From: A P Joshi
Saturday, December 7, 2013
U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Through Modi Visa BanBy ZAHIR JANMOHAMED
In March 2005, the United States denied a visa to Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, now the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate in next year's Indian elections. The visa was denied because of Mr. Modi's alleged role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat that left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Muslims. But it came about from a highly unusual coalition made up of Indian-born activists, evangelical Christians, Jewish leaders and Republican members of Congress concerned about religious freedom around the globe.
I had a front-row seat to these events as they unfolded. I worked in Washington. D.C., from 2003 to 2011, mostly at Amnesty International and in the United States Congress, and I was a part of the campaign to deny Mr. Modi a visa.
In 1996, Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, organized a summit sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group that represents 42,000 Evangelical Churches. At the conclusion of the event, the delegates pledged their collective efforts to "take appropriate action to combat the intolerable religious persecution now victimizing fellow believers and those of other faiths."
The timing was perfect. Two years earlier, Republicans had taken a majority of seats in the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952, and the new batch of Republican Congress members were eager to see that protection of Christians be a central part of United States foreign policy.
The result was the International Religious Freedom Act, which Representative Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, introduced in March 1998 to wide, bipartisan support.
Though Mr. Wolf's original vision called for sanctions on countries that violated religious freedom, that idea ran into resistance from corporations that worked in countries like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.
In the new piece of legislation, most of the language on sanctions was dumped. However, one clause would carry over and would later prove fateful to Mr. Modi. Section 604 of the new legislation read: "Any alien who, while serving as a foreign official, was responsible or directly carried out, at any time during the preceding 24-month period, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, as defined in Section 3 of the International Religious Freedom Act 1998 and the spouse and children, if any, are inadmissible."
Soon after the passage of the law, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government-funded agency, was created. Many of the initial commissioners had strong evangelical leanings, but when Felice D. Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee's human rights program, was selected as a commissioner in 2001, she decided to widen the panel's scope to other religions.
"I wanted to turn this around, to make our focus broader," Ms. Gaer said in an interview. This chance came in February 2002 when she learned about the riots in Gujarat, India. "We learned about the riots in real time. We had people on staff who kept telling us we need to do something," Ms. Gaer said.
Ms. Gaer tried to arrange an official commission trip to India to survey the damage caused by the 2002 riots but was denied permission to enter India.
Instead, the commission decided to hold a hearing in Washington in June 2002. Ms. Gaer was "shocked" by the findings at the hearing. "I can't forget what I heard that day," Ms. Gaer said.
In the fall of 2002, an Indian-born, Washington-based evangelical Christian named John Prabhudoss led a delegation to riot-affected Ahmedabad that included two Republican congressmen, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Mr. Wolf. Another person on the trip was Raju Rajagopal, an Indian-born retired health professional based in Berkeley, Calif.
"It was unimaginable what we saw in Gujarat," Mr. Rajagopal said. "People in Gujarat told us that Indian Americans were sending loads of money to groups like the R.S.S. and the V.H.P." that, he argued, had a role in fueling the violence, Mr. Rajagopal said. He was referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, two Hindu nationalist groups founded in 1925 and 1964, respectively.
In a report on violence against women during the 2002 Gujarat riots, written by a collection of Gujarat-based nongovernmental organizations known as Citizen Initiative, the authors found that the violence followed "an escalation of tension and build-up by the V.H.P. and the Bajrang Dal," another Hindu nationalist group.
In a report in 2002, Human Rights Watch described a letter, bearing the name and logo of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, that called for an economic boycott of Muslims in Gujarat, creating a climate of fear. However, Human Rights Watch acknowledged that the letter could not be traced and that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad denied authorship.
When Mr. Rajagopal returned to California, he began to campaign against the American support for Hindu nationalist groups in India like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He co-wrote a 91-page report that alleged that the India Development and Relief Fund, which was based in the United States, had collected $4 million and sent some of the funds to right-wing Hindu groups.
Soon after the release of the report, Silicon Valley companies with large numbers of Indian-American employees promised to either stop or suspend donor matching programs with the fund.
"It was a tremendous victory and it gave us momentum to keep fighting," Mr. Rajagopal said.
The report also did something else — it created a network of activists across the United States who could be quickly mobilized when they learned of Mr. Modi's planned visit to the country in 2005.
"When we heard about Modi's visit, we were ready," Mr. Rajagopal said. "Actually, we had been ready and waiting for Modi's visit for a few years."
