Against Genocide (CAG - http://coalitionagainstgenocide.org/ ),
a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the
Gujarat pogrom of 2002, hailed the bipartisan letter signed by
twenty-five Congresspersons, calling on the State Department to
maintain the ban on a US visa for Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of
the Indian State of Gujarat.
During a press conference at Capitol Hill,
Washington DC, Congressmen Joe Pitts, Frank Wolf, Keith Ellison and
Trent Franks urged that the ban on Mr. Modi's US visa be maintained
until justice was served in Gujarat. The press conference was attended
by representatives from the United States Commission for International
Religious Freedom (USCIRF), The Advocates for Human Rights (AHR), as well
as family members of victims of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. This comes
on the heels of continuing efforts by human rights activists in India
to secure convictions for the masterminds of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
Joe Pitts (R-PA) recalled his visit to Gujarat and the
site of the massacre at Gulbarg Society, in the immediate aftermath of
the Gujarat pogrom. "We saw the remains of the blood on the
walls, the remains of the carnage. ...We met victims of the massacres,
and the officials in Gujarat province, we asked them, why did not the
police respond to what was happening and the police said, 'We had no
orders to respond'," recalled Congressman Pitts.
In 2005, Mr. Modi's US visa was revoked and his entry to the US was
banned by the State Department, under the provisions of the
International Religious Freedom Act, which makes any foreign government
official who "was responsible for or directly carried out, at
any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom"
ineligible for a visa.
In the last ten years, Mr. Modi's administration has engaged in
systematic persecution of religious minorities in Gujarat. In 2003, Mr.
Modi's administration enacted the "Gujarat Freedom of
Religion Act," which curtails the freedom of individuals to
convert to the religion of their choice. The law
is targeted and primarily applied against religious
minorities such as Christians and Muslims.
Although Mr. Modi has not applied for a visa recently, he has
intensified his efforts to have the ban revoked by hiring several
lobbying firms to give himself an image makeover. The Congressmen at
the press conference however, were emphatic that justice and
accountability were higher priorities than Mr. Modi's ambitions. Rep.
Trent Franks said, "Mr. Modi, who failed his
responsibility and his test of leadership in India, should not be
afforded the opportunity to gain a higher station of leadership in that
country until this issue is dealt with." Rep. Keith
Ellison echoed this sentiment by calling on people of
all backgrounds and all faiths to stand together for the sanctity of
human life, for human rights and for accountability.
The letter, signed by eight Republican and seventeen Democratic
Congresspersons, urges the State Department to "deny Mr. Modi entry due
to numerous reports of his involvement in horrific human rights
violations in India." The letter also quotes the Human Rights Watch
report on the 2002 violence, that states that the "attacks against
Muslims (and other religious minorities) in Gujarat have been actively
supported by state BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government officials
and by the police." The Gujarat pogrom resulted in the killing of over
2,000 people, brutal sexual violence against hundreds of women and the
displacement of over 150,000 people.
Among the 25 Congresspersons who have co-signed the letter to the State
Department, some notable designations are as follows:
Both co-chairs of the
Tom Lantos Human Rights
Commission - Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Both co-chairs of the
Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Chair of the Congressional
International Religious Freedom Caucus - Rep.
Trent Franks (R-AZ)
Dean of the Congressional
Black Caucus - Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Chair of the Republican
Study Committee - Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Senior Whip - Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Senior Whip - Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
bipartisan initiative is a grim reminder of the fact that Mr. Modi's
administration has obstructed justice and curtailed freedom of religion
across the state of Gujarat over the last ten years," noted
CAG representative Ms. Anu Mandavilli. "It
is also a warning to violators of human rights and freedom of religion
across the world, that the international community holds justice and
human dignity far above the social and political status of any
individual," added Ms. Mandavilli.
"Given India's rich tradition of tolerance and pluralism, it
is inconceivable that a man with a tainted reputation like Mr. Modi's
could ever be considered for the post of India's Prime Minister,"
said Mr. Alex Koshy, another veteran
member of the CAG. "The conviction of Maya Kodnani, a sitting
BJP member of the legislative assembly is a damning indictment of the
state administration headed by Mr. Modi. Mr. Modi's continuation in any
public office is a liability for India," added Mr. Koshy.
Congressman Frank Wolf
captured the consensus across the political spectrum when he urged the
administration "...never to grant a visa to allow Chief
Minister Modi to visit the United States under any circumstances."
=== END ===