|Date: 18 Mar 2005|
Source: Times of India
NEW DELHI: Almost two years before the US denied Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a visa, a State Department report on global human rights had held him responsible for the 2002 sectarian violence in his state.
The 2003 edition of Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, prepared annually by the US Department of State, had found Modi guilty of fuelling violence that it claimed had resulted in the deaths of "an estimated 2,000 Muslims".
It was on the basis of this report that the US invoked against Modi a law that makes any foreign government official guilty of serious violations of religious freedom ineligible for a visa.
Citing allegations by civil society groups, the US report had said the Gujarat police and government did little to stop the violence promptly and at times even encouraged or assisted Hindu fundamentalists in perpetrating violent acts.
"Human rights activists reported that the Gujarat police received specific instructions not to take action to prevent a possible violent reaction to the February 27 attack by Muslims on a train in Godhra," the report said.
"These observers asserted that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi personally told Ahmedabad police officials on February 27 to allow Hindus two days to react 'peacefully' to the Godhra incident.
"The police reportedly told Muslim victims, 'We don't have orders to help you'," it said.
The US report also quoted extensively from the findings of India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to substantiate its charges against Modi.
"The NHRC held the Gujarat government responsible for the riots and accused it of a complicity that was tacit if not explicit," the US report said.
It noted that the violence had caused the forcible displacement of over 100,000 Muslims into makeshift camps across Gujarat, but the government disbanded these camps by mid-June 2002.
The Country Reports on Human Rights also charged Modi with using "strong arm" tactics to silence regional media that criticised his government.
"At the state level, regional political parties have the ability to influence regional media. The Indian Express, an independent newspaper, was unable to get advertising from the state government after its reporting on the Gujarat violence," it noted.