In the midst of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to the US, trucks in New York City with screens urged US President Joe Biden to interrogate the Indian PM about events in India. Protests over claims that Modi’s right-wing government is repressing human rights in India have marred his trip to the US.
A joint address is among the most prestigious invitations and accolades the United States Congress can extend, according to prominent progressive voices like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, who have declared they will not attend Modi’s speech to the Congress. Additionally, earlier on Tuesday, more than 70 Democrats in the US Congress wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to discuss “areas of concern” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Digital billboards on the trucks had messages addressed to Biden, such as “Did you know mob lynching of Muslims, Christians and Dalits have surged under Modi’s rule. With almost no accountability” and “Hey Joe! Ask Modi why student activist Umar Khalid has been in prison for 1000+ days WITHOUT Trial?”
Under the harsh Indian anti-terrorist law known as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967, Umar Khalid was detained on September 13, 2020. Khalid, a JNU doctoral graduate, has been charged with being one of the “masterminds” of a plot to incite rioting and terrorist-related activity during the Delhi riots. He has been imprisoned ever since, without trial, and has repeatedly been turned down for bail. On June 9th, 2023, Khalid completed 1,000 days in prison.
Another banner that was directed towards Biden asked, “Why was Modi banned from the USA from 2005-2014?” and also offered an answer. It stated that the Indian prime minister was the “only person ever to be denied a visa on these grounds” for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom”. The “Crime Minister of India” was yet another name included on the banners for Modi.
One of the trucks also made reference to the wrestlers’ protest that has been roiling India for the past two months. Indian wrestlers began protesting in January 2023 in support of a probe into claims that BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh had sexually harassed female wrestlers while he was the head of the Wrestling Federation of India. The Delhi Police was criticized for taking too long to respond to the charges, and a probe was only opened in late April as a result of the Supreme Court’s involvement.
US rights organizations arranged rallies in opposition to what they term India’s deteriorating human rights record a week before Modi was scheduled to come to the States. When the two leaders were set to meet, the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, Veterans for Peace, the Indian American Muslim Council, and Peace Action planned to congregate close to the White House. Flyers with the slogans “Modi Not Welcome” and “Save India from Hindu Supremacy” were put together by the protesting groups.