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Open Letter to FIA and GANA Protesting Invitations to Narendra Modi and Ashok Bhatt

To

Mr. Ramesh Patel, Mr. Rambhai Gadhvi, Dr Sudhir Parikh, Mr. Jayesh Patel, Mr. Prakash Shah, Mr. Jagdish Patel, Mr. Magan Patel, Mr. Jitendra Fadia, Mr. Naresh Bhadiadra, Mr. Mahesh Patel

Members of the Organizing Committee, First Gujarati Convention

Gujarati Associations of North America (GANA)
and Federation of Indian Associations-New York, New Jersey and Connecticut
355 Shawn Place
North Brunswick, NJ 08902

Dear GANA and FIA,

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, who believe in a secular, democratic and pluralistic Gujarat, write to you with deep concern over reports that your organizations have extended invitations to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the Gujarat Health Minister Ashok Bhatt to attend the GANA convention on July 7-9, 2006.  FIA-GANA’s invitation to Mr. Modi is being reported by several news agencies[1], while Mr. Bhatt is listed as an “invited dignatory” on the FIA poster for the conference[2].

If this is true, then we wish to register our strong protest at these invitations.  We believe that GANA’s slogan of “Gujarat ni asmita” (Gujarat’s dignity) is only undermined by honoring individuals such as Mr. Modi and Mr. Bhatt, who have a long record of participating in sectarian hatred and communalism, and does no justice to Gujarat’s long tradition of hospitality and tolerance.

As you are aware, Mr. Modi and Mr. Bhatt are both regarded as chief architects of the carnage that engulfed Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 2000 Muslims lost their lives and 200,000 more fled their homes, and in which concerted sexual violence against women was employed to an unprecedented degree.  While Muslims were targeted, the state-sponsored violence in 2002 has also contributed to the deaths and displacement of non-Muslims and has decreased confidence in the government/state institutions and processes for all those living in Gujarat.[3]

Mr.  Modi has been charged in an Indian court of law with crimes against humanity and genocide.  He is a member of the violent and extremist communal organization - the Rashriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has never expressed regret for his failure to take preventative measures to stop the violence, indeed took measures or made statements to incite it, and punished conscientious police officials who did take preventative measures by promptly transferring them out to inconsequential postings/assignments. The policies of the State Government of Gujarat, of which he is the chief executive, have been and continue to be discriminatory toward Muslim and Christian minorities; the law is applied and enforced in a discriminatory manner, and those fighting for justice have been continually harassed by the state machinery. The Human Rights Watch in its recent report notes, “The Gujarat state government, led by Chief Minister Narandra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), not only failed to take appropriate action to prevent the violence, but has since failed to properly investigate the crimes committed.  It has consistently sought to impede successful prosecutions of those allegedly involved in the massacres, leading the Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene on several occasions.”[4] Many other human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Commonwealth Initiative for Human Rights, Citizen’s Initiative, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) have documented the extensive complicity of the state government, led by Mr Modi in orchestrating the violence against Muslims in 2002. 

Based on Mr. Modi's involvement in the RSS, his role in the Gujarat carnage, and continued discrimination against Muslims, the U.S. government denied him a visa in 2005. Further, some Congressmen introduced a resolution “condemning the conduct of Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his actions to incite religious persecution.”[5]

Mr Bhatt also took an active role in instigating and overseeing planned violence against Muslims in the post-Godhra carnage in 2002, according to several human rights reports.  The Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal Report notes that on 27th February, 2002, “Shri Ashok Bhatt and Shri Pratap Singh Chauhan, met at Lunavada in Panchmahal district along with others. In this meeting, the manner and methods of unleashing violence on Muslims were planned in detail.”[6]  Furthermore, several media reports have established that Mr. Ashok Bhatt was present in the Police Control Rooms in Ahmedabad[7], where, as Human Rights Watch report noted, “repeated pleas for help were blatantly turned down."[8] The National Human Rights Commission in India also noted the participation of Mr. Ashok Bhatt in the riots, saying “A number of persons holding responsible positions in public life alleged involvement of some Ministers and MLAs in these riots.  They mentioned that Shri Gordhan Zadafia, Home Minister and Shri Ashok Bhatt, Health Minister were monitoring the progress of riots from the City Police control room.”[9]  Additionally, eye witness reports collected by the Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal suggest that Mr. Bhatt was responsible for inciting arson and destruction in the Naroda Fruit Market and the Paldi-Ellis Bridge in Ahmedabad.[10]

We find it shameful that organizations supposed to represent the collective interests of Indians and Indian Americans in the United States would choose to invite people such as Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. Ashok Bhatt to their conferences, and thus implicitly endorse and promote their agenda of sectarian hatred and violence.

Yours sincerely,
Undersigned Organizations and Individuals

View current list of individual and organizational endorsements here.

References
[1] Two Gujarati conventions vie for attention in US, Sheela Bhatt, June 20th 2006, Rediff India Abroad, also see Speculation rife over Modi's US visa, July 1, 2006, NDTV.
[2] http://www.fianynjct.org/event.pdf
[3] http://www.countercurrents.org/gujarat-engineer030305.htm
[4] DISCOURAGING DISSENT: Intimidation and Harassment of Witnesses, Human Rights Activists, and Lawyers Pursuing Accountability for the 2002 Communal Violence in Gujarat, by the Human Rights Watch, 2006 http://hrw.org/backgrounder/asia/india/gujarat/
[5] H.Res. 160 in the 109th Congress, available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=hr109-160
[6] State Complicity, in Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002, Vol 2, available at http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal/vol2/compgovt.html
[7] Praveen Swami in Saffron Terror, Frontline Volume 19, Issue 06, 2002 writes “Health Minister Ashok Bhat sat in the Police Control Room in Ahmedabad through the first two days of violence. Given his portfolio, it was an odd place to be - but not given his past. Bhat, along with Union Minister of State for Defence Harin Pathak, faces charges of having incited a mob that murdered a police constable in the course of communal violence on April 25, 1985”.
[8] Background to the Violence,  in Compounding Injustice: The Government's Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat, 2003, Human Rights Watch, NewYork, available at http://hrw.org/reports/2003/india0703/
[9]  Report on the visit of NHRC Team headed by Chairperson, NHRC to Ahmedabad, Vadodra and Godhra from 19-22 March 2002, available at http://nhrc.nic.in/guj_annex_1.htm
[10] The Accused, in Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002, Vol 2, available at http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal/vol2/accused2.html


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