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Deny visa to Modi again, US state department told

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | July 09, 2008 09:08 IST

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The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom -- a Congressionally mandated body -- has urged the US State Department "to reaffirm its past decision to deny a tourist visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images], who has been invited to attend a conference in New Jersey this August celebrating Gujarati culture."

The USCIRF recalled that Modi was "previously denied entrance to the United States due to his role in riots that overtook the Indian state of Gujarat from February to May 2002 in which reportedly as many as 2,000 Muslims were killed, thousands raped, and over 200,000 displaced."

"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 USCIRF said that in 2005, following invitations to Modi to attend conferences in the US, it had successfully urged the State Department to revoke Modi's US tourist visa and that "despite pressure from the Indian government, the State Department revoked his visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits foreign government officials who are 'responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom' from obtaining US visas.'"

It pointed out that this section was added to the INA by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1988. "The commission once again urges the State Department to announce Modi's ineligibility for a visa under the terms of the INA."

The chair of the USCIRF Felice D Gaer, said, "We have not see changes that would warrant a policy reversal," and noted, "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."

She argued that "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."

The USCIRF also pointed out that following the riots in 2002, India's National Human Rights Commission had 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."

"In 2003," it added, "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 neighboring state of Maharastra."

The USCIRF however said, "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 videotape confessing that they facilitated the violence, at times at the direct behest of Modi."

Gaer 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."

The USCIRF was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1988 enacted by the US Congress "to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress."

Its calling on the State Department to deny Modi entry into the US, comes in the wake of a concerted campaign launched by several Indian-American organisations under the banner of the Coalition Against Genocide, which last month wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] urging her not to allow Modi to enter the US.

The letter alleged that Modi's coming to the US "is to rally the support base among Indian diaspora communities and raise international legitimacy and standing."

It warned that "it would be dangerous at this juncture of Indian political process to give Modi that long denied and much-coveted window."






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