How We Made U.S. Deny Visa to Modi

Publication: Asian Age, New Delhi, Op-ed
By Angana Chatterji
Date: March 21, 2005

Nishrin Hussain lives in the United States. She is the daughter of
Ahsanhusain A. Jafri of Gujarat, former Member of Parliament, who was
tortured, decapitated, and murdered in 2002. The events of Gujarat 2002
have placed Nishrin in exile. Zaheera Sheik, who experienced the trauma
of her family’s murder and was present for the Best Bakery ordeal, was
coerced and intimidated by the Sangh Parivar. Bilkis Yakoob Rasool
(Bilkis Bano) of Randhikpur village was gang-raped. She was five months
pregnant at the time of her rape and lost 14 family members, including
her three-year-old child, mother, and two sisters. Since then, she has
been forced to move 20 times due to threats against her. These and
other women of Gujarat live and relive the violence of 2002, their
families and futures devastated.

Such realities compelled the formation of the Coalition Against
Genocide (CAG). CAG was formed in February 2005 to protest the planned
business visit to the US in March 2005 of Narendra Modi, the chief
minister of Gujarat, and demand accountability and justice in response
to the Gujarat genocide. CAG is a spectrum of 38 organisations and 10
supporting groups, and individuals, across the US and Canada (
CAG utilises several avenues, including grassroots mobilisation,
e-mail, phone and fax campaigns, public demonstrations, and draws from
various constituencies — students, those self-employed, professionals,
academics, artists, people of/from India, and allies. CAG is comprised
of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and those who profess other
faiths or none. CAG challenges Modi supporters, primarily upper-caste
Hindus, in the US who claim to represent Hindus and India, and others
guided into buttressing Hindutva, "Hindu Tatva" — "Hindu principles,"
Nazi inspired, advocated by Hindu extremist groups dedicated to
promoting a Hindu rashtra (theocracy) in India.

The Association of Indian Americans of North America (AINA) invited
Narendra Modi to New York on March 20. Sangh members in the US formed
AINA for this purpose. The Asian American Hotel Owner’s Association
(AAHOA) invited Modi as chief guest for their annual convention in
Florida on March 24-26. CAG called on Chris Matthews, host of Hardball,
MSNBC, to decline the invitation to speak at the AAHOA Convention, and
American Express to rescind its sponsorship of AAHOA. On March 8, Chris
Matthews withdrew from the AAHOA event, giving up an estimated
professional fee of thousands. The Institute on Religion and Public
Policy wrote to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, some CAG members
lobbied with Capitol Hill, and 125 South Asia Studies and other faculty
in the US wrote to the state department, the House and Senate Foreign
Relations Committees, and the United Nations, to decline Modi’s visa.
Disturbingly, Modi was also invited to inaugurate the Yadunandan Centre
for India Studies at the Asian and Asian American Studies Department of
California State University at Long Beach on March 22, demonstrating
once again the infiltration of Hindu nationalists into the academy.
Again, 135 faculty wrote to the university asking it to rescind Modi’s
invitation. Uka Solanki, a Gujarati businessman and recipient of the
2005 Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin’s Pravasi Bharatiya
Community Service Award, has given a large donation to the Asian
American Studies Department and to the Centre for India Studies.
University spokespersons so far have commented only that the request
for Modi to inaugurate the Centre came from some donors.

Former President of India, K.R. Narayanan, recently testified to a
"conspiracy" between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in
New Delhi and Gujarat, where between February 28 and March 2, 2002,
under Narendra Modi’s leadership, Hindu nationalists perpetrated an
event distinctive in the movement’s malevolent reach for a Hindu state.
In 16 of Gujarat’s 24 districts, 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were
killed, 200,000 were internally displaced. In many districts, the
violence continued beyond those three unimaginable days into April and
May. Over 100,000 homes, thousands of hotels and establishments were
damaged or destroyed. Relief camps were attacked at night. Narendra
Modi and the Gujarat government enabled the genocidal violence.
Appointed in 2001, Modi contested election as chief minister in
December 2002, and won, in the climate of terror that prevailed in
Hindu nationalist ruled Gujarat. An economic boycott against the Muslim
community continues; 239 Muslims and one Sikh remain detained under
Prevention Of Terrorism Act (Pota) even as the Indian Parliament
repealed Pota in December 2004.

