PUCL Bulletin, August 2005

Narendra Modi denied entry to the United States

-- By M.A. Rane

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat applied for a diplomatic visa to USA visit USA in February 2005, for attending a private meeting convened by the Indian-American Hotel Owners Association on March 20, 2005 first in Florida and later at the Madison Square Garden in New York. It was not an official visit, but a private one at the instance of the Hindutva constituency in US.

They belong to the Hindu Diaspora, mostly Gujaratis who have been vociferously praising the role of Modi during the riots in Gujarat in February March-April 2002. The Hindu Diaspora in US has been generously financing the Sangh Parivar organizations including the RSS. BJP, VHP and others.
The proposed visit of Modi to USA provoked strong protests from an organization known as Coalition against Genocide, a coalition of over 35 organizations in US that have come together to promote pluralism, secularism and tolerance against sectarian politics in India. It also spiritedly campaigned for ban on Modi's entry in U S. In the US Congress a move for such a ban was made by two Congressmen, one a leader of the Black Caucus in the house and the other a Republican. A massive public protest was going to be staged in the US by these persons, if Modi was permitted to visit US.

The Bush Administration declined to grant a diplomatic visa to Modi in exercise of its powers under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that conferred discretionary powers. The Administration took a further drastic step by revoking Modi's existing Tourist/Business visa in exercise of powers under section 212(a)(2)(a) of the said Act which makes “government official who was responsible for, or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, ineligible for a US visa”.

Modi applied for a diplomatic visa, instead of using his existing tourist/business visa, apparently to claim diplomatic immunity against any possible criminal prosecution of him by any individual or organization in a US criminal Court, for genocide of members of the Muslim minority in Gujarat in 2002 and serious violations of human rights, by provoking such a genocide and/or for failure to prevent such a genocide, to take adequate steps to prevent such genocide and to prosecutor and punish the culprits. Such a prosecution was filed against Pinochet, a Chilean dictator who had carried out large scales genocide of his opponents, in a criminal Court in UK when he paid a private visit to London.

Denial of a visa to any citizen of any country, is prima facie a violation of a Human Right, as freedom to travel anywhere is one such Human Right. But there can be exceptions to this general rule. Modi's case is one such exception.

There was ample material on record, to take a prima facie view that Modi was responsible for instigating and/or failing to prevent genocide of members of the Muslim minority in the whole of Gujarat during the post Godhra riots, on the assumption that Muslims of Godhra were responsible for putting on fire one coach of the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra Railway Station resulting in the death of 56 persons in that coach, who were Hindu Kar Sevaks. The adverse report of the National Human Rights Commission NHRC of India against Modi and his government in this behalf was one such prima facie material relied upon by US Government. The NHRC took an extraordinary step of itself moving the Supreme Court in this behalf.
A large number of journalists investigated into the horrendous riots in Gujarat and published the same in the Press.

The electronic media also telecast pictures of the genocide, which were watched by the entire world. A number of Human Rights Organizations such as Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) made searching inquiries in the riots in which they recorded inhuman acts of killing innocent and helpless Muslims including women and children, by torching their houses and/or places of business and burning them alive by mobs of brainwashed people. The mobs were led by goons belonging to Bajrang Dal VHP RSS and BJP. Some of the mobs were led by BJP politicians. Even those who fled for life were pursued by the murderous mobs, killed and their bodies buried with the assistance of the Police as in the Bilkis case. The Police were instructed by Modi's government to protect the Hindus and ignore attacks on Muslims. It has come to light that on Modi's instructions the Police Officers did not discharge their duties to protect the citizens to whatever religion they might belong. In the afternoon of 27th February 2002 Modi visited Godhra and caused all the 56 bodies burnt in the coach of the Sabarmati Express to be removed to a hospital in Ahmedabad, even without following the legal procedure of carrying out Inquest Panchanamas.

That very evening the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal called for Gujarat Bandh. A hell was let loose and the indoctrinated people went on a spree of brutally killing innocent Muslims throughout Gujarat.

