Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s on-going state visit to the US is marked by high profile meetings with US President Joe Biden, other political leaders, thinktanks and top American businesses but happening parallelly, in the absence of media glare, are protests from civil rights groups against alleged human rights violations in India and the government’s handling of violence in Manipur. 

The Coalition for Reclaiming Indian Democracy, an alliance of civil rights and interfaith organisations representing Indian-American Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and allies, has planned a protest on Thursday at the Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington DC in opposition to President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders’ decision to invite Modi to a state dinner and a joint Congressional address.

“The protest will peacefully demonstrate our collective opposition to Modi’s warm US reception and highlight concerns over his troubling track record on human rights, religious freedom, democratic backsliding, and his crackdown on civil society, critics, and the press,” per a press statement from the organisation.

The Association of Meitei’s in America (AMA), a collective of individuals belonging to the community across the US, also organised a peace demonstration on Thursday near the White House to express solidarity against the widespread violence in Manipur and demand action.

“In the wake of the ongoing conflict that erupted on May 3, Manipur is facing an unprecedented crisis. Tragically, more than 125 lives have been lost, while over 350 have been injured. The plight of over 50,000 displaced people seeking shelter in 350 relief camps is dire, with limited access to essential resources such as food, water and healthcare,” a press release issued by AMA noted.

“We demand that the authorities uphold the people’s fundamental human rights, including their right to dignity, education, and access to information,” the release added.

On Wednesday, in an advertisement in The Washington Post, a group of six global journalist bodies said that journalists in India face physical violence, harassment, bogus lawsuits and hate campaigns on social media. 

“This week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes an official state visit to the White House. Leaders around the world who value democracy must urge those in power in India to stop the threats against journalists there,” the advertisement said.

Human rights issue

Earlier, Democratic lawmakers urged Biden to raise human rights issues with Modi during his ongoing visit. “areas of concern” on democratic backsliding with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his state visit.

“A series of independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India toward the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access,” the lawmakers said in the letter.