How We Made
U.S.Deny Visa To Modi
By Angana Chatterji
22 March, 2005
Hussain lives in the United States. She is the daughter of Ahsanhusain
A. Jafri of Gujarat, former Member of Parliament, who was tortured,
decapitated, and murdered in 2002. The events of Gujarat 2002 have placed
Nishrin in exile. Zaheera Sheik, who experienced the trauma of her familyâ€s
murder and was present for the Best Bakery ordeal, was coerced and intimidated
by the Sangh Parivar. Bilkis Yakoob Rasool (Bilkis Bano) of Randhikpur
village was gang-raped. She was five months pregnant at the time of
her rape and lost 14 family members, including her three-year-old child,
mother, and two sisters. Since then, she has been forced to move 20
times due to threats against her. These and other women of Gujarat live
and relive the violence of 2002, their families and futures devastated.
Such realities compelled
the formation of the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG). CAG was formed
in February 2005 to protest the planned business visit to the US in
March 2005 of Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, and demand
accountability and justice in response to the Gujarat genocide. CAG
is a spectrum of 38 organisations and 10 supporting groups, and individuals,
across the US and Canada (www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org).
CAG utilises several avenues, including grassroots mobilisation, e-mail,
phone and fax campaigns, public demonstrations, and draws from various
constituencies students, those self-employed, professionals, academics,
artists, people of/from India, and allies. CAG is comprised of Hindus,
Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and those who profess other faiths or none.
CAG challenges Modi supporters, primarily upper-caste Hindus, in the
US who claim to represent Hindus and India, and others guided into buttressing
Hindutva, "Hindu Tatva" "Hindu principles,"
Nazi inspired, advocated by Hindu extremist groups dedicated to promoting
a Hindu rashtra (theocracy) in India.
of Indian Americans of North America (AINA) invited Narendra Modi to
New York on March 20. Sangh members in the US formed AINA for this purpose.
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) invited Modi as
chief guest for their annual convention in Florida on March 24-26. CAG
called on Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, MSNBC, to decline the invitation
to speak at the AAHOA Convention, and American Express to rescind its
sponsorship of AAHOA. On March 8, Chris Matthews withdrew from the AAHOA
event, giving up an estimated professional fee of thousands. The Institute
on Religion and Public Policy wrote to secretary of state Condoleezza
Rice, some CAG members lobbied with Capitol Hill, and 125 South Asia
Studies and other faculty in the US wrote to the state department, the
House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, and the United Nations,
to decline Modi's visa. Disturbingly, Modi was also invited to inaugurate
the Yadunandan Centre for India Studies at the Asian and Asian American
Studies Department of California State University at Long Beach on March
22, demonstrating once again the infiltration of Hindu nationalists
into the academy. Again, 135 faculty wrote to the university asking
it to rescind Modi's invitation. Uka Solanki, a Gujarati businessman
and recipient of the 2005 Global Organisation of People of Indian Origins
Pravasi Bharatiya Community Service Award, has given a large donation
to the Asian American Studies Department and to the Centre for India
Studies. University spokespersons so far have commented only that the
request for Modi to inaugurate the Centre came from some donors.
of India, K.R. Narayanan, recently testified to a "conspiracy"
between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in New Delhi and
Gujarat, where between February 28 and March 2, 2002, under Narendra
Modi's leadership, Hindu nationalists perpetrated an event distinctive
in the movements malevolent reach for a Hindu state. In 16 of Gujarat's
24 districts, 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, 200,000 were
internally displaced. In many districts, the violence continued beyond
those three unimaginable days into April and May. Over 100,000 homes,
thousands of hotels and establishments were damaged or destroyed. Relief
camps were attacked at night. Narendra Modi and the Gujarat government
enabled the genocidal violence. Appointed in 2001, Modi contested election
as chief minister in December 2002, and won, in the climate of terror
that prevailed in Hindu nationalist ruled Gujarat. An economic boycott
against the Muslim community continues; 239 Muslims and one Sikh remain
detained under Prevention Of Terrorism Act (Pota) even as the Indian
Parliament repealed Pota in December 2004.
