United States President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must address “grave human rights concerns” in both countries when they meet later this week, non-governmental organisation Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Modi on Tuesday morning left New Delhi for a three-day visit to the United States. He is slated to meet Biden on June 22.
Aakar Patel, the chair of board at Amnesty International India, said that the two leaders “must hold each other to account for their human rights commitments, rather than sweep human rights issues in their respective countries under the rug”.
Patel added: “While the red carpet has been rolled out for Prime Minister Modi, people in India continue to experience grave human rights abuses.”
Amanda Klasing, national director of government relations and advocacy at Amnesty International USA, said that Modi has presided over a period of rapid deterioration of human rights protections in India, including increasing violence against religious minorities, shrinking civil society space and the criminalisation of dissent.
The organisation said that many state governments in India “have passed laws to criminalise consensual inter-faith marriages and undertaken punitive demolitions targeting Muslim-owned properties”.
Amnesty International noted that the targeting of religious minorities in India has been well-documented, including by the US Department of State. The organisation referred to State Department’s 2022 report on religious freedom, which flagged “significant human rights issues” in India, including extra-judicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests.
Klasing said that Biden could not ignore evidence of his own State Department. “He should encourage Prime Minister Modi to convey to BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] leaders the urgent need to end vitriolic language and to ensure crimes against religious groups are investigated and prosecuted,” she said.
Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division director, also urged the White House to discuss human rights concerns, both publicly and privately, during Modi’s visit, Reuters reported.
“We strongly urge you to use your meetings with Prime Minister Modi to urge Modi to move his government and his party in a different direction,” she said.
In recent months, several other international organisations have also expressed concerns about diminishing civil liberties in India. In March, Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy Institute listed India among the “worst autocratisers” in the last 10 years, two years after it stated that the country had become an “electoral autocracy”.
In this backdrop, several human rights groups have planned protests against Modi’s visit to the United States. Among them are the Indian American Muslim Council, Peace Action, Veterans for Peace and Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition plan.