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Visa Denial Hurt National Pride?

By Harsh Mander

28 March, 2005
Times Of India

The denial of a diplomatic visa to Narendra Modi, and subsequent protest by the Indian government, has resulted in a deep divide in Indian middleclass opinion. It is not a simple fissure between those who believe in secular democracy and those who oppose it.

There are many who are stoutly secular, who still oppose what they see as an affront to national pride and a democratically-elected office.

However, Modi is no ordinary elected leader. He has become infamous for his role in the most brutal massacre since India became free, including the mass slaughter and rape of hundreds of women and children. In the past three years, he has remained completely unrepentant, and has deliberately subverted the process of justice, attracting unprecedented strictures from the Supreme Court.

Modi's politics of hatred should not be legitimised even by association, by the international community. I welcome the US government's decision, even as I harbour grave disquiet about the militaristic and chauvinistic policies and human rights abuses of the current US government itself, most notably in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nehru once refused a request by Mussolini to meet him, because he was a fascist.

This was widely admired as a principled stand based on democratic and humanist traditions, and never an affront to the people of Italy. Similarly, most nations refused diplomatic relations with the apartheid regime of South Africa, which was an act not of insult but of solidarity of the international community with large sections of the South African people. Because of his record, Modi qualifies for the same isolation and its victimised minorities for the same solidarity of the national and international community. This is no affront to the people of Gujarat and India.

The alacrity with which the UPA government sprang to Modi's defence contrasts painfully with its prevarication to secure justice for those who not only survived the massacre, but continue to live with fear and grapple with economic boycott, and are threatened or bribed if they pursue legal justice. The PM's statement in the Rajya Sabha that the charges against Modi are based on unproved allegations is appalling because Modi stands repeatedly indicted not just by more than 50 independent citizens' reports by organisations and people of the highest credibility, but also by the Supreme Court and the NHRC.

In the recent elections in Jharkhand, Modi, fielded as a star campaigner by the BJP, thundered, "To accomplish what I did in Gujarat requires a broad chest of 46 inches." His words struck terror anew in the hearts of minorities in remote villages. Is he the pride, or the shame, of India?

Copyright © 2005 Times Internet Limited.











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