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NRI awardee unfazed by protests
A Correspondent in Hyderabad | January 09, 2006 22:28 IST
As President APJ Abdul Kalam was conferring the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman on Dr Parikh, Shaktinath Chaudhary, a US citizen, stood up and shouted that a hardcore supporter of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should not be given such a high honour.
More protests followed as the police took Chaudhary under preventive custody.
Later, as the media sought Parikh's reaction to the protest, his wife stopped him from saying anything on the issue.
Many secular activists believe that the well-known consulting allergist's proximity to Modi makes him unsuitable for any award that recognises Indian values.
Dr Parikh later told rediff.com: "I am a physician and philanthropist. I am not a politician. I work for India and lobby for causes that enhance India's image.
"I have got other awards in the US, but to get an award in India is different. I feel humbled. This award will inspire me to work harder for our community in US."
Before he got the award, he had told rediff.com, "Modi's critics in India do not know that it was the Asian American Hotel Owners Association that was working behind the scenes to acquire Modi's visa. I was not involved in the process."
He also added in a lighter vein: "If I had been involved, Modi's visa would not have been denied. Currently, I am working hard along with fellow Indian-Americans to make President's Bush's visit a big success by helping India get civilian nuclear energy."
It was when Modi was chief minister that Gujarat witnessed the worst ever communal riots on Indian soil since Partition.
The protestors said Dr Parikh was a staunch supporter of Modi and was among those few influential NRIs who backed his idea of launching the Gaurav Yatra in March 2005.
The US had then revoked Modi's tourist/business visa and said the decision was taken under the US Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits anybody who was 'responsible for, or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom' from entering the US.