New Delhi: Visa woes continue for senior BJP leader Narendra Modi ahead of the Gujarat elections as 25 US lawmakers urged their government not to go the UK way and continue to deny a visa to the Gujarat Chief Minister. Calling the US lawmakers's move a bid to defame Modi, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said that people of Gujarat would give an answer to this. "This is a propaganda against Narendra Modi. BJP is winning in Gujarat so this is an act to defame Modi. By electing Modi back to power, the people of Gujarat will answer those trying to defame him," he said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Balbir Punj said the visa issue is not important. "The visa issue is not an important one. We do not need any endorsement from the US. All we need is blessings of the people of Gujarat," said Punj.
A group of 25 American lawmakers have urged the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to continue denying visa to the BJP leader, stating that his government has not adequately pursued justice of the 2002 riot victims. "As Mr Modi continues to pursue a potential run for higher office, we believe a change in policy to his request for a visa will only embolden Modi and his government's efforts to obstruct further investigations and the tandem prosecution that have still to be finished to bring the perpetrators to justice," members of the US House of Representatives wrote in a letter to Clinton.
Dated November 29, the letter addressed to Clinton was released to the press yesterday, by Republican Congressman Joe Pitts and Frank Wolf on the eve of their joint press conference at the Capitol Hill with family members of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. "India is a thriving democracy, and one that is aspiring to a high standard of leadership and progress. It is disturbing that certain parties in India are considering elevating Modi, despite his tie to these attacks. Allowing him to enter the United States will only serve to abdicate his responsibility for the 2002 human rights abuses," the Congressmen said.
Among other prominent lawmakers who signed the letter include John Conyers, Trent Franks, James Moran, Michael Honda, Bill Pascrell, Barbara Lee, Edward Markey, Jim Jordan, Dan Burton, Michael Capuano and Dough Lamborn. Observing that the Bush Administration "rightly denied" Modi a visa to enter the United States, the lawmakers said as he is currently seeking support for a possible bid for prime ministership, including meetings with leaders of foreign nations, "we expect" that he may again request entry into the United States.
"We respectfully request that the US government deny Mr Modi entry due to numerous reports of his involvement in horrific human rights violations in India. As you may know, Mr Modi served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat during the 2002 riots that ultimately resulted in the rape of countless women and children, the destruction of homes and businesses and the loss of 2,000 lives," the Congressmen alleged.
"Non-governmental organizations have alleged that the state government in Gujarat, led by Chief Minister Modi, provided leadership and material support to the perpetrators of these horrific crimes. After their investigation of violence, Human Rights Watch stated 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 letter alleged.
Noting that in the past, the State Department has denied Modi a visa under the authority of the International Religious Freedom Act for his complicity in the riots, the lawmakers said the State Department has stated that the Gujarat government has not adequately pursued justice of the victims of the 2002 violence.
"As there has been no further resolution to these issues and justice has yet to be fully realized for the victims of the riots, we ask that you continue to deny Mr Modi a visa. As Mr Modi continues to pursue a potential run for higher office, we believe a change in policy to his request for a visa will only embolden Modi and his government's efforts to obstruct further investigations and the tandem prosecutions that have still to be finished to bring the perpetrators to justice," the Congressmen said.
With Additional Inputs from PTI