In early 2005, Mr. Prabhudoss learned that the Asian American Hotel Owners Association was sponsoring a conference in south Florida in late March 2005 and had invited then-Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, the TV talk show host Chris Matthews and Mr. Modi. The association was created in 1989 as a trade group for hotel owners in the United States, and today there are 10,000 members representing 22,000 hotels. The group's chairman, Nash Patel, said at the time that 98 percent of the group's members had roots in Gujarat.
Soon after Mr. Modi's United States visit was announced, 41 South Asian groups across the country came together to form the Coalition Against Genocide. On Feb. 24, 2005, a letter organized by the group was signed by over 100 professors and sent to the hotel association, asking them to rescind Mr. Modi's invitation. Another pressure group flooded Mr. Matthews with letters.
On March 8, 2005, Mr. Matthews backed out of the conference for "scheduling reasons." On March 15, Amnesty International said it had written a letter to American Express asking it to withdraw its sponsorship of the conference.
Mr. Prabhudoss focused on Washington. "If this was going to work, we had to make a legal and not a political argument as to why the United States should deny a visa to Modi," he said. He zeroed in on the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which stipulates that no person who has violated religious freedom could enter the country.
He knew he could count on Mr. Pitts, the Republican lawmaker who accompanied him on a visit to Gujarat in 2002, but he had a tough time convincing Democrats to block Mr. Modi's visa.
"We needed a Democrat so the White House could say there is bipartisan support against Modi," Mr. Prabhudoss said. He hired two professional Democratic lobbyists to assist him with his efforts, for an amount Mr. Prabhudoss declined to disclose.
Mr. Prabhudoss found an ally in John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan who is the longest serving African-American member of Congress and has a large Arab and Muslim constituency.
On March 16, 2005, House Resolution 160 was introduced in Congress, condemning Mr. Modi "for his actions to incite religious persecution." On March 18, the State Department denied Mr. Modi a visa. Three days later, the United States ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, said, "This decision applies to Mr. Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the state government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time."
Mr. Modi called the visa denial in 2005 "an attack on Indian sovereignty" and raised the question, "Will India also consider what America has done in Iraq when it processes visa applications of Americans coming to India?"
Despite the success in denying Mr. Modi a United States visa, disillusionment quickly set in for Mr. Rajagopal, the retired California businessman who accompanied Mr. Prabhudoss to Gujarat in 2002.
"The frustrating thing was that the visa denial was probably the only thing really dealt a blow to Modi," he said. "I just wish it had been brought about by a large, secular coalition. I am not so sure that is true. The thing that made a difference was the right-wing evangelical support."
Mr. Prabhudoss acknowledged that evangelical support played a big part but said that Mr. Modi was denied a visa for other reasons as well.
"Back then, we were working without any opposition. It was incredible, really," Mr. Prabhudoss said. "The Modi supporters were there, but they sat that one out. And back then, the Indian lobby was not powerful like they are today. You could speak against Modi and there were no political consequences. Today, it is a completely different story."
Joseph Grieboski, the founder of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in Virginia, who also was deeply involved in trying to block Mr. Modi's visit, said that the mood has shifted now.
"When the U.S. denied Mr. Modi a visa in 2005, it was like the U.S. denying a visa to the governor of Iowa — no offense to Gujarat," he said. "The U.S. did not see it as a big deal. And back then, it seemed clear to everyone in this town that Modi was involved in the riots. Now the picture is fuzzier, and many are intrigued by Modi."
But the American government's stance on Mr. Modi remains the same. Two days after Mr. Modi was selected on Sept. 13, 2013 as the official prime ministerial candidate to represent the B.J.P., the United States government reiterated its policy on Mr. Modi's visa.
"There's no change in our longstanding visa policy," said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman. "He is welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant."
These days, however, religious freedom is no longer a foreign policy priority in Washington, and the strong evangelical Christian opposition to Mr. Modi has faded.
While Republicans led the opposition to Mr. Modi's visa in 2005, there are now Republicans among Mr. Modi's strongest supporters. When the Tea Party candidate Joe Walsh campaigned in Illinois for Congress, he promised he would push the United States to grant Mr. Modi a visa. (He lost to his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth.)
In March, three Republicans members of Congress visited Mr. Modi in Gujarat, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. The trip for Ms. McMorris Rodgers and her husband cost $15,000 and was paid for by the co-founder of the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, Shalli Kumar, a supporter of Mr. Modi based in Chicago.
But the opposition to Mr. Modi continues to be led by Republicans as well, in particular by Mr. Pitts and Mr. Wolf. In November, Mr. Pitts introduced House Resolution 417, which urges the United States government to continue to deny Mr. Modi a visa. Notably, the resolution has 28 co-sponsors, the majority of them Democrats.
