Visa ban on Modi should continue, says U.S. religious freedom panel

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 Washington: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended the U.S. government to continue its ban on giving visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his government’s alleged complicity in the 2002 communal conflagration in the State.

In yet another blow to Mr. Modi, who is trying to hard sell himself as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate during the next general election, the Commission’s annual report for 2013 stated that his was the only case when “in March 2005, it [visa ban provision] was used to exclude Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat State in India due to his complicity in the 2002 riots that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,100 to 2,000 Muslims.” USCIRF had urged such an action under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).

The organisation urged the departments of State and Homeland Security “to develop a lookout list of aliens who are inadmissible to the United States on this basis.” Last year, it even wrote to the then U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, about the possibility that Mr. Modi might apply for a visa and reiterated the “concerns about his admissibility to the United States.”

Taking cognisance of the recent court verdicts in several riot cases, the Commission pointed out that “in the last two years approximately 100 people have been convicted of various crimes, with punishments ranging from minor monetary fines to life imprisonment, and more than 100 individuals have been acquitted because of lack of evidence, witnesses refusing to testify or the death of witnesses.”

It noted how a large number of cases were closed due to unavailability of witnesses and that the former Gujarat Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Mayaben Kodnani, was sentenced to 28 years in jail for her involvement in the pogrom.

“However, it was widely reported in the media that many in the Muslim community believe she was the “fall guy” for Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots (who still holds that position and was recently re-elected),” the report stated.

“Notably, in early February 2012, the Gujarat High Court strongly chastised the Gujarat government and Chief Minister Modi for inaction and negligence during the violence. The court has also ordered the government to pay compensation for the over 500 houses and businesses that were destroyed during the violence,” the Commission said.

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