|Persona Non Grata - US denies visa to Modi over Gujarat genocide|
|Date: 18 Mar 2005|
Source: Times of India
The horrors of Gujarat 2002 have returned to haunt Narendra Modi. The US government has refused entry to the Gujarat chief minister invoking two provisions in the US Immigration and Nationality Act: One of them concerns diplomatic visas while the other regulates tourist and business visas. The diplomatic visa has been denied because Modi's visit is at the behest of some Indian-American organisations, including the Asian-American Hotel Owners' Association; the business visa request was dumped because one of the provisions in the Act "prohibits any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at anytime, particularly severe violations of religious freedom". The BJP, as expected, has taken umbrage at the US immigration department: It has described the decision as 'unwarranted' and one which 'caused insult to the entire nation'. The party wants the Central government to intervene in the matter on the grounds that the manner in which Modi was told that he is not welcome in the US, and the reasons given, were unacceptable. New Delhi should steer clear of the issue. The right to issue a visa is discretionary, and the reasons cited for denying it in this case are valid. Modi has the mandate to govern Guja-rat, but that has not washed off the stains of the genocide his government perpetrated in the state for three months in 2002. Investigations by the media and depositions by senior police officials have confirmed the involvement of the Modi government in the riots. Even the Supreme Court had questioned the role of Modi and his government during the riots as well as in investigating the pogrom. Yet, Modi has continued in office, protected by mentors in the party who are now busy shielding him from his own MLAs.
Modi acolytes are certain to harp on the fact that he is a democratically elected leader. Hence to shut the door on the chief minister is to insult the people who elected him. In a globalising world, no state or politician can afford to be an island. Democratic credentials have to be validated not just locally but also by the global community. This has been central to New Delhi's foreign policy. When South Africa was under the apartheid regime, India refused to have bilateral relations with its 'democratically elected' white government. The BJP should now realise that it can't shield its poster boy of hate under the pretext of electoral mandate. This logic has failed to cut ice even in India: The protests in Kolkata when Modi visited the city recently being the latest instance of public disapproval. Howls of shame will follow him as long as he and his party refuse to admit guilt and willingly stand for trial for the pogrom that shook the very foundations of the secular Indian state.