As the US pursues a closer relationship with India, activists are concerned some are overlooking the persecution of religious minorities in the world’s largest country.
For nine days, Pieter Friedrich starved himself to get his congressman’s attention.
Drawing from his own Christian tradition of prayer and fasting and the Indian political tactic of satyagraha, the activist and journalist fasted from July 27 until August 5, aiming to convince US Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, to speak on the House floor about violence against Christians.
“He has not just a political responsibility, but a human responsibility to raise these issues,” said Friedrich, after he had abandoned his strike at the request of two Indian organizations. “I believe the only way he continues to refuse doing so is because he’s continuing to straddle the fence.”
The Christians whose plight Friedrich was demanding Khanna take responsibility for, however, were not Californians, but Indians living more than 7,000 miles away in Manipur. The fence he was accusing an American congressman of straddling was US policy toward Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his troubling history of Hindu nationalism.
From President Joe Biden to Indian American congressmembers like Khanna, American politicians are under increasing pressure to account for their courtship of Modi, the leader of a strategically important ally and the world’s largest democracy, while ignoring the Indian regime’s oppression of religious minorities.
Modi’s recent visit to Washington—where he met with President Biden, attended a state dinner, and addressed Congress—fully rehabilitated a figure who was refused a visa by the US State Department in 2015. At the time, Modi, then chief minister of the state of Gujarat, held a precarious position on the international stage after more than 900 of his constituents, …