The resolution is not expected to pass, partly because India is not seen as a priority in American foreign policy at the moment. When I conducted research in Washington this summer, many House and Senate aides said they had no idea who Mr. Modi was. Those who did know told me they would make up their minds about Mr. Modi when next year's elections in India are decided.
Despite his rising profile in India, there is still little interest in Mr. Modi in Washington. This may be a harder pill for Mr. Modi to swallow: It is not that he is hated or loved in Washington; he is just not mentioned much.
What has shifted, however, is that the Indian lobby is much more powerful today than it previously was. "There is no Modi lobby," said a former colleague of mine from Amnesty International, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. "There is an Indian lobby, and they do not want to hear any criticism of India, whether it be on the Delhi rape case or on the Modi issue. They just want to hear good things about India."
Others I spoke with, especially Indian Americans in the United States government, said they are anxious to see how the issue plays out.
One of them, who was appointed to a senior position by President Obama, agreed to meet me at a cafe in Washington but asked to remain anonymous because this official was not authorized to speak to the media.
"I know it is a cliché," the official said, "but our talking point on India has always been, 'India and the U.S. are both democracies that share the same values.' You cannot really apply that statement to Modi. If Modi becomes prime minister, I guess we will have to come up with something new to say."
Zahir Janmohamed, a writer from the United States, lives in Ahmedabad.
FROM INDIA INK
- St Augustine Florida
Why are they not trying to deny visa to the Roman Catholic family allegedly involved in the progroms against the Sikhs? Or the Chinese Atheist leadership for their genocide of the Tibetan Buddhists? Such selectivity only breeds contempt for the motives of these supposedly deeply moral religious bigots. The fact that they are supported by the US Government debunks the notion of a secular State favoring freedom of religion for all.. Anti Hinduism is as pervasive as anti Semitism but it is condoned by the State.
- San Jose CA
The takeaway I have from this article is that US Congress Representatives are easily influenced by well organized activists. The activists' chief tactic is to engage in mass letter writing campaigns which make members of Congress assume that if so many people say the same thing it must be true. Similar writing campaigns were used to scare Silicon Valley companies into denying matching funds for the India Development Relief Fund. Corporations would rather play it safe than be embroiled in controversy. That represents victory for these activists, but it also defines who they are: well organized people who hate the BJP, RSS and VHP and their religion.
Mr. Modi's proponents are not as well organized, and frankly, most wouldn't care to beg Congress to issue him a visa. Let Mr. Modi get elected, and Congress will know him better. Mr. Vajpayee was also an unknown, and the same activists had concerns about him, but he is now credited with turning US - India relations around.
If Congress persists in basing policy on mass letter writing campaigns, it is the United States that will suffer. Mr. Modi will be spending a lot of capital to improve India's infrastructure. I hope the US plays a key role in this. Once elected as PM, as Congressmen listen to Mr. Modi and understand him (without the help of activists), I believe Mr. Modi will be popular with members of Congress. Not because Congress is money hungry, but because they finally listened to the facts.
THankfully US media does not have the influence it would like on Indian matters. The incompetent, venal Congress party with its phony leftist face, is being desperately propped up, as these corrupt people have long been the fixers for Western interests. Its only a matter of time before Modi gets a Presidential invite, I would advise him not to visit. By the way, my grandparents were Congress party members, a grand aunt was a minister, my grand ma went to jail with Gandhiji himself, but they died poor with their honor intact. Indians are not right wing by nature.
- Gussie Souza
The very fact that the above article has appeared, emphasising the role of U.S. evangelicals in denying Mr. Modi a visa in 2005, if indicative of a move to lift the ban, is welcome. The ban should not have been imposed in the first place because it has only served to give Modi and his Hindu fundamentalists followers a faint and undeserved halo of martyrdom in their cause of establishing a Hindu theocracy. Besides, this ban has not gone down well with even those Indians who do not generally subscribe to Modi's and his followers' cultural and political views.
- Washington, DC
The fact that evangelicals supported a ban on granting Modi a visa is a twist of fate. The Religious Freedom Act caught Mr. Modi up in it's net quite by chance, and it's not surprising now that the GOP righwing is out singing Mr. Modi's praises. Both share similar ideologies. Just substitute the crucifix for the swastika, and red/white&blue jingoism for its saffron avatar.
I'm not surprised, these so called human rights groups conveniently forget about all of the Christian terrorism being supported in the northeast of India by these same evangelicals. And while we're at it how about denying visas to all these sheikhs and other leaders of middle eastern countries who deny others religious freedom and openly support extremist groups.
