US rights groups to protest against India PM Narendra Modi’s Washington visit

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US rights groups plan protests next week against India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington over what they say is India’s deteriorating human rights situation.

The Indian American Muslim Council, Peace Action, Veterans for Peace and Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition plan to gather near the White House on June 22 when Modi is due to meet US President Joe Biden.

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Washington hopes for closer ties with the world’s largest democracy, which is sees as a counterweight to China, but rights advocates worry that geopolitics will overshadow human rights concerns. The United States has said these include government targeting of religious minorities, dissidents, and journalists.

The groups prepared flyers that said, “Modi Not Welcome” and “Save India from Hindu Supremacy.”

Another event is planned in New York featuring a show titled “Howdy Democracy,” a play on the name of the 2019 “Howdy Modi!” rally in Texas featuring the Indian prime minister and then-US President Donald Trump.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have invited policy makers, journalists, and analysts next week to a screening in Washington of a BBC documentary on Modi that questioned his leadership during the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots.

All of this is unlikely to change the Biden-Modi discussions, said analysts.

“My guess is that human rights will not be much of a focus of the conversation,” said Donald Camp, a former State Department official and part of Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Camp said that for the Modi trip to be seen as successful on both sides, there would be a reluctance from Washington to raise human rights issues.

The US State Department has said it regularly raises human rights concerns with Indian officials and respects the free speech rights of US residents to demonstrate against Modi.

A spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

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