Modi denies discrimination in India at Biden press conference

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi denied that discrimination against minorities existed under his government during a press conference with US President Joe Biden.

Biden said he discussed human rights and other democratic values with Modi on Thursday, after rights advocates and his Democratic Party’s progressive lawmakers urged him to raise the issue publicly.


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Asked during a rare press conference by a reporter what steps he was willing to take to “improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and to uphold free speech,” Modi suggested they didn’t need to be improved.

“Our Constitution and our government, and we have proved democracy can deliver. When I say deliver; caste, creed, religion, gender - there is no scope for any discrimination (in my government),” Modi told reporters at the White House.

Calls have escalated in recent days for Biden to publicly call out what activists say is India’s deteriorating human rights record. India’s importance for the US to counter China makes it difficult for Washington to criticize the human rights situation in the world’s largest democracy, analysts say.

The US president rolled out the White House red carpet for Modi on Thursday as part of his effort to jump-start a stronger US-India relationship.

The only two Muslim women members of the US Congress - Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib - along with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, separately said they would boycott Modi’s address to Congress on Thursday, citing allegations of abuse of Indian dissidents and minorities, especially Muslims.

US Senator Bernie Sanders said Modi’s “aggressive Hindu nationalism” has “left little space for India’s religious minorities.”

The benefits of the Indian government’s policies are accessible to everyone, Modi said on Thursday.

Rights groups say there has been an attack on dissidents, minorities and journalists in India since Modi took office in 2014.

India has slid from 140th in the World Press Freedom Index in 2014 to 161st this year, its lowest point, while also leading the list for the highest number of internet shutdowns globally for five consecutive years.

The UN human rights office described a 2019 citizenship law as “fundamentally discriminatory” for excluding Muslim migrants. Critics have pointed to anti-conversion legislation that challenged the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief and the revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status in 2019 as well.

There has also been demolition of properties owned by Muslims in the name of removing illegal construction; and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power in that state.

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