|Date: 18 Mar 2005|
Source: Hindustan Times
Human rights groups and activists welcomed on Friday the US move to deny visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over the 2002 sectarian violence in the state.
"It is a step in the right direction. We were asking for it for a long time," Father Cedric Prakash of Prashant, a rights advocacy group, said.
The city-based group was part of organisations that sought to create people's awareness on human rights issues in Gujarat ahead of Modi's visit to the US that was to begin on Saturday.
"This is also for the first time the US government is not indulging in double-talk," he added.
The US government refused to grant diplomatic visa to Modi citing his government's handling of the sectarian violence in the state in 2002 that claimed at least 1,000 lives.
Dwarikanath Rath, convenor of the Movement for Secular Democracy, said: "Secular activists in the state are pleasantly surprised.
"(US President) George W Bush could do what (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair could not do," he said.
Modi had visited Britain last year amid protests and demonstrations by human rights activists.
Rath added that the reasons cited by the US, including suppression of religious freedom, were well considered.
Mukhtar Mohammed, a lawyer fighting cases related to communal violence, said the US move was a victory for human rights organisations.
He, however, did not praise the US Government for the decision. "Any right-minded government would have acted that way."
Added Samon C Christian, joint secretary of the All India Christian Council: "It is a victory for the secular world. We highly appreciate and congratulate the US government for taking a wise and strong decision."