Lets have a single standard for all countries and communities instead of just picking on certain ones that are convenient.
- New Jersey
Every major power including UK, Germany and France have sent their ambassadors to meet with Modi. Probes and enquiries have exonerated him time and again. It foxes me that why US should maintain its opposition to a business friendly leader who has supported many large American business in the state which he governs. If we wins we end up with losing yet another ally to lopsided policies.
- Vibhaker Baxi
- London, UK
Where were you all outraged souls in 1984? Was it that Sikh lives were not considered as precious or the Nehru family could not be touched despite its moral depravity? Hypocrisy and moral outrage make strange bed fellows!
The fact is that if the Sabarmati Express train hadn't been torched by a Muslim mob, burning alive 58 men, women and children, there would have been no rioting.
Muslims in India are the largest ethnic group in a sea of smaller ethnic groups. The word "Hindu" was itself coined by Muslims (Arabs, Persians) and comes from the Arabic phrase Ghazwa-i-Hind. It's no different than the way Columbus & Co slapped the label "Indians" onto the various Native American tribes. Muslims and Christians in India are therefore self-declared "minorities" living among a "Hindu majority" also coined by them. How convenient to be defining these terms according to the needs of select groups at the expense of everyone else.
Just like Mubarak's dictatorship in Egypt, India's predatory ruling Congress Party has long sought to portray the bulk of the country's population as "fanatics" in order to justify a police state to keep its boot on everyone's neck. Any opposition against the ruling Congress Party has been enough to earn the smear of "fundamentalist". Indeed even the Aam Aadmi Party's leader Arvind Kejriwal and his erstwhile associate Anna Hazare were dubbed "agents of Hindu fundamentalism" by the ruling Congress Party during Hazare's anti-corruption protests in Delhi.
Egypt's Mubarak thugocracy has also gone out of its way to stoke up fear among religious minorities, seeking to cultivate them as loyalists to rally them around the regime. India's crooked Congress Party likewise does the same.
- Glen Burnie,MD
I not only agree with Padman's comments but applaud his presentation of the "other set of facts" that Mr. Jain Mohamad omitted to present. Padman has presented the facts regarding the Godhra riots.
As a US citizen of Indian Christian origin and a US Army veteran who has traveled in 76 countries (so far) either for work-related or personal pleasure-related reasons, I have no hesitation in singling out India as a truly secular and functioning democracy, unlike its neighboring two theocratic Muslim nations such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. While India's Muslim population has grown in numbers and many Indian Muslim citizens have held positions of authority as President of India, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court Judges, Cabinet Ministers etc.,such examples are non-existent in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. The current Foreign Minister of India is an Indian Muslim.
The minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh (Hindus and Christians) have dwindled in numbers and they are persecuted often under false pretenses. The USCIRF rarely offers much publicity for such heinous acts of Muslim countries. That in my view is because, the USCIRF has no Commissioners drawn from US's Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Taoist etc citizenry.
USCiRF Commissioners are all from either Christian or Jewish and Muslim faiths. Therefore, the credibility of its reports among Hindus in India and fair-minded non-Hindu Indian-Americans here is near zero! As a true Christian, I must agree with them..
You have to be a devout follower of the RSS and the hindu nationalistic theory in India (that relies on support by victimizing the muslims as this always gets its followers going) not to realize the numerous occasions Mr Modi has used the religion card to gain popularity, BJP has always done this to gain votes. I personally don't think these leaders are anti-Muslim instead they only employ the tactics to bring the uneducated zealot masses on their sides. It is no secret that hindu majority have historic grievances with the muslim minority and although congress goes to great length to keep things together the BJP on the other hand is bit more opportunistic.
- Dr. MB
- Irvine, CA
I am reminded of a saying --Let the Street Dogs bark, my caravan passes! People who comment on the alleged Godhra atrocities without noting and blaming those who were involved in the gruesome intentional burning of some 60 persons in the train leading to the events are simple Charlatans! For once, these people should also talk about the Congress Party led killing of innocents after the Mrs. Indira Gandhi's Assasination. What about the old Santhanam Commission inquiry and Report on Communal violence in India, which blamed anti-social and anti-national minority communal leaders for most of India's communal riots? Intellectual honesty has sadly become a rare commodity, now a days!
Evangelical Christians advocating for religious freedom is a oxymoron at best.
This article is very dubious at best because the author presumed to think that most Indian Americans are against Modi. What he failed to realized that most Indian Americans support Modi and the South Asian groups that he so casually referenced were Christian based groups or pseudo-secular groups. There were no supports from Hindu-based groups and the author dare to call them terrorist groups or groups advocating violence against Muslim
This is the highest order of hypocrisy.
