UNITED NATIONS: With a large group of people protesting outside, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the International Yoga Day celebrations with UN diplomats, officials and members of the Indian diaspora at the world body’s headquarters lawns in New York.
This year’s observance organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN in collaboration with the Secretariat, took place under the theme, Yoga for Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
Protesters outside the UN building accused him of pursuing anti-minority policies to marginalize them and make India Hindu State. They raised anti-Modi slogns, calling him “butcher of Gujarat.”
In his video message for the event, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded everyone that in a dangerous and divided world, the benefits of this ancient practice are particularly precious.
PM Modi’s critics have accused him of using yoga to distract from his poor human rights record and pursuit of a form of Hindu nationalism that has grossly penalized India’s minority groups, its Muslims especially.
Modi is in the United States for talks with President Joe Biden that the White House sees as bolstering “one of the defining partnerships of our age.”
Modi has been to the United States five times since becoming prime minister in 2014, but the trip will be his first with the full diplomatic status of a state visit, despite concerns over what is seen as a deteriorating human rights situation under his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi is to head from New York to Washington for a private dinner with Biden on Wednesday evening, followed by talks at the White House and a state dinner on Thursday.
Meanwhile, TIME, the leading American weekly magazine, said India has always been a flawed democracy, but its human rights record has worsened significantly during Modi’s tenure.
Researchers Suchitra Vijayan and Francesca Recchia have identified about 250 non-violent political prisoners who were put in jail without being formally charged or tried between May 2014, when Modi came to power, until July 2022, in their forthcoming book, How Long Can The Moon Be Caged?.
The detained prisoners include lawyers, writers, human rights activists, and other socially-conscious dissidents. According to watchdog Access Now, India leads the world in network shutdowns, and as western tech companies have learned, India browbeats telecom and social media companies to take down content and threatens them with police action if they don’t comply.
In its dispatch to mark Modi’s US visit, Time wrote, “The treatment of Muslims, who form 14% of India’s population, has worsened.
“A 2019 report by Human Rights Watch documented 44 murders (36 of them being Muslim) by lynch mobs who killed people they suspected of possessing beef, consuming it, or trading cows.
“Muslims find it hard to buy or rent property, are denied permission to build mosques in some cases, and prevented from praying in public.
“Vigilantes prevent Muslims from praying at home. Female Muslim students in one state were banned from wearing headscarves.
“A senior politician from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party had welcomed convicted cow protectors with garlands.
“BJP-ruled states have passed laws to make it harder for inter-faith marriages from taking place.
“Right-wing Hindus celebrated the early release of 11 men who were convicted of having raped a Muslim woman and murdered some of her family members during the massacres of 2002.
“Those incidents occurred when Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister and had failed to stop Hindu violence against Muslims. Modi was then barred from entry into the U.S. or the E.U. until India’s Supreme Court said Modi did not have a case to answer.
“A recent BBC film which blamed Modi for complicity is banned in India.” Web Desk
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