diverse religious backgrounds such as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and tribal communities, was held hours before Modi’s address to a joint session of Congress and a state dinner at the White House Thursday.
Organized by the Coalition for Reclaiming Indian Democracy, a collective of civil rights and interfaith organizations, the protest aimed to raise awareness about the deteriorating state of democracy in India, persecution of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, crackdown on press and civil society, according to a media release. Several activists and alleged victims of human rights abuses under the Modi regime addressed the gathering.
â€œDemocracy as we know it has ceased to exist in India,â€ said Dr. Aakashi Bhatt, daughter of imprisoned Indian whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt, who was given a lifetime prison sentence as a retribution for providing eyewitness testimony on Modiâ€™s role in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the release stated.
â€œMy father sacrificed 21 years of his life to relentlessly fight for the thousands who are incarcerated and victimized by [the Modi] regime,â€ Bhatt said. â€œAs a society, we cannot let the sacrifices of our heroes go to waste. We need to raise a unified voice against Modi.â€
â€œJournalists are getting attacked and jailed in Indiaâ€¦ [but] I also firmly believe that hatred has an expiry date,â€ said Niranjan Takle, a senior Indian journalist who has faced extensive harassment for his work. â€œI will continue to stand up for democracy and secularism in India, and I call on leaders in the United States to join me.â€
Lien Gangte, senior Leader of the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), spoke about recent ethnic violence in Indiaâ€™s Manipur state.
â€œPrime Minister Narendra Modi has been silentâ€¦ This is ethnic cleansing, pure and simple,â€ he alleged. â€œWe call on every concerned individual to exercise their democratic rights by urging their elected representatives in the US [to] provide humanitarian aid and security.â€
â€œIndia is not the worldâ€™s largest democracy. India is the worldâ€™s largest authoritarian regime,â€ said Arjun Sethi, a human rights lawyer and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
â€œA democracy doesnâ€™t terrorize minority communities [or] wage war on the pressâ€¦ Modi was banned from this country for more than ten years. He should be banned again. He has no business being on US soil.â€
â€œIt is unacceptable that the Biden administration gives Modi this platform to act like a democratic leader, because in doing so, Biden is complicit in whitewashing the blood on Modiâ€™s hands,â€ said Husnaa Vhora, advocacy associate with the Indian American Muslim Council. â€œEven worse, heâ€™s actively celebrating a man who has stayed silent while his supportersâ€¦ called for minorities to be eradicated from India.â€
â€œAs a progressive Hindu Americanâ€¦ it is my ethical, political, and religious duty to stand up against the age-old atrocity of caste and the hatred and violence of Hindu nationalism, the evil twin ideologies that fuel Modi and the BJP as they steer India on a very dark path towards becoming a Hindu supremacist theocracy,â€ said Sunita Vishwanath, executive director of the advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights.
â€œShame on the Biden administration for claiming to care about democracy and human rights, but shamelessly rolling out the red carpet for the Hindu supremacist leader who is dividing India along fault lines of hate,â€ she added.
â€œPresident Biden, do not underestimate the vicious power of Prime Minister Modiâ€¦ who is hand in glove with violence,â€ said Reverend Sarah Anderson, pastor at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. â€œStop killing of pastors and their congregations. Stop burning churches in Manipur. Stop the ethnic cleansing of minorities in India.â€
â€œA Holocaust is happening right now in the worldâ€™s largest democracy, and the United States has chosen to honor its leader,â€ said Roja Singh, President of Dalit Solidarity Forum.
â€œWe ask that President Biden declare that the United States does not support the violence-based policies enacted by the Modi government,â€ she added, according to the release.