Press Conference at Capitol Hill demands justice in Gujarat, India
Congresspersons urge State Department to continue the denial of visa to Narendra
Dec 5, 2012
Coalition 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 Modi's US visa was revoked and his entry to the US was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
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.
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
Chair of the Congressional
International Religious Freedom Caucus - Rep. Trent Franks
Dean of the Congressional Black
Caucus - Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Chair of the Republican Study
Committee - Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
House Democratic Senior Whip - Rep. Betty
House Democratic Senior Whip - Rep. Mike Honda
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.
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.
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."
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