US Lawmakers use ‘Visa Power’ to Target Narendra Modi

WASHINGTON (TIP): Concerned that national and international recall of the Gujarat riots and pressure to bring its perpetrators to justice is waning, a group of American lawmakers on Tuesday renewed calls to the Obama administration not to relent on the bipartisan Washington policy of denying the state chief minister Narendra Modi entry to the US. Modi has not announced any plans to visit the US or sought a visa, but the lawmakers, prompted by families of victims of the carnage still seeking justice, fear justice will not be done and the BJP leader is positioning himself to a national role with the easing of international opprobrium over the riots.

Several foreign missions and industry leaders have reached out to Gujarat for business opportunities, and the state has garnered much praise from the international media, including the Congressional Research Service, the lawmakers’ own information bank, for its rapid development. But some 25 US lawmakers reminded the Obama administration against the serious charges that continue to be levelled against the CM by many victims of the riots and his detractors. “CM Modi and his government’s response to the riots, obstruction of justice, following the (2002) attacks is a severe violation of human rights that the US has long condemned,” Congressman Joe Pitts, who is leading the informal congressional oversight on the matter, said Tuesday at a news conference on Capitol Hill. Congressman Pitts’ interest in the matter is also personal.

He visited Gujarat in 2002 soon after the riots and says he cannot forget blood stains he saw in the home of a fellow Indian lawmaker, former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the mob violence. Jafri’s wife Zakia was among the victims’ family who was present at the Capitol Hill event. While human rights advocates launched a campaign against Modi, Pitts later initiated moves that resulted in the Gujarat CM being barred from visiting US. His letter to then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice urging action against Modi under the US Immigration and Nationality Act was favourably received by the state department and Modi’s existing visas were revoked. The Obama administration did not change the policy in it first term. The 25 lawmakers sent out a letter to secretary of state Hillary Clinton last week amid signs that even Washington is having second thoughts on its continued ban on Modi.

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Volume 10 Issue 40 | New York | Oct 14

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