NRI led-commission had advised against Modi visit

Published on Mar 19, 2005 01:15 PM IST

The US Panel on Religious Freedom had advised State Department to prevent Modi from visiting the US.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Washington

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), chaired by Indian American Preeta Bansal, had advised the State Department to prevent Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from visiting this country.

The commission said it was gratified by the State Department's denial of a visa to Modi.

"The commission communicated with the State Department about the matter some time ago. We urge the department to act with appropriate Indian officials to forestall or prevent the planned visit," Bansal said on the commission's statement posted on its website March 17.

Bansal said she did not wish to give any more comments than have been already put in the USCIRF's statement but added that the organisation had worked with the State Department "on getting this done".

The State Department Friday announced it was denying Modi a diplomatic visa and also revoking his business visa on grounds that his government had in some way allegedly been linked to the deaths of some 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat nearly three years ago.

Modi's visa was denied under the Immigration and Nationality Act that says any foreign government official that is linked to incidents of severe persecutions in religious freedom would not be allowed to visit this country.

Patricia Carley, Associate Director of Policy at USCIRF, said the State Department's decision was "in keeping with what the Commission called for yesterday."

"The Commission is gratified by the State Department's decision. In fact, we have been in consultation with the State department and alerted them on the issue in January."

She conceded that it took the State Department so much time to come to this decision, "... and I don't think it was an easy decision for them. This sort of thing is not done often. But I guess in the case of Mr. Modi, I think we were looking at a person who had been implicated in the events of Gujarat by India's own government investigative bodies as well as human rights organizations."

For Washington, Carley said, "Obviously, I don't' think that this decision was taken lightly."

In its statement the USCIRF, after expressing "deep concern" notes that "Three years ago, after a fire on a train resulted in the death of 58 Hindus, hundreds of Muslims were killed across Gujarat by Hindu mobs. Hundreds of mosques and Muslim-owned businesses and other kinds of infrastructure were looted or destroyed and, in the end, as many as 2,000 Muslims were killed.

"India's National Human Rights Commission, an official body, as well as numerous domestic and international human rights investigators, found evidence of complicity in the attacks by officials of the Gujarat state government, headed then and still by State Minister Modi."

In the months following the violence, the Modi government in Gujarat "was widely accused in India of being reluctant to bring the perpetrators of the killings of Muslims to justice," the USCIRF notes, adding, "In response to the alleged failures of the Gujarat government, India's Supreme Court declared in October 2003 that it had "no faith left" in the state's handling of the investigations and instructed the Gujarat state government to appoint new prosecutors to examine the religious violence of 2002."

Following that, "In April 2004, in what was seen as an additional indictment of Modi's Gujarat government, the Supreme Court stepped in once more and ordered a transfer of a trial of perpetrators to a neighboring state," it adds.

"At a time when the newly elected Indian government and courts have initiated a number of actions to address the tragic Gujarat massacres in which Gujarat state officials were found by India's own investigative bodies to be complicit, the Commission has been concerned that Modi's private visit will only serve inappropriately to give a platform in the United States to someone who has been implicated in grave violations of religious freedom," said Bansal.

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