- Vijayendra Kumar
- Washington DC
The reason for Modi's popularity in India is because of the failure of this government in improving lives of its citizens where even basic necessities such as clean water, sanitation education, and health care are in short supply. India, shamefully is at near bottom of every international index from human development to the economy. So Modi's elevation from chief minister of Gujrat to Prime Minister of India is a real possibility and US will have to deal with him.
If the statement "India and the US are both democracies that share the same values" could be applied during the days of the Bush Administration, it is ironic to claim that it no longer holds true when Mr Modi become PM of India considering that the Bush administration waged illegal wars slaughtering millions of civilians as "collateral damage" where as a mere 1000 people died in riots Mr Modi had no direct involvement in.
In any case, when Mr Modi becomes PM, the US administration and the US ambassador will come hat in hand asking for favors and presenting invitations. Mr Modi is not a man to forget and forgive. I suspect the USA will be the looser at the end of the day, not Mr Modi.
It is indeed horrifying when India, a secular country and of religious freedom, erupts in communal violence. And absolutely everything ought to be done to prevent such events, and punish the people who participated, instigated, profited, or even looked the other way. Whether Narendra Modi is culpable or not, remains unclear. Yes he was in Gujarat during the Godhra riots, so were many others. Have they too been denied visas?
If the US government must shun him, I hope people in power know the following. Modi may well become the next PM of India; and if he does, it might be the first indication that Indians want to live in a democratic society that is not governed by foreigners, royals and their sycophants (all of what is geographically considered India today has never been governed by such a government in our 2500 year history, except notably when ruled by the failed Janata government).
- nirode mohanty
- huntington beachcalifornia
Unfortunately, the report does not mention of burning of 60 Hindu pilgrims inside a train at Godhara, Gujarat. Modi has been cleared several times by the India legal establishment.
It will be a loss to America if he is denied visa as he will increase Indo-American business. It is known that there are no communal riots in Gujarat while it happening elsewhere in India.
But if Modi comes to power he will establish a clean India. All these biased writing will disappear and these people are bent on breaking and weakening India.
- Central NJ, NJ
There is a fresh violence in UP Muzaffarnagar and hundreds of people are living in camps in fear and inhuman condition. Can we initiate a VISA ban campaign against Mulayam Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav? We will not find a single taker for it. VISA ban campaign against Modi suited for many people at that time and US government played along. How did it helped to the stop Modi's rise in India or the rise of leaders like him? It did nothing. Modi got democratically elected 3 times in Gujrat and now almost ready to become India's PM. As mentioned in other comment, India's Supreme Court didn't find any evidence against Modi. India's Supreme Court yet to find any evidence against perpetrators 1984 Sikh riot in which India's current ruling party , Congress party, members were involved. Why not have a VISA ban campaign against Congress party member?
VISA ban campaign is futile attempt and it doesn't make any difference in changing the attitude of politicians in India. Only people who can change this are people of India not the US Congress.
It is time to extend the same treatment to the Americans who were in the forefront of the Iraq war and it's aftermath.
What about the civilian deaths caused by drones? Maybe a red corner notice should be issued by INTERPOL for all the Americans who are responsible.
- A concerned NRI
Looks like the article ignored (purposefully?) the Indian supreme court appointed team's investigation findings regarding the Gujarat case, which found no evidence against Modi.
To the author, when you are presenting facts and findings of events, in a prestigious news organization like NYT. Present all the events.
Not only the events which you support your view.
- New York
The question every Indian-American like me has and which these pseudo-secularists have never answered is why this discrimination against Modi alone? The ruling Congress Party leaders were also accused for the 1984 riots against the Sikhs- till date not a single politician has been boycotted by a foreign Govt. Again all charges against Modi for complicity in the Gujarat riots have been dismissed by the Indian Supreme Court (which is highly regarded and has a spotless reputation), so I would like to know on what grounds are these 'political boycott' decisions taken. Where evangelical politicians are concerned- their own country does not consider them seriously and they are not exactly known by their political acumen (read the Govt lockdown fiasco). Modi has the support of majority of the Indian population (who like me don't care about his secular credentials) and has been twice-elected with huge margins as the Chief Minister of his state post the riots. He has not lost anything by a mere denial of US visa- and the exit polls and the Indian state election results amply demonstrate that- but the US politicians will definitely lose a good deal more (read multi-billion dollar defense equipment deals which American companies vie for) if he is elected as the Prime Minister by the world's largest democracy, which more likely than not will now be the scenario. Europe has already factored this in, question remains whether US now has the maturity to understand this stark reality.
