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AOC Is Boycotting Modi’s Address Over “Deeply Troubling” Human Rights Record

Far right Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to speak before Congress.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on May 24, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and a number of other progressives in the House have announced that they’re boycotting far right Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to Congress on Thursday, citing Modi’s abysmal human rights record and erosion of free press and religion rights in India.

Modi is slated to speak before Congress as part of a trip to the U.S. on an invite from President Joe Biden, who has planned a warm embrace of the far right leader despite his moves to advance fascism and undermine democracy on the world stage.

“I will be boycotting Prime Minister Modi’s address to Congress tomorrow, and I encourage my colleagues who stand for pluralism, tolerance, and freedom of the press to join me in doing the same,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement on Wednesday.

“A joint address is among the most prestigious invitations and honors the United States Congress can extend,” she continued. “We should not do so for individuals with deeply troubling human rights records — particularly for individuals whom our own State Department has concluded are engaged in systematic human rights abuses of religious minorities and caste-oppressed communities.”

Other prominent progressive lawmakers have also announced that they will not attend the address, including Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), Cori Bush (D-Missouri), Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan). Omar has said that she will be holding a meeting with human rights groups over Modi’s human rights record instead.

“Prime Minister Modi’s government has repressed religious minorities, emboldened violent Hindu nationalist groups, and targeted journalists/human rights advocates with impunity. I will NOT be attending Modi’s speech,” Omar wrote.

Several lawmakers have said that it is “unacceptable” that Modi was invited to speak in the first place.

“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 and religious minorities, and censoring journalists is unacceptable,” Tlaib said. “I will be boycotting Modi’s joint address to Congress.”

Modi has been a model for cruelty over his time in various positions of power in the country; in 2005, as chief minister of Gujurat, he was banned from traveling to the U.S. for his alleged complicity in an anti-Muslim pogrom in his state in 2002, in which over 2,000 Muslims were killed.

In recent years, he has fomented Islamophobia and overseen a rise in religious hate crimes across the country, targeted journalists who have been critical of him, expelled Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition party, from parliament, and barred a documentary on his role in the 2002 riots from being shown in the country.

This week, Jayapal and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) led a bicameral letter effort, joined by over 70 members of Congress, urging Biden to discuss human rights and democracy with Modi — subjects that seem to be missing from the White House’s agenda for the visit. The letter was signed by lawmakers like Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California).

“As longtime supporters of a strong U.S.-India relationship, we also believe that friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way,” the lawmakers wrote. “That is why we respectfully request that — in addition to the many areas of shared interests between India and the U.S. — you also raise directly with Prime Minister Modi areas of concern.”

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