Indian Americans Disappointed at Rep. Ro Khanna’s Request to Invite Modi to Address Congress
Washington, D.C. (May 26, 2023) – Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) has expressed disappointment at Congressman Ro Khanna’s recent letter requesting that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy invite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver a joint address to Congress. The opportunity to speak before Congress will help to legitimize Modi’s brand of Hindu nationalist politics and the systematic persecution of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, under his rule.
Khanna has previously and admirably criticized Hindu nationalism, Rahul Gandhi’s expulsion from parliament, and disingenuous cries of Hinduphobia used to deflect legitimate criticism of the Indian government. IAMC urges Rep. Khanna to continue this fight, cancel his request, and instead educate his constituents about the harms the Modi regime has done to India.
The U.S. government and numerous internationally recognized organizations have condemned Modi for his and his political party’s attacks on core democratic freedoms, as well as their roles in enabling violence against Indian minorities. The 2023 Report on International Religious Freedom by the Department of State highlights hate speeches by leaders of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which have contributed to anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence; the BJP’s criminalization of religious conversion; BJP-led demolitions of Muslim-owned properties; Hindu supremacist rewriting of school curricula; arbitrary arrests of Muslims; and denial of bail for jailed Muslim activists. For four years running, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has designated India as a Country of Particular Concern for its egregious violations of human rights and religious freedoms, citing similar abuses.
Human rights watchdogs Genocide Watch and the U.S. Holocaust Museum have both raised the alarm over impending mass violence in India. Freedom House has downgraded India to “Partly Free” and Reporters Without Borders has placed India at 161st rank in their latest press freedom survey, behind Afghanistan. This year, the Indian government censored a BBC documentary that showcases evidence of Modi’s complicity in a massive anti-Muslim pogrom in which an estimated 2,000 predominantly Muslim people were killed.
The documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” discusses a UK government probe that found that Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” surrounding the mass killings, which, the report notes, “had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.” After banning the documentary, the Modi government raided BBC offices in India, deploying a well-established intimidation tactic already used extensively against other critical outlets.
Modi has curtailed free press through buyouts where intimidation has failed. One of Modi’s closest allies, the disgraced oligarch Gautam Adani, took over the previously independent cable news channel NDTV and cut its critical reportage. Later in January, Hindenburg Research revealed that the Adani Group overinflated their stock value with assistance from the Indian government in what many have called the most serious financial scandal of the decade. The Adani Group is, not coincidentally, the most significant corporate beneficiary of Indian government contracts.
To fail to note Modi’s violent, anti-minority, authoritarian tendencies, and his corrupt mismanagement of the Indian economy, is not only to ignore the U.S. government’s own findings but a strategic blunder with the potential to jeopardize global stability. The turmoil Modi and the BJP have sown within Indian society is a profound threat to regional stability and has the potential to substantially undermine any joint initiatives.
For these reasons, we call on Rep. Khanna to rescind his letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and to use his platform to ensure that the U.S.’s strategic partnership with India guarantees the human rights enshrined in the constitution of both countries.