- New Delhi, India
As Mr Gadkari (BJP leader and ex-President) remarked on TV yesterday, the "secularism" conceptualized (and supposed to be practised) by the UPA government and fellow-travellers is actually "multi-communalism"; the concept is, allow all religions to interfere in the working of the State, rather than the original (Machiavelli's) concept of strictly keeping the Church out of State's affairs. UPA's brand of secularism, therefore, is akin to an imaginary medical care system that would deliberately allow all kinds of diseases and ailments to wreak havoc rather than keep them out.
- Ann Arbor, MI
Does the US government think it is in a better position to know the truth than India's supreme court, and the people of the state who have consistently and resoundingly voted for him? People, including US and Indian politicians, talk of the Gujarat incidents only from the point of view of what happened to Muslims. While that is sad and should not be justified, how many have asked questions on what caused this anger against Muslims in the first place - do they even know about the massacre of Hindu Pilgrims on a train which was the last straw in a long list of oppression by the Muslim minority of the Hindu majority in India. Would the US be willing to tolerate such behavior here from any minority here that believes it has more rights and is entitled to more privileges than the majority?
All critics should search their own souls first before pretending to be fair and balanced.
I don't understand the assumption that Mr. Modi is eager to make a beeline for the US. Perhaps there is an assumption in the US based upon the servile eagerness of previous and current Indian politicians to visit Washington and collude with US politicians and businessmen to loot India.
When Mr. Modi and the BJP are in power in New Delhi, they should make it clear that there is no interest in visiting the US. Obama or whoever else needs to visit India (and apply for an Indian visa) if there is to be a dialogue.
Furthermore, there needs to be a specific policy on which US citizens we allow to visit India.
Modi bashing seems to be a continuing pastime of USCIRF, Evangelical Christians and India-bashers in our Congress who are beholden to the interests of Christians and Muslims. It is a pity that Mr. Modi who is emerging as the leading contender for the post of India's next Prime Minister is being alienated by thoughtless actions of some of our Congresspersons who are India-bashers from among those who are proselytizing Christians or of Muslim persuasion. It is high time that the USCIRF provides a fair representation on that Commission to US citizens of non-Abrahamic faiths. It is currently heavily tilted in favor of Christians, Jews and Muslims since there are no Commissioners on USCIRF to represent any of the non-Abrahamic faiths.
Reg. Mr. Modi, he has been investigated by umpteen Indian Commissions and his case tried by India's Supreme Court and has been acquitted by all investigating bodies including India's Supreme Court. The Godhra riots in which countless Muslims died, had its origin in the burning of a rail-car full of Hindu pilgrims by Indian Muslims!
I hope that the times will give equal space to those correspondents from India who will present the other side of Mr. Modi and his accomplishments and not merely rely on Muslim and evangelical correspondents from India who relish in criticizing Modi. Mr. Modi's state government has been recognized recently by the UN as one of the best administered in India.
- Aseem Shukla
Zahir encapsulates here what most infuriated Indian Americans after the Modi visa denial: that a well-funded evangelical lobby found common cause with the radical Coalition Against Genocide (its founders are self professed Marxists and founders of the Forum of Indian Leftists) to single out a Hindu leader who always denied his culpability in the Gujarat riots. The visa ban stands exposed as a relic of American missteps now that India's own Supreme Court's Special Investigation Team absolved Modi of any complicity in the horrific riots that followed the train arson of Hindu pilgrims in Gujarat in 2002.
Indeed, Ms. Felice Gaer interviewed in this article, herself made mention of the fast-track Special Investigative Team in Gujarat and also denounced "predatory proselytization" in India where evangelicals induce Hindus to convert to their church with offers of money, medical care and education in a rare, strongly worded dissent after the US Commission on International Freedom censured India after the riots (see Page 258-259)http://www.uscirf.gov/images/book with cover for web.pdf.
For full disclosure, Zahir would have done well also to note that ever since Rep. Joseph Pitts was exposed by the FBI as one of the largest beneficiaries of financial support from the convicted Pakistani spy, Ghulam Nabi Fai, his introduction of any anti-India resolution in the House is hardly news.http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/59548.html
- East Lansing
The above article also highlights the hypocrisy of the U.S. visa granting process. One only has to read the recent book the "Blood Telegram" on the 1971 Bangladesh crisis, where a pogrom was carried out systematically against the ethnic Bengali Muslims and Hindus of East Pakistan by the Pakistani Army killing a million and displacing over 10 million people, with a Republican administration headed by Nixon and Kissinger supporting the army butchers of West Pakistan. All because they cynically needed Pakistan's help in opening up Nixon's visit to China. Nary a rebuke or visa denied to any one for that genocide or other dictator friends of the US who committed equally worse deeds. I am suspecting the two Republican's who were supporting Mr. Modi's visa denial were probably doing it for other considerations other then principles and ethics. They would change their position in a heartbeat if it was expedient.
