An analysis of communal violence depends on the political perspective of those attempting to make a statement from it. Reprehensible as it may seem in this era of liberalism and global integration, but somehow this is an enduring and an ancient fact of society. And it is certainly not the sole preserve of an atavistic people like the Indians but also strikes those who underwent the process of enlightenment and industrialisation in its entirety.
So when communal violence is sought to explain state policy it is certain that factors other than a recapitulation of facts have been taken into account. This is what has happened with Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his visa denied by the United States.
The communal events of 2002 in Gujarat continue to cause much agony to the victims, obviously, embarrassment to the Bharatiya Janata Party, obviously, and excitement to those habituated to berating Modi and his party, equally obviously.
Callous US, guilty Bush
For the relatives of those who died in the train at Godhra and of those who died in the violence that followed there has never really been any respite. The space and the silence to heal have never really been given. Time and again the BJP leadership expressed shock, regret and dismay. The then Union home minister even admitted it to being a 'blot' on an otherwise unimpeachable national administration.
Gujarat was the one time where the BJP tripped in its efforts to bringing a new imagery to the idea of today's India. By all accounts India's first government sans even Congress clones as members was successful in correcting the country's flight path. Bleating Third Worldism remained confined to where it should've been, the margins of intelligent conversations.
So from the embers of that violence the United States of America analysed a 'comprehensive failure on the part of the state government of Gujarat to control persistent violations of rights'. And that 'Mr Modi's existing tourist/business visa was also revoked under section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212 (a) (2) (g) makes any foreign government official who 'was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom' ineligible for a visa to the United States'.
Simple enough to understand in light of US domestic legislation. When asked to elaborate the US officials also declared that 'It's a matter of the United States responding to a finding by the Indian National Human Rights Commission.'
So in the same vein the events of 1984 should produce the same visa denial regime. The massacres of Sikhs in 1984, documented by some of the organisations at the forefront of declaring Gujarat 2002 a pogrom, were pre-mediated, at best, and involved elements of the state as participants, at worst. A flippant remark by a former prime minister that the earth shakes when a big tree falls is reflective of the mindset prevailing then.
Has a similar visa denial regime worked against those who held positions of executive authority in the then Union government? It hasn't, and only because the analyses of communal violence are coloured by the political prism that rests on the noses of the analysts. And to understand how this selectivity works it is pertinent to leave India and rewind a couple of decades from Gujarat 2002.
Religiously against Modi
The Israeli defence forces attacked Lebanon in 1982 for an operation curiously called 'Peace for Galilee'. Many brutal things happened but none worse than the massacre of unarmed Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila. The Phalange, Israel's war time allies, sent militiamen into the camps for what was to be an orgy of killing. Eyewitness accounts and testimonies of those that survived provided horrific details of what was clearly a deliberate policy to erase Palestinian presence. Thousands of Israeli citizens marched to demand an inquiry.
Just as many had petitioned in India for Gujarat 2002. And so this is what India's National Human Rights Commission had to say, 'There is no doubt, in the opinion of this Commission, that there was a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people of the State'. The US State Department quoted this sentence whilst denying Modi a visa.
Long before, in Israel, the independent Kahane Commission of inquiry said, 'It is our view that responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defence for having disregarded the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps.'
'In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defence for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of massacre as a condition for the Phalangists' entry into the camps. These blunders constitute the non-fulfilment of a duty with which the defence minister was charged'.
Different from the NHRC about Gujarat in that no individual was held responsible. But than that is a detail to keep lawyers and such busy bodies occupied. The biggest difference, however, is that the defence minister referred to is now the prime minister of Israel, and despite such an indictment has never been denied a visa to the US. Selectivity prevails? It does even when analysing communal violence.
Manvendra Singh is a member of Parliament from Barmer, Rajasthan.