New Delhi: Amid reports that 65 Members of Parliament (MPs) wrote letter to US President Barack Obama in late 2012 against granting a US visa to Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP poll panel chief Narendra Modi, the Congress has washed its hands of the Modi visa controversy saying it does not make a difference to them whether or not Modi is granted a US Visa. Party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh on Wednesday said, "We have nothing to do with it. It is up to the US govt to issue visa to Modi."
Modi has been denied visa by the US for the last several years over allegations of human rights violations during the 2002 riots in Gujarat. A total of 65 MPs wrote letter to Obama in late 2012 against granting Modi a US visa. While one letter was signed by 25 Rajya Sabha MPs, the other was signed by 40 Lok Sabha members. The letters were written on November 26 and December 5, 2102 respectively and re-faxed to the White House on Sunday.
Copies of the letters were provided by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) as BJP President Rajnath Singh, reached Washington to meet US lawmakers, think tanks and US government officials during which he said he will urge the Americans to lift the ban on visa for Modi.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had welcomed the move by the MPs. "This letter is a good step. America refused Modi a visa once before because of the 2002 riots. In the same way Rajnath is bowing to America to get Modi a visa, upright MPs must come forward to oppose this request and put pressure on the US to keep men like this from entering the US," NCP leader Tariq Anwar had said.
Mohammed Adeeb, Independent MP from Rajya Sabha, who took the initiative for this campaign, had said they sent these letters to Obama again because of the current campaign and initiative being taken by Rajnath Singh for getting a US visa for Modi. The letters were being made public only now, he had added.
The signatories to the letters include Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) and MP Achuthan of CPI, both Rajya Sabha members. When contacted Yechury had expressed surprise saying he had not signed any such letter. It appeared to be a cut and paste job, he had said.
"I would be the last person to write to the US Administration and to do something like this. We don't want anyone to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. These are issues which will have to be settled in India politically," Yechury had said. Achuthan had also denied writing such a letter.
However, Adeeb had insisted that Yechury and Achthan had signed the letter and was surprised why they were retracting now.
"Given that legal cases against the culprits including many senior officials in Mr. Modi's administration are still pending in the court of law, any revoking of the ban at this juncture would be seen as a dismissal of the issues concerning Mr. Modi's role in the horrific massacres of 2002," the letter to Obama had said.
"It would legitimise Mr. Modi's human rights violations and seriously impact the nature of US-India relations by sending a message that the United States values economic interests over and above the universal values of human rights and justice," the letter had said.
The signatories include Sabir Ali and Ali Anwar Ansari (Janata Dal-U), Rasheed Masood (Congress), S Ahmed (Trinamool Congress) Asaduddin Owaisi (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), Thirumavalavan (Viduthalai Chiruttaigal Katchi), KP Ramalingam (DMK) and SS Rasmasubbu (Congress).
The MPs had alleged that Modi had not only "obstructed" the course of justice but also "failed" to provide rehabilitation to the survivors of whom 16,000 continue to live in refugee colonies lacking basic amenities.
The letter to Obama about Modi's US visa, "is a stark reminder that Modi and the divisive ideology he represents continues to be anathema to a cross section of Indians," said Raja Swamy of the Coalition Against Genocide.
"After long having denied any desire on the part of Mr. Modi to acquire a US visa, Mr. Rajnath Singh's visit to the US, to lobby lawmakers here for Modi's visa reeks of hypocrisy," he had added.
Ahsan Khan of the IAMC, a constituent of the CAG coalition, had said it was noteworthy that Modi evoked such strongly negative reactions from elected representatives in India as well as the US across the ideological spectrum.
The revelations about the letters comes at a time when Rajnath Singh is in Washington to meet US lawmakers and officials, and to urge the government to lift the ban on visa for Modi. Singh had told a press conference in New York on Sunday that he would appeal to the US lawmakers to impress on the Administration to remove the visa ban on Modi imposed after the 2002 post-Godhra riots.