- Glen Burnie,MD
As a US citizen and US Army veteran of Indian origin as well as a devout Christian, I am appalled at the unfair efforts of USCIRF & Indian Evangelical groups (most of whom shamelessly become mouth pieces of of anti-India NRIs) to tar and feather Mr.Modi even after India's Supreme Court acquitted him of any direct involvement in the Godhra riots where a whole compartment full of Hindu pilgrims were set on fire by local Muslims. In my view, the USCIRF serves only the interests of the Abrahamic faiths since it has no representation on it for Members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain etc. it has two Muslims, two or three(?) Jewish and Christian members. Even the articles (including this one) against Mr.Modi are often written even in NY Times by Muslim writers. Having grown up in India, and visited 76 countries to date, I can honestly say that India is a far more secular country than any other overseas country that I have worked in or visited in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia. It is a shame that the USCIRF serves as a mouthpiece for advancing the interests of US Evangelicals and Muslims. Just for the fun of it, I would like to see Mr.Modi become the Prime Minister of India & watch the discomfort of another Muslim Congressman of Ours (Keith Ellison) and the US & Indian evangelicals who are braying against Mr.Modi who runs the most efficient state in India.
- Ramesh G
I am no fan of Modi or the BJP or Hindutva or whatever, but the hypocrisy here is palpable:
- After all most of the U.S. executive branch, most famously its President, stood by and did nothing, while
hundreds of thousands of Sunnis and Shias (yes, religious discrimination, dear Amnesty) murdered each other in Iraq .
That Nuri Maliki still comes to Washington merrily, asking for aid.
Essential background on this issue is available on Madhu Kishwar's website at www.manushi.in .
In particular the "ModiNama" series is recommended.http://manushi.in/docs/Modinama-ebook.pdf
The author of this piece, Zahir Janmohamed, had previously written an "open letter" to Madhu Kishwar. The letter and response are available through this link -http://manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1700&ptype=campaigns#.UqCG2...
- Robert Coane
- Nova Scotia/New York
... evangelical Christians, Jewish leaders and Republican members of Congress ....
Let's get something straight as we start reading this article: none of the above are in the least "concerned about religious freedom around the globe." What they ARE interested in is imposing their own brand of belief on everything secular and civil society worldwide.
Indian expats might want to express their objections. Everyone else needs be concerned about the eroding separation of Church and State, as guaranteed by the US Constitution, and freedom FROM religion right here in the USA.
Geopolitics, leave to the diplomats and foreign policy professionals.
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
~ JOHN ADAMS
(1735 – 1826)
Second President of the United States
Oh and the idea that the US can afford to deny visa to India's elected Prime Minister would seem bizarre and outlandish to anyone who is not an activist. In fact it is in the interests of the US to mend fences with Modi even before he is elected PM and that is exactly what they are going to do. (The US government knows much better than the activists on which side the toast is buttered). The US reiterating its visa policy means nothing - as they have explained it means that Modi is free to apply for a visa when he wants, just like you and I am.
When Mr.Modi was denied for US Visa in 2005,I called White House comment lines & tried to explained that it's wrong to deny someone a visa based upon opposition from few activists & a community organization. It wasn't a state sponsored event,but was an outburst against few train compartments set upon fire by few rogue Muslim elements. What US will do now if he becomes Indian PM.?
The author implies that religious freedom was an important foreign policy issue for USA earlier, but it is not so now. This is obviously incorrect - it was never an issue. Some nations and leaders who engage in routine/severe violations of religious freedom are (and were) the closest US allies and friends, and I am not just talking about the Saudis. Moreover (without exonerating Mr Modi or Hindu extremists in any way), the heavy role played by Christian evangelicals in "religious freedom" organizations raises questions. A judicial report in India found that aggressive efforts by Christian evangelicals to propagate their faith in remote rural parts of tribal India fueled conflict and suspicion among communities. For example, people who became Christians under evangelical pressure/inducements or proselytizing would be asked to refrain from participating in tribal cultural rituals and practices which have been at the center of tribal social and religious life for centuries. Even though such proselytizing activities are legal (and they should be), many moral questions can be raised about the agenda of Christian evangelicals in poor countries including their obsession with religious conversions and the amount of funds/energy devoted to that. If you read any Indian newspaper on any given day, you will see that Indians discuss their problems and challenges with a vigor and frankness that is unmatched anywhere in Asia, but those issues are not a concern of the US government.
