|Date: 2 Mar 2005|
Source: Hindustan Times
Author: S Rajagopalan
Narendra Modi’s visit to the US this month could turn out to be a stormy affair. A host of secular groups have locked horns with the Gujarati-dominated Asian-American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), which has invited Modi to be the chief guest at its annual convention.
But the hoteliers are sticking to their guns. Brushing aside the protests by the secular groups, many of which have petitioned Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to bar Modi’s entry, the AAHOA has rejected demands that it withdraw the invitation to Modi.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times on Wednesday, AAHOA treasurer Danny Patel said: “We have invited Modi to our annual convention at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from March 24 to 26. And we will honour it. There is no question of cancelling it now.”
“We are inviting the Chief Minister of Gujarat, who may be any individual. We have nothing to do with politics. We want to hear him on investment opportunities in the state. After all, 95 per cent of AAHOA members are of Gujarati origin,” said Patel, who runs 14 hotels in Georgia.
But there is no let-up in the protests against Modi’s visit. After the Institute on Religion and Public Policy fired the first salvo, several groups have pitched in. They include a formation, calling itself the 'Coalition Against Genocide'. The Indian Muslims Council-USA and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have also come to the fore.
The protesting groups, branding Modi an "egregious violator" of religious freedom, want him denied a visa in line with the US’s International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
“Modi has a 10-year multiple entry visa for US. We are not sure whether the State Department will do anything to prevent the visit,” says Ashwini Rao of the Coalition Against Genocide. There has been no word yet on the subject from the State Department.
The latest to join the wave of protest are some 40 Indian academicians teaching in American universities, who have separately written to Rice, urging her to revoke Modi’s US visa. The signatories include Arjun Appadurai, Provost of New York’s New School University, Anjali Arondekar of University of California, Santa Cruz, Srimati Basu of DePauw University, and Rajesh Bhaskaran of Cornell University.