|Date: 3 Jul 2008|
Source: Hindustan Times
Author: Dharam Shourie
The Indian American groups across the United States are sharply divided over invitation sent to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to attend the second World Gujarati Conference to be held in New Jersey.
While some organisations are working behind the scene mounting pressure on the US government to grant him visa to attend the meet, the Coalition Against Genocide, an umbrella organisation of some 25 bodies, has written a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to deny visa to the chief minister.
The Association of Indian Americans in North America (AIANA), organisers of the meet, sent the invitation but its President Sunil Nayak had said issuance of visa is a matter between American authorities and Modi.
However, he had expressed the hope that Modi would be able to attend the three-day conference begining from August 29 in which some 50,000 Gujaratis from the world over are expected to participate.
Modi was denied visa to the Gujarati Conference in 2005 in view of anti-Muslim riots in the state for which some organisations had blamed him but he did talk to the delegates and press through a video link.
In its letter to Rice, the Coalition Against Genocide requested her not to allow Modi to enter the United States "under any conditions" as, it said, circumstances under which he was denied visa earlier remain "largely unchanged" and "minority communities in the state continue face systematic human rights violations."
"Modi has not only expressed no remorse for the 2002 violence; but he has continued to justify them, as he has a spate of extra judicial killings by his police. And, the state continues to persecute civil society groups who have been trying to speak up for the victims under very difficult circumstances," said the letter.
The United States should not "unwittingly be the platform from which these unrepentant and yet ascendant forces in India exploit the opportunity to rally the support base among Indian Diaspora communities and raise international legitimacy and standing," it said.
It would be "dangerous" at this juncture of Indian political process to give Modi that "long denied and therefore much coveted window."
"As recently as April 2008, Modi enacted the anti-conversion law in Gujarat that effectively bars religious conversions, thereby crippling the provisions of religious freedom in the state," the letter released by the coalition said.
Modi, it said, was responsible for the death of over 2,000 Muslims and the displacement of 200,000 more, but "six years after the Gujarat-state sponsored violence, the Muslim community in Gujarat is subjected to a devastating economic and social boycott, institutionalised at every level."
"Most have received little, if no compensation for the deaths of loved ones and loss of property; thousands are still displaced, without homes, work, or access to decent schools for their children.
At the level of the courts too, Muslims in Gujarat have received little justice, barring a few exceptions; and the few that have managed to push their cases forward have met with threats, physical harm and harassment," the letter alleged.
"Noting the prejudice extending at every level of the state apparatus, the Supreme Court ordered cases related to the 2002 massacres to be moved out of Gujarat," it said.