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The Indian American Muslim Council, an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, on Apr 26 welcomed the US State Department’s reiteration of its position on the issue of a US visa for Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congressman Walsh had called on the US government to lift the ban on issuing a US visa to Mr. Modi. On Apr 25, 2012, the State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland responded to questions from reporters on Congressman Walsh’s letter. “Our position on the visa issue has not changed at all,” Ms. Nuland stated categorically, reaffirming the government’s position that Mr. Modi continues to remain inadmissible under current US law. Section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, makes foreign government officials ineligible for a visa should the State Department deem them complicit in severe violations of religious freedom.
Mr. Modi is the prime accused in a case filed by human rights organisation “Citizens for Justice and Peace” and Gujarat carnage survivor Mrs. Zakia Jafri, where he is accused of conspiracy to commit mass murder, to influence the course of public justice and to destroy public records. An amicus curiae appointed by India’s Supreme Court has found sufficient evidence to charge and prosecute him for the carnage in 2002 that resulted in the killing of over 2,000 people and the displacement of over 150,000.
“Even after the horrific pogrom in Gujarat 2002, there has been no reprieve for the minorities in Gujarat. The continued violations of religious freedom in the state, in the form of extra-judicial killings, pathetic living conditions of people displaced since 2002, as well as economic discrimination against minorities reflect the culture of impunity cultivated by Mr. Modi and his administration,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC.
“The State Department’s refusal to reconsider the ban on Modi’s visa should also be seen in light of the ongoing struggle to secure justice and reparation for the victims of the Gujarat carnage of 2002,” added Mr. Khateeb.
IAMC has called upon India’s Supreme Court to look into irregularities in the functioning of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Court and to ensure that the masterminds of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 are brought to justice.
Welcoming the reaffirmation of Modi’s visa ban, Dr. Shaik Ubaid, a founding member of Coalition Against Genocide, said: “Narendra Modi has been trying tirelessly to get his visa ban revoked. He has spent millions of dollars by hiring American public relation firms and using his state government machinery as well as his extremist supporters among the Gujarati community in the US. But he has failed miserably.... We will not rest till Modi and the other perpetrators of the pogrom are brought to justice and the victims are compensated,” Dr. Ubaid said.
Earlier, in a letter to the Editor India Abroad/Rediff New York, USA and later released to the media on Apr 24, Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC, wrote that their article “US Congressman Campaigns for US visa for Modi,” has ‘some glaring factual inaccuracies, both related to the Indian American Muslim Council as well as the US visa ban on Chief Minister Narendra Modi.’
The IAMC president’s letter said inter alia: “As Congressman Joe Walsh has noted in his letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Modi was forbidden entry to visit the US under Section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section of the law makes foreign government officials ineligible for a visa should the State Department deem them complicit in severe violations of religious freedom. In his missive, the Congressman argued, “It should be noted that when reading this section of law further, it specifically states that these violations cannot have occurred 24-months prior to application for a visa.”
“It is unfortunate that a sitting member of the US Congress should attempt to make a case based on ignorance of the law which was amended in September 2009, specifically to remove the 24-month restriction. Congressman Walsh should refer to the U. S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9 at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86956.pdf
“In making the case that religious violations under Modi occurred a long time ago, Rep. Walsh’s letter is also a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that those violations did indeed occur. Contrary however, to Congressman Walsh’s uninformed and presumptive defence of Modi, the religious violations did not end after the Gujarat carnage of 2002. They continue to this day, in the form of extra-judicial killings, lack of due process in law enforcement and economic discrimination against minorities. Perhaps the respected Congressman would find it educational to read news reports of people displaced during the carnage of 2002, of which 16,000 are still living in refugee camps lacking basic amenities.
“The article also quotes Tarun Surti, a “community activist,” who referred to the candlelight vigils organized by the Indian American Muslim Council, and alleged that “IAMC has been involved in propagating such false information about India, and we need to bring out the truth about the democracy in Gujarat and in India.” Mr. Surti also bemoaned the fact that Hindus had not organized a prayer for the victims of Godhra.
“The candlelight vigils organized by IAMC were categorically about commemorating all the victims of the Gujarat carnage including those who died in the fire at Godhra, as was evident in IAMC’s press releases as well as the report issued after the vigils. It is unfortunate that Mr. Surti sees human rights violations and the killing of innocent people through his own sectarian lenses, while being oblivious to the humanity of people who do not share his religion. IAMC has always been in the forefront against this form of narrow, bigoted thinking that seeks to divide people along sectarian lines. Mr. Surti’s reference to “places where Islamic terrorists have attacked,” is a red-herring aimed at exploiting the suffering of people in order to advance an obscurantist agenda.
“While Mr. Modi is busy spending the state’s tax dollars in hiring PR firms like APCO to give himself an image makeover, the minorities in Gujarat continue to bear the brunt of his hateful ideology. On 26 January 2012, a heritage cemetary belonging to Christians was desecrated by Hindutva fanatics that share Modi’s ideology. Not surprisingly, the Gujarat Chapter of the All-India Christian Council called for Modi’s resignation for failing to protect Christians.
“The campaign for a US visa for Modi is antithetical to the ideas of justice and human rights and against the conversative principles of religious freedom Congressman Walsh stands for. Allowing Narendra Modi to gain the veneer of respectability he craves by granting him a US visa is an affront to the rule of law, and tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of multitudes who continue to suffer under his misrule.”