Still No US Visa for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendara Modi at his laptop

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Washington, DC – The likelihood of the United States changing its visa policy in the near future for communal violence-tainted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are bleak if the recently released report on Human Rights is any indicator.

The report, titled “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012,” mandated by the US Congress and released by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, said, “At the end of the year, the complaint filed by Zakia Jafri in 2006 that blamed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 60 others for complicity in the 2002 communal violence, was still being heard in court.”

Citing concerns of citizen activists regarding “the Gujarat government’s failure to protect the population or arrest those responsible for communal violence in 2002 that resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim,” the report said, “Human rights groups continue to allege that investigative bodies showed bias in favor of Modi in their reports.”

The report gave a chronological account of the failures of the Gujarat government, beginning with the appointment by the Modi administration of the Nanavati-Mehta Commission to investigate the 2002 violence. “On March 30, the commission received its 18th extension; the new deadline for submission of its final report was December 31, but the deadline passed with no submission,” the report found.

The issue of Modi’s US visa was raised in March when a Republican Party Congressional delegation visited Modi in his capital of Ahmedabad and invited him to the US, despite a visa ban by the US since 2005 due to allegations of the mishandling of the 2002 riots against his government.

“We have extended an invitation to the Chief Minister Modi and requested him to show us there what he has achieved here in his state,” US Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) told journalists in India.

Asked to comment on the lawmakers’ invitation, a State Department spokesperson said, “We welcome the visit by the Congressional delegation currently underway in India. Visits like these help support our strong people-to-people and business-to-business ties with India, including in the state of Gujarat.”

“As more and more Congressional delegations visit India and look to engage directly with state governments, our members of Congress gain a first-hand appreciation for India’s dynamism and diversity,” the spokesperson said.

On the specific US visa for the Gujarat ruler Modi, the State Department told India America Today, “As to this specific case, there is no change in our longstanding visa policy.”

At the start of the 61 page chapter on India in the bulky annual report, the executive summary said, “The most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government, leading to denial of justice; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence.”

“Other human rights problems included disappearances, poor prison conditions that were frequently life-threatening, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention. The judiciary was overburdened, and court backlogs led to lengthy delays or the denial of justice,” it added.

Taking multiple officials and government agencies to task, the report alleged, “Widespread impunity at all levels of government remained a serious problem. Investigations into individual cases and legal punishment for perpetrators occurred, but in many cases a lack of accountability due to weak law enforcement, a lack of trained police, and the overburdened and under-resourced court system created an atmosphere of impunity.”

The State Department said law enforcement and legal avenues for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the issue effectively.

“Law enforcement officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. Doctors sometimes further abused rape victims who had come to report the crimes by using the ‘two finger test’ to speculate on their sexual history,” it said, while referring to the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi.

Although it acknowledged that separatist insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and the Naxalite belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians, the report did note that, “For the second consecutive year, Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast saw considerably less violence than in the past.”

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