US panel asks government to deny visa to Modi

July 9th, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 9 (IANS) A US government panel has asked the State Department to reaffirm its decision to deny a tourist visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Urging the State Department to announce Modi’s ineligibility for a visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Felice D. Gaer, chairman of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, said: “We have not seen changes that would warrant a policy reversal.”

“As official bodies of the government of India have found, Narendra Modi is culpable for the egregious and systematic human rights abuses wrought against thousands of India’s Muslims,” Gaer said.

“Modi must demonstrate to the State Department and to the American people why he - as a person found to have aided and abetted gross violations of human rights, including religious freedom - should now be eligible for a tourist visa,” Gaer added Tuesday.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader who has been invited to attend a conference in New Jersey in August celebrating Gujarati culture, has said he would not apply for visa until he was assured that his application will not be turned down.

Modi was earlier denied entry into the US to attend the same conference in 2002 after his visa was revoked under the INA, which prohibits foreign government officials who are “responsible for severe violations of religious freedom” from obtaining US visas.

Reportedly as many as 2,000 Muslims were killed, thousands raped, and over 200,000 displaced in the Gujarat riots from February to May 2002, the US agency said.

Numerous reports, including reports of official bodies of the government of India, have documented the role of Modi’s state government in the planning and execution of the violence, and the failure to hold perpetrators accountable, it said.

“The inaction of Gujarat’s government and police force in the face of severe violence against religious minorities is an inexcusable abuse of international human rights obligations,” Gaer said.

In 2005 too, the commission successfully urged the State Department to revoke Modi’s US tourist visa despite pressure from the Indian government, the agency noted.

Following the riots in 2002, India’s National Human Rights Commission issued a report that pointed to the role of Modi’s government in the systematic murder of Muslims and the calculated destruction of Muslim homes and businesses, the US panel said.

“In 2003, the Indian central government found corruption and anti-Muslim bias to be so pervasive in the Gujarat judiciary that riot cases were shifted for trial to the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.

“Despite this action, the lack of justice for victims remains a serious concern, as there have been very few court convictions in the six years since the religion-based riots.

“In 2007, a series of articles in the Indian publication Tehelka documented police officers and government officials on audio and videotapes confessing that they facilitated the violence, at times at the direct behest of Modi,” the panel said.

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