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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Jul 7, 2006

South Asian Organizations Decry Invitations to Narendra Modi, Ashok Bhatt
 

San Jose, California, Jul 7, 2006. In a strongly worded letter to the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) and Gujarati Association of North America (GANA), over 30 South Asian American organizations have questioned FIA & GANA's decision to invite Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Health Minister Ashok Bhatt to attend the First Gujarati Convention, which is to be held at New Jersey later this week.

 

Many of the organizations currently protesting Mr. Modi's and Mr. Bhatt's inclusion in the list of invitees had come together last year to form the Coalition Against Genocide (www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org ), a group of over 40 organizations that had worked together last year to oppose Mr. Modi's scheduled visit to the US in March 2005. A concerted campaign on part of this coalition to oppose a similar convention organized by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association last year had resulted in the US State Department's denial of  diplomatic visa to Mr. Modi, as well as the revocation of  his existing tourist/ business visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212 (a) (2) (g) 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 to the United States.[1]

 

Narendra Modi gained international notoriety when in 2002 his BJP government was unequivocally implicated in the brutal pogroms against the Muslim minority in the state of Gujarat. More than 2000 people were murdered by Mr. Modi's RSS, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres. Not less than 150,000 Muslims have been made refugees in their own state, under the constant threat of violence and brutality at the hands of Mr. Modi's government and the Hindutva fascist apparatus. Details of the carnage and its aftermath are available at: http://www.onlinevolunteers.org/gujarat/reports/index.htm. In speeches throughout the state, Mr. Modi openly incited violence against Muslims before, during and after the genocide of 2002.

 

Mr. Ashok Bhatt is also widely regarded as one of the chief architects of the 2002 violence against the Muslims in Gujarat. The Concerned Citizen's Tribunal, led by several distinguisted jurists in India documented his involvement in inciting arson and destruction at several places in Ahmedabad during the carnage. According to their report, Crimes Against Humanity, Mr. Bhatt was present at a secret meeting in Lunawada on Feb 27th 2002, the day of the Godhra mishap, where the details of the planned violence which was to later engulf the state were discussed. The National Human Rights  Commission also noted that Mr. Bhatt "[monitored] the progress of the riots from the City Police Control room."  

 

Two Gujarati meetings are planned this summer in New Jersey, following an apparent split amongst the Gujarat community organizers. The first meeting, the First Gujarati Convention, is being organized by Federation of Indian Associations and the Gujarati Associations of North America. Different news articles [2] have reported that members from FIA, including Sudhir Parikh, the President of the FIA and Mr. Ramesh Patel, Chairman of GANA, have extended invitations to the Gujarat CM Mr. Modi for the meeting in July. Another Non-Resident-Gujaratis meeting in September, the World Gujarati Conference 2006, also to be held in New Jersey is also inviting Mr. Modi as per newspaper reports.

 

The letter from concerned South Asian groups takes the organizers of the First Gujarati Convention to task for "honoring individuals such as Mr. Modi and Mr. Bhatt, who have a long record of participating in sectarian hatred and communalism" and who "[do] no justice to Gujarat's long tradition of hospitality and tolerance."  While it is not clear whether either Mr. Modi or Mr. Bhatt are actually attending the convention, the invitation itself is an implicit endorsement of their divisive agenda of sectarian hatred and violence.  As the recent spate of violence in Vadodara proves, Gujarat under Mr. Modi and Mr. Bhatt remains a hostile place for minorities; a fact hardly worth celebrating but one that demands serious introspection on the part of all Indians. 

Contact: mail [at] friendsofsouthasia.org , info [at] stopfundinghate.org



[1] Issue of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's Visa Status, Statement by David C. Mulford, U.S. Ambassador to India, New Delhi, India, March 21, 2005  http://www.state.gov/p/sca/rls/rm/2005/43701.htm

[2] Visa woes coming in the way of Modi again, April 22, 2006, The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1500028.cms   and Two Gujarati conventions vie for attention in US, Sheela Bhatt, June 20th 2006, Rediff India Abroad, available at http://ia.rediff.com/news/2006/jun/20guj.htm?q=np&file=.htm







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