The events of February
28-March 2, 2002 constitute genocide under the United Nations Genocide
Convention. Modi and the Gujarat government face charges for crimes
against humanity and genocide. Inquiries and commissions, including
the Indian National Human Rights Commission, have condemned Modi's role
in the politically motivated attacks on minorities. The interim report
from the Justice U.C. Banerjee Commission has concluded that the fire
in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, resulting in the
deaths of 59 people, was an accident and not a "terrorist"
attack on Hindu pilgrims as claimed by those who organised the carnage
Three years later,
the survivors still await justice and reparations. Even as Muslims were
the primary targets of violence in 2002, Christians were attacked and
robbed during the post-Godhra riots. For those targeted, including dalits
and adivasis, Narendra Modi, the architect of the state organised pogrom,
is a monster whose words and deeds have endorsed rapes, the forced abortion
of foetuses and their display on trishuls, brutalities that irrevocably
scar the present. More than 2,000 of 4,000 cases filed by the victims
were never investigated or dismissed, leading the Supreme Court of India
to transfer several out of the state. On February 23, 2005, an Ahmedabad
court sentenced three persons to four years imprisonment for stabbing
to death Naseembibi Safar Ali, a pregnant woman, onFebruary 28, 2002,
in Madhavpura, Ahmedabad. To find the male perpetrators guilty of murder
and punish them with four-year sentences makes a mockery of justice
and aligns the state, once again, with the sexualised violence that
was Gujarat in 2002.
Modi is a pracharak
(proselytiser) for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the xenophobic
Hindu fundamentalist organisation, which, along with other Hindu extremist
groups, receives funds from the US and UK. Modiâ€s
current trip to the US would have been a fundraising event. Sudhir Parikh,
a prominent Indian and Sangh Parivar affiliate living in the US, invited
Modi in 2004. Parikh is on the board of the Indian American National
Foundation, an umbrella organisation of AAHOA, American Association
of Physicians of Indian Origin, National Federation of Indian American
Associations, and Indian American Forum for Political Education. Other
Hindu nationalists associated with hosting Modi's New York visit include
Suresh Jani, former secretary, Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP);
Ved Nanda, Sanghchalak (chief), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas
wing of the RSS, and former president of Friends of India Society International;
and Mukund Mody, founder and former President of the OFBJP (www.narendramodi.net/agenda.htm).
Research undertaken by two independent groups, the Campaign to Stop
Funding Hate and South Asia Watch Limited, demonstrate the linkages
between money raised in the US and UK and Hindu fundamentalism in India,
yet little has been done to curtail fundraising for hate.
There has been bi-partisan
support in the US for human rights in Gujarat. Former President Clinton
condemned the events in Gujarat. In 2002, Congressman Joseph Pitts (Republican-Pennsylvania)
condemned the premeditated brutality and cited insufficient action on
the part of the US. Congressman Pitts also conveyed that Hindu extremist
groups receive some of their funds from charities in the US. In 2003
and 2004, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
recommended that India be designated a "Country of Particular Concern."
On March 15, 2005, House Resolution 156 was introduced in the United
States Congress by Congressperson John Conyers, ranking Democrat (Michigan),
House Judiciary Committee, and Dean, Congressional Black Caucus, and
Congressperson Pitts, member, India Caucus and the Congressional Human
Rights Caucus, "condemning the conduct of Chief Minister Narendra
Modi for his actions to incite religious persecution and urging the
United States to condemn all violations of religious freedom in India."
On March 18, Modi was denied a diplomatic visa under Section 214(b)
of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by the US embassy in New
Delhi, as this was not a diplomatic visit, and his tourist and business
visa was revoked under INA Section 212(a)(2)(G), "as an official
responsible for carrying out severe violations of religious freedom,"
under Section 3 of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Following this, AAHOA has withdrawn Modi's invitation, and American
Express has cancelled $150,000 in sponsorship money.
In response, militant
workers of the Bajrang Dal set fire to a PepsiCo warehouse in Surat.
Other acts of arson and aggression will likely follow. The Indian government
must stop the cycle of violence and refuse to be held captive by Hindu
nationalists. The Congress government has elected to interpret Washington's
decision as "anti-India." How is upholding religious freedom,
rule of law, and accountability in governance contrary to the interests
of the nation? While the US continues to violate the rights of citizens
in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, in this instance, Washingtonâ€s
decision is supportive of human rights.
Indian jurist L.M.
Singhvi has alleged that the US denied and revoked Narendra Modi's visa
without due process of law. It should be incumbent on the government
of India to initiate due process of law investigating Modi's role in
executing the Gujarat massacre, as individual and chief minister of
Gujarat. That Narendra Modi was denied a visa, that his active involvement
in crimes against humanity has been officially noted, is something to
celebrate. The larger task remains to hold accountable Narendra Modi,
who has committed genocide.
Angana Chatterji is associate professor of Anthropology at California
Institute of Integral Studies, and member, Coalition Against Genocide