US, a country that routinely invades other counties indulging into War crimes and what not, now sanctimoniously giving moral certificates to India about religious freedoms. A county that is overwhelmingly Christian and even more so, protestant, want to second guess what it really is to be religiously tolerant. Go to any city in India, and try finding a place where you will not have to hear Azan in the morning evening and night. That is real tolerance for county that is 80% hindu. Indians are born to "adjust", bred all their life to "accommodate" and brought up to "understand" each other. The author has barely lived in India long enough to understand it and suffered one riot among hundreds that happen even today, and he want all of us to believe in 2002 it was Narendra Modi's fault that Godhra happened, an event he didn't even mention, which was a trigger to Gujarat riots. I guess that train on that fateful day just became secularly inflamed by the burden of carrying Hindu karsevaks and the 31 Muslims that are condemned by a Gujarat court are the ones who are victims of Indian Injustice.
India is a sovereign country, and its citizens does not recognize any lectures from the United States and or anyone else, and do not want any advise or recommendations or even a suggestion about who will be India's leaders, minsters or even Prime Minister. Our ancestors did not die to give us independence from foreign rule to be then lectured by outsiders about who can or cannot lead it.
Many allege Mr.Narendra Modi did little to stop riots in his state in 2002 when hundreds of Muslims were killed. In April 2009, the Supreme Court of India appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to inquire into the Gujarat government and Narendra Modi's role in the incidents of communal violence The SIT reported to the court in December 2010 submitting that they did not find any incriminating evidence against Modi of willfully allowing communal violence in the state. Within India, Modi's political stature has risen since the 2002 Gujarat violence. He's seen as pro-business and his state hosts the factories of U.S. companies such as Ford and General Motors. Many European nations have renewed ties with him. American Government has not ruled out giving him the visa. The United Kingdom refused to deal with Modi for a decade following the 2002 violence but lifted its diplomatic boycott in October 2012. Later, in March 2013, the European Union, of which the UK is a member, also ended its boycott,. In 2011, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, impressed with the development of Gujarat, invited Modi to visit Pakistan and address prominent business leaders. Mr. Modi also has visited Singapore, China and Japan since the 2002 riots and he was well received in those countries . India is the world's largest democracy. If Indians elect him as their next PM, in what way will you justify denying him a visa or having a keep-off attitude?
- NY, NY
What you have mentioned is true. What you have omitted is revealing.
The SIT report is yet to be considered by the Supreme Court (SC). In contrast to the SIT, SC Amicus Curiae Raju Ramchandran has determined there is enough evidence to file an FIR against Modi.
After reading your post, one could be left with the impression Modi has visited Pakistan after the riots. He has not.
US has, on occasion, denied visas to democratically elected leaders. Kurt Waldheim is most prominent after his Nazi past as a young man was revealed.
Denial of a Modi visa after elections would not be unprecedented nor unjustified. If Modi is elected, Modi could be given a visa to visit only the UN sessions - like Iranian heads of state.
Stay strong, Zahir.
I'm sorry, are you saying you have proof that Narendra Modi exercised his executive power effectively during the Gujrat riots to protect all citizens from marauding mobs? Or that he set the tone that a responsible head of state concerned about the safety and security of all citizens would? Didn't think so.
The BJP's a Hindu fundamentalist party, and he's in the most reactionary wing within that party. He's compromised his own ability to act as a representative for all Indians.
To provide a point of reference that might clarify things for American readers, he's the Indian equivalent of most Southern governor during the segregationist, Jim Crow era. Maybe not George Wallace exactly, but in that mold. What India is going through right now is a generational upheaval not too different from the civil rights era in the US.
Well here is the deal - you can see Modi as glass half empty (detractors, his record in riots, relations with minority etc) or as glass half full (supporters, good administration, growth etc).
However what everyone is missing is quality of water in the glass meaning we once again are doing hero worship and hoping that would be panacea for our ills instead of institutionalizing the better governance. It is inclusive institutions like courts, police, local administration that makes or breaks a nation. You could argue a good leader can provide us that, but so far we haven't see that in Gujarat. Whatever accomplishments have happened, it was due to sheer will power and organisation of Mr Modi. None of the institutions were strengthened, so it's the same story again - once the king is gone, so is his goodwill and India grows in these brief spurts of good governance. Still he is better than lunatics that are currently on throne.
sent from samsung galaxy note, so please excuse brevity