|Date: 14 Mar 2005|
Source: Times of India
GANDHINAGAR: Faced with internal dissension within the BJP and growing protests in the US, doubts are surfacing on whether Narendra Modi will embark upon his proposed trip to the US later this month, his first ever as chief minister.
The refusal of Chris Matthews, a top-ranking talk-show host, to share the platform with Modi on March 24 at the Asian-American Hotel Owners' Association (AAHOA) meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has come as a jolt to the Modi establishment here.
While a spokesperson for Matthews, who features on MSNBC's 'Hardball' programme, has announced that his boss would not share platform "due to scheduling conflict", it is learnt that human rights activists had flooded Matthews with e-mails, urging him to distance himself from Modi for "alleged culpability in the Gujarat riots".
American Express,the chief sponsor of the AAHOA event, too has been flooded with e-mails to withdraw itself from the programme.
Nearer home, with the rebellion against Modi building up in the last few days, doubts are being expressed in the Sachivalaya on whether he would go to the US. If there are any lessons to be drawn from recent history, it was exactly ten years back when former chief minister Keshubhai Patel faced a similar rebellion in 1995 while he was on a US trip.
A senior bureaucrat informed that Modi still awaits a diplomatic visa from the US consulate in Mumbai. Already, 30 human-rights activists have written to the US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice to block the said trip. Among the signatories to the letter are the Director of the Religious Freedom Programme, Nina Shea and the advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Thomas Malinowski.
Activists say that the human rights violations in Gujarat have been documented in State Department reports. "We're not trying to tell them anything different than what they don't already know," said Benjamin Marsh of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy.
Modi is also scheduled to make a speech to an Indian-American group at Madison Square Garden on March 20 before he visits Florida. "I don't see any reason why he should be stopped from coming here," an organiser of the New York event, Sunil Nayak, said. "The purpose of the trip is strictly business. Basically, he's coming here to let people know what development has taken place in Gujarat."
The AAHOA's membership predominantly consists of immigrants from Gujarat. Its decision to honour Modi at its convention and trade fair on March 24-26 has been a controversial issue within the organisation, with one group resisting the move all along. One of the arguments being quoted in the US against Modi's visit is the glorification of Hitler in school textbooks in Gujarat.