Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York says she will boycott Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech to Congress on Thursday, citing his treatment of religious minorities and the press.
She joins fellow Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both Muslims, in skipping the speech. They argue that Mr. Modi has a pattern of targeting Muslims and cracking down on dissent by censoring journalists.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez alluded to Mr. Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots marked by anti-Muslim violence.
“In 2005, Narendra Modi was denied a U.S. visa because of his violations of religious freedom, including his complicity in an anti-Muslim riot that left over 1,000 dead,” she said. “India currently ranks 161 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index — in part due to Modi’s raids on BBC India’s offices and his court challenges against a critical documentary.”
Mr. Modi is scheduled to address Capitol Hill lawmakers in his second address to Congress and his first state visit to the White House.
President Biden is rolling out the red carpet to Mr. Modi, as India plays a key role in deterring China’s aggressions in the Indo-Pacific and has a major role in the global economy. Some projections say India has overtaken China as the most populous country in the world.
First lady Jill Biden said Wednesday the menu at Thursday’s dinner will mostly be vegetarian, a nod to Mr. Modi’s dietary restrictions.
Biden officials have said they bring up human rights issues with global leaders but try not to lecture foreign dignitaries.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez objected, however, to bestowing honors on Mr. Modi.
“A joint address is among the most prestigious invitations and honors the United States Congress can extend,” she said. “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.”
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