|Date: 19 Mar 2005|
Source: The Hindu
IN A SINGULAR instance of the Ides of March for the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, the United States has rejected his application for a diplomatic visa, while simultaneously revoking his tourist/business visa under Section 212(a)(2)(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. It is intriguing why Mr. Modi chose to ask for a diplomatic visa for a trip that was ostensibly to address the Asian-American Hotel Owners' Association and meet business leaders. Was he apprehending something so untoward that the protection of a diplomatic visa would come in handy? In denying a diplomatic visa under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the U.S. Government has clarified that Mr. Modi was visiting the United States for a purpose that did not "qualify for a diplomatic visa." In revoking the business/tourist visa, Washington has been even more forthright, arguing that any foreign government official who was responsible or had "directly carried out, at any time, particular severe violations of religious freedom" was ineligible to enter the U.S. Not too long ago, Mr. Modi had exulted about the similarities between President George W. Bush's election speeches and his own communal vitriol in 2002. He even challenged political pundits to analyse the spiritual consanguinity between Mr. Bush and himself. Now that the U.S. Government has formally given international recognition to Mr. Modi's responsibility in the post-Godhra genocide, he must be puzzled as to why and how these assumed similarities could have been given such short and ignominious shrift.
The United States has effectively barred Mr. Modi from entering its territories and declared him persona non grata. This significant decision owes a lot to the active protests by human rights activists across America. What helped matters was the U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report, which was released on September 15, 2004. The report extensively deals with specific instances of the systematic derailment of the rule of law in Gujarat during and after the post-Godhra riots and traces the genesis of violent acts against minorities to the Hindutva philosophy espoused by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found Mr. Modi's complicity in the riots in Gujarat in its May 2004 report. The denouement came in the form of a resolution in the American House of Representatives, moved recently by John Conyers, Jr., an influential Democrat Congressman from Michigan. It asked the House to condemn "the conduct of Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his actions to incite religious persecution and urging the United States to condemn all violations of religious freedom in India." Quoting the State Department, Congressman Conyers spoke about the role of the Modi Government in promoting racial hatred and fanning communal passions.
Predictably, Chief Minister Modi has reacted to the denial of U.S. visa by calling it an "insult to India and the Constitution". This is precious coming from a man who not only violated every single norm enshrined in the Indian Constitution, but was also asked by the pre-eminent leader of his party, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to follow his rajdharma. Mr. Modi has now resorted to the rhetoric of being popularly elected as well as the spurious legalism of the absence of indictment of the Gujarat Government or the Chief Minister in the "incidents" — Mr. Modi's euphemism for the pogrom conducted against the minorities — that happened after the Godhra massacre. Dissidents within the BJP in Gujarat have been active in recent weeks demanding his scalp. With this additional setback over his U.S. visa, the Gujarat Chief Minister could be in for a long, hard summer.