The events of February 28-March 2, 2002 constitute genocide under
the United Nations Genocide Convention. Modi and the Gujarat government
face charges for crimes against humanity and genocide. Inquiries and
commissions, including the Indian National Human Rights Commission,
have condemned Modi’s role in the politically motivated attacks on
minorities. The interim report from the Justice U.C. Banerjee
Commission has concluded that the fire in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati
Express on February 27, resulting in the deaths of 59 people, was an
accident and not a "terrorist" attack on Hindu pilgrims as claimed by
those who organised the carnage that followed.

Three years later, the survivors still await justice and
reparations. Even as Muslims were the primary targets of violence in
2002, Christians were attacked and robbed during the post-Godhra riots.
For those targeted, including dalits and adivasis, Narendra Modi, the
architect of the state organised pogrom, is a monster whose words and
deeds have endorsed rapes, the forced abortion of foetuses and their
display on trishuls — brutalities that irrevocably scar the present.
More than 2,000 of 4,000 cases filed by the victims were never
investigated or dismissed, leading the Supreme Court of India to
transfer several out of the state. On February 23, 2005, an Ahmedabad
court sentenced three persons to four years’ imprisonment for stabbing
to death Naseembibi Safar Ali, a pregnant woman, on February 28, 2002,
in Madhavpura, Ahmedabad. To find the male perpetrators guilty of
murder and punish them with four-year sentences makes a mockery of
justice and aligns the state, once again, with the sexualised violence
that was Gujarat in 2002.

Modi is a pracharak (proselytiser) for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS), the xenophobic Hindu fundamentalist organisation, which,
along with other Hindu extremist groups, receives funds from the US and
UK. Modi’s current trip to the US would have been a fundraising event.
Sudhir Parikh, a prominent Indian and Sangh Parivar affiliate living in
the US, invited Modi in 2004. Parikh is on the board of the Indian
American National Foundation, an umbrella organisation of AAHOA,
American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, National
Federation of Indian American Associations, and Indian American Forum
for Political Education. Other Hindu nationalists associated with
hosting Modi’s New York visit include Suresh Jani, former secretary,
Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP); Ved Nanda, Sanghchalak (chief),
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas wing of the RSS, and former
president of Friends of India Society International; and Mukund Mody,
founder and former President of the OFBJP (
Research undertaken by two independent groups, the Campaign to Stop
Funding Hate and South Asia Watch Limited, demonstrate the linkages
between money raised in the US and UK and Hindu fundamentalism in
India, yet little has been done to curtail fundraising for hate.

There has been bi-partisan support in the US for human rights in
Gujarat. Former President Clinton condemned the events in Gujarat. In
2002, Congressman Joseph Pitts (Republican-Pennsylvania) condemned the
premeditated brutality and cited insufficient action on the part of the
US. Congressman Pitts also conveyed that Hindu extremist groups receive
some of their funds from charities in the US. In 2003 and 2004, the
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended
that India be designated a "Country of Particular Concern." On March
15, 2005, House Resolution 156 was introduced in the United States
Congress by Congressperson John Conyers, ranking Democrat (Michigan),
House Judiciary Committee, and Dean, Congressional Black Caucus, and
Congressperson Pitts, member, India Caucus and the Congressional Human
Rights Caucus, "condemning 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." On
March 18, Modi was denied a diplomatic visa under Section 214(b) of the
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by the US embassy in New Delhi,
as this was not a diplomatic visit, and his tourist and business visa
was revoked under INA Section 212(a)(2)(G), "as an official responsible
for carrying out severe violations of religious freedom," under Section
3 of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Following this,
AAHOA has withdrawn Modi’s invitation, and American Express has
cancelled $150,000 in sponsorship money.

In response, militant workers of the Bajrang Dal set fire to a
PepsiCo warehouse in Surat. Other acts of arson and aggression will
likely follow. The Indian government must stop the cycle of violence
and refuse to be held captive by Hindu nationalists. The Congress
government has elected to interpret Washington’s decision as
"anti-India." How is upholding religious freedom, rule of law, and
accountability in governance contrary to the interests of the nation?
While the US continues to violate the rights of citizens in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere, in this instance, Washington’s decision is
supportive of human rights.

Indian jurist L.M. Singhvi has alleged that the US denied and
revoked Narendra Modi’s visa without due process of law. It should be
incumbent on the government of India to initiate due process of law
investigating Modi’s role in executing the Gujarat massacre, as
individual and chief minister of Gujarat. That Narendra Modi was denied
a visa, that his active involvement in crimes against humanity has been
officially noted, is something to celebrate. The larger task remains to
hold accountable Narendra Modi, who has committed genocide.

Angana Chatterji is associate professor of Anthropology at
California Institute of Integral Studies, and member, Coalition Against