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Resolution calls on US govt to continue denying visa to Modi

November 19, 2013 20:25 IST

A bipartisan Congressional resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives calling on the US government to continue the policy of denying a visa to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on the grounds of religious freedom violations.

The resolution also called on India to protect the rights and freedoms of religious minorities and asked the US government to include the matter as part of bilateral the Strategic Dialogue.

The resolution introduced by Congressmen Keith Ellison from the Democratic Party and Joe Pitts from the Republican Party and co-sponsored by over a dozen other lawmakers, calls on the State Department to continue the policy of denying Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, a US visa.

In 2005, Modi was denied a diplomatic visa and his existing tourist and business visa was revoked under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which makes a foreign government official responsible for severe violations of religious freedom ineligible for a travel document.

"This resolution's strong bipartisan support shows that the rights of religious minorities in India are a priority for the US Congress," said Ellison after introducing the resolution which has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific for necessary action.

As per Congressional records, a significant majority of resolution do not go beyond the Congressional committees.

"All Indians should have the right to practice their faith freely, or to change their faith if they so choose. India is big enough for all its citizens. Its best leaders have worked to promote unity among its diverse populations, not division," Ellison said in a statement.

"The victims of events like the riots in Gujarat demand justice," said Pitts.

The resolution praises India's "rich religious diversity and commitment to tolerance and equality," while raising concerns over the erosion of religious freedom.

The resolution also highlights the alleged role of Modi in the 2002 violence in Gujarat.

The resolution commended the US government for exercising its authority in 2005 under the Inter-22 national Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to deny a US visa to Modi on the grounds of religious freedom violations.

The resolution also commends the role of India's National Human Rights Commission and the Indian Supreme Court, which has led to some convictions in Gujarat riot cases and the arrest of a few high-level leaders in the Gujarati administration.

It urges India to increase training on human rights and religious freedom standards and practices for police and the judiciary, particularly in states with a history or likelihood of communal violence; and calls on Gujarat and other Indian states with anti-conversion laws to repeal such legislation and ensure freedom to practice, propagate, and pro-fess ones’ religion as enshrined in the Indian constitution.

Urging the Government of India to empower the National Commission on Minorities with enforcement mechanisms, the resolution urges all political parties and religious organisations to publicly oppose the exploitation of religious differences and denounce harassment and violence against religious minorities, especially in the run-up to India's general elections in 2014.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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