Indian Americans' clout on the rise

PTI | ByCR Jayachandran, New Delhi
Mar 22, 2005 12:09 AM IST

NRIs have gained new visibility as their political and financial clout has grown, reports CR Jayachandran.

The US State Department's decision to cancel the visa of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in a way reflects the growing clout of Indian Americans in the US.

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Albeit the US claimed that the decision to ban Modi's entry into America was based on the report by India's National Human Right's Commission (NHRC) for the role he played in the Gujarat riots three years ago, there is a general feeling that protests by several Indian expatriates' groups had an impact.

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The Association of Indian Muslims of America had protested the proposed visit of Modi to the US.

In a message, the Association had stated, "We, a non-profit, non-political organisation of Indian Americans, find it very regrettable that the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, an organisation of Indian-American hotel owners in US, has invited Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, as chief guest to their convention in Ft Lauderdale, FL, on March 24-26, 2005."

Even the US media is talking about how the Indian expatriates are becoming more aware of their influence and capitalising on it.

"Indian-American community has gained new visibility in recent years as its political and financial clout has grown. As America's wealthiest ethnic group, it is particularly divided over allegations that some charities are channelising money to incite sectarian violence like that in Gujarat," the Christian Science Monitor said.

There is a background to it.

After the Gujarat riots in 2002, a 'watchdog group', Sabrang Communications, released a report alleging that the US-based India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) was clandestinely channeling abroad more than 80 per cent of its "discretionary funds" to "Hindu fundamentalist groups" to spread "hatred".

Human Rights Watch and other groups had also held the Sangh Pariwar "most directly responsible" for the Gujarat riots.

Now many of the groups that are against Modi's visit are also tracking Indian-American charities that support the activities of the Sangh Parivar.

The paper quoted an Indian-American Muslim as alleging that "the people who are sending donations to these groups are not aware of where the money is going...And I do fear that after the (2001 Gujarat) earthquake some of the money collected was geared toward this hatred".

Mark Sidel, an expert on Indian diaspora at the University of Iowa, also said, "We are seeing increased attention by Indian-Americans to how their donations are used, particularly in the wake of September 11 and the Gujarat events. We now see the emergence of controversy and of watchdog groups of various kinds."

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