HomeIndian AmericanIndian Americans Urge Boycott of Indian PM Modi’s US Visit

Indian Americans Urge Boycott of Indian PM Modi’s US Visit

By Sunita Sohrabji, Ethnic Media Services

(This story is reposted from Ethnic Media Services as part of our partnership with EMS)

Several civil rights advocates and organizations have called for a boycott of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next week, declaring it to be a celebration of human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism.

“Modi is well on his way to creating a Hindu nation, relegating Muslims and other minorities as second-class citizens,” said Prachi Patankar, co-founder of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, speaking at a June 13 press briefing. She noted an uptick in vigilante attacks against India’s minorities, who — she said — have no recourse. Patankar also noted that hundreds of journalists and activists have been imprisoned for years without charges against them.

In a brief interview with Ethnic Media Services June 15, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California — who chairs the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans — indirectly stated that he would ask about alleged human rights violations by Modi’s administration during the Prime Minister’s visit.

“I am committed to a strong U.S.-India partnership on defense, technology, scientific research and tackling climate. I also believe the relationship must be grounded on values of pluralism, a free and open internet, the right to vote, a respect for civil liberties and due process under the law and liberal democracy. These are the themes I will be discussing next week,” Khanna told EMS.

Human Rights Abuses

The Prime Minister is scheduled to arrive in New York June 20, and will lead a massive public yoga session there the following day. He will then go to Washington DC June 22 to address a joint session of Congress. Later that evening, President Joe Biden will host a state dinner for Modi.

On June 23, Modi will give a speech at an event organized by the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum. He will also attend a luncheon hosted by the State Department.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who questioned Modi directly in 2021 on alleged human rights violations in India, will attend the lunch. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — who told reporters last April that the US was monitoring a rise in human rights abuses in India — will also attend.

In its annual report on human rights abuses released in March, the State Department lambasted India for many alleged human rights violations. Significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, according to the State Department.

Lack of Accountability

The report also noted a spate of arbitrary arrests and detentions; restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence or threats of violence; unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

The report also noted the lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based, racial, and sexuality-based violence, and added that a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity. The State Department has been critical of India’s human rights record since 2014, when Modi took office.

“Modi will be wined and dined next week at the White House. It is our responsibility to register our alarm and dismay that our government is giving a platform to the Modi government. We cannot normalize Modi. It is a dangerous whitewash,” said Patankar.

Journalists Detained

“The state dinner celebrates Modi and celebrates his atrocities,” said attorney Arjun Sethi, who moderated the discussion. “The dinner and the address to a joint session of Congress sends a poor message to marginalized people in India,” he said, urging people to boycott Modi’s public appearances.

“India is currently one of the most dangerous places to write and assert freedom of speech,” said Suchitra Vijayan, author of the critically acclaimed book Midnight’s Borders: A People’s History of Modern India; and How Long Can the Moon Be Caged, which features interviews with India’s political prisoners. She noted that over the past year, there have been 256 instances of violence against journalists. “The very act of speech, or even thinking, is criminalized,” she said.

Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, and environmental organizations have also come under the government’s radar, said Vijayan, who also serves as founder and executive director of The Polis Project, Inc, a New York-based hybrid research and journalism organization that studies critical human rights and political issues.

Persecution of Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs

Journalist Yashica Dutt, formerly of The Hindustan Times, noted the continued pervasiveness of the caste system in modern-day India. Dalits — once known as untouchables — are almost one-fourth of India’s population, and crimes against them have risen dramatically over the past 8 years, she said. “It has become a part of everyday life; police refuse to file a report,” alleged Dutt.

Safa Ahmed, of the Indian American Muslim Council; and Sukhman Dhami, founder of the civil rights organization Ensaaf, spoke of the marginalization of Muslims and Sikhs in Modi’s India. In 2019, the Modi Administration recalibrated the Citizenship Amendment Act to give citizenship to undocumented Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Notably, the CAA excluded Muslims.

Later that year, the government stripped the Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir of the semi-autonomous status it had held since India’s independence. As it did so, the government imposed a weeks-long curfew and cut off all communications services, including telephones and the internet.


Long-time civil rights activist Deepa Iyer — who served as executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together for more than a decade — noted that a protest will be staged in front of the White House June 22, as Modi addresses Congress, and urged people to attend. A demonstration will also be held in New York a day earlier as Modi leads a public yoga session.

Iyer, author of the book We Too Sing America, — which examines hate violence against South Asian Americans — urged concerned people to write to their members of Congress to ask them to speak out against human rights violations in India.

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  1. All these “ indians” who profess to be outraged have one thing in common . They moved out of india to seek a “ better “ life.

    Please stop pretending to know India while you drive your fancy cars and live in the burbs. Focus on your local lives.


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