An independent unofficial inquiry commission headed by Justice Krishna Iyer, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India and comprising of Justice P.B. Sawant, former Judge of Supreme Court, Justice H. Suresh, former Judge of Bombay High Court, K.G. Kannabiran Senior Advocate and President of PUCL Ms Aruna Roy, a social activist and others of impeccable independence inquired into the several incidents of genocide and arson during the Gujarat riots and submitted a report indicting Chief Minister Modi and the BJP VHP and Bajrang Dal and the Gujarat Police who looked aside when the brutal crimes were being committed. The investigation by the Police was deliberately partial. They closed about 2000 criminal cases against Hindus.

In the Best Bakery case of Vadodara in which 14 persons were killed, 19 persons were prosecuted by the Police, but all the accused were acquitted by the trial court as well as the Gujarat High Court. As the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, a Bench of Doraiswamy and Arijit Pasayat JJ gave an unprecedented judgment of setting aside the acquittal of all the accused and directed a retrial of all the accused by a Court in Maharashtra. In the course of the judgment the Supreme Court observed inter alia "The modern ‘Neros' were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and women were burning and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected". The Neros referred to were obviously the Chief Minister Modi and his administration including the police.
In other appeals trial of the killers, including police officers and medical doctors who abetted accused in the Bilkis case, the SC directed transfer of the trial to a court in Maharashtra. In another appeal the Supreme Court directed reopening of nearly 2000 criminal cases closed by the Gujarat Police.

What further material is necessary for justifying the act of the Bush Administration in banning the entry of Modi in USA by denying any Visa to him? None claims the record of the Bush Administration or the previous US administrations in protecting Human Rights were commendable. However objectively and indirectly it serves the purpose of punishing persons like Narendra Modi. Modi was also to visit England at the invitation of Hindu Diaspora in UK. Modi himself cancelled his said visit on a plea that our Prime Minister telephoned him to cancel his visit to London as according to intelligence there was a danger to his life. Neither the Government of India nor of UK prevented Modi from visiting England.

The Human Rights Organizations in UK were going to stage public protests against Modi. Therefore Modi succumbed to the threat and had no courage to visit the UK.

It is highly welcome that the international community showed its disapproval of Modi's acts. But in India no Government could touch Modi so far. As the BJP led NDA was in power at the Center during the riots, the then Prime Minister Vajpayee initially made a noise and was inclined to compel Modi to step down as CM of Gujarat. But Vajpayee is a master of double speak. At a conclave of the BJP in Goa, Vajpayee succumbed to his colleagues and went to the length of resorting to Newton's Theory of action and equal reaction pleaded by Modi. He asked rhetorically “Who lit the fire first“ thus justifying the gruesome incidents in Gujarat.

The response in India to the denial of visa and entry of Modi in USA by the Bush Administration, were conflicting in the media and the public. The most vociferous in condemning the Bush Administration were the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, though the relationship between the BJP led NDA and the Bush Administration were very cordial.

Modi and the Sangh Parivar donned the apparel of martyrdom and tried to make political capital out it. But the show of martyrdom could not last long and was giving diminishing returns. The spokesman of the Parivar shouted that India was a sovereign nation, that Modi was an elected Chief Minister of Gujarat and asserted when there was a conflict between human rights and national pride, we will always choose national pride, overlooking that Human Rights were universal values to be observed by the entire humanity, whereas 'national pride' is an ephemeral shibboleth and a political rhetoric.
It is surprising that our Prime Minister and Government of India shared the same views of the Sangh Parivar.

The PM appealed to the Bush Administration to grant visa to Modi, on the plea that Modi was holding a constitutional status of an elected Chief Minister of a State. The reason is, on the issue of 'national pride' the Congress the Sangh Parivar and other Indian nationalists hold identical views. Our Prime Minister took a highly legalistic view in stating that Modi was not convicted by any Court of law and till then the must be presumed to be innocent. He ignored that in public life persons holding high public officers, like Caesar’s wife, ought to be above all suspicion. There are several instances of persons holding high public offices, including Ministers & Judges have stepped down when their integrity was questioned by a large section of the public or adverse comments were made by the Judiciary on their conduct.


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