Gujarat activists hail US visa ban on chief minister
Narendra Modi is alleged to have led deadly anti-Muslim riots
Rights activists in Gujarat yesterday praised a US congressional panel on religious freedom for urging the American government this week to continue a visa ban on controversial pro-Hindu politician Narendra Modi.
USCIRF, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, demanded the continuation of the ban in its annual report released in Washington on Tuesday.
“Modi is the only individual against whom the US has so far used its visa ban provision related to religious freedom in March 2005, due to his alleged complicity in 2002 riots in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,100 to 2000 Muslims,” the report noted.
The report follows the European Union’s decision in February to lift its boycott of Modi and a visit to India by a US congressional delegation which met Modi in Ahmedabad, the state capital in March. During the meeting Modi was invited by the delegation to visit the United States.
The US later said in April said there was no change in its stance on a visa for Gujarat’s chief minister but he was welcome to apply for one.
“With regard to Mr Modi, our lines have not changed here. He is welcome to apply," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the 2002 riots. He has since been re-elected twice and is tipped to be the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate for prime minister in national elections next year.
Rights activists in Gujarat yesterday welcomed the US commission’s report.
“The US commission’s demand was totally justified because Modi allegedly presided over the killing of 2,000 people,” said Father Cedric Prakash, a rights activist based in Ahmedabad. Minorities in Guajrat are still scared and suffering, he said.
Fr Prakash was among the few people in India who submitted testimonials to the USCIRF connecting Modi to human rights violations.
The USCIRF report is based on these testimonials.
The president of the Gujarat unit of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, J S Bandukwala, described the USCIRF call to continue the ban “absolutely correct.”
Modi in any other circumstances would have been tried in International Court of Justice at The Hague, he said, adding that the chief minister was the pivotal figure in Muslim genocide in 2002.
Rohit Prajapati of the NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (Environment Protection Committee) said Modi should not be allowed entry to any part of the world because of his track record on human rights and curbs on religious freedom for minorities in Gujarat since he came to power in October 2001.
Gujarat BJP chief Vijay Rupani accused Modi’s opponents of conducting a witch hunt.
“Anti-Modi elements in India and US were involved in bringing pressure on the USCIRF,” he said.
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