The human rights activists here have welcomed the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for its call to the US government to maintain its visa ban on Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The continuation of the ban was demanded in its annual report-2013 released in Washington on Tuesday,saying there was enough evidence allegedly linking him to 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.
According to the report,Modi is the only individual against whom the US has so far used its visa ban provision related to religious freedom in March 2005 due to his alleged complicity in 2002 communal riots.
USCIRF is an independent US federal government advisory body,with its panel members appointed by US president and leaders of the two political parties in that country.
The report is quite significant as two US Opposition Congress members had a month ago visited Gujarat and called on Modi. They were given a red carpet welcome here. During media interactions,they had stated that they would take up the Modis visa issue with the US government and ensure that the ban on visa for Modi was lifted. Their visit was reportedly facilitated by members of the US-based Overseas Friends of BJP. There was a controversy that visiting US Congressional members were also allegedly paid for the visit.
Commenting on the US panel report,noted human rights activist and president of Gujarat unit of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) J S Bandukwala said,Modi in any other circumstances would have been tried in International court of Justice (ICJ) as he was allegedly the pivotal figure in Muslim genocide in 2002.
He said it was on the same ground that former Serbain president Slobodan Milosevic and others with him were punished.
So,the demand of USCIRF for maintaining ban on US visa for Modi is absolutely correct, Bandukwala stressed.
But,unfortunately,we have not been able to touch Modi at all under Indian judicial system, pointed out Bandukwala.
This is our tragedy and weakness of Indian political system, he remarked.
Welcoming the USCIRF,Christian human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash,representing NGO Prashant,said the US panels report once again focussed on the fact that religious freedom is severely violated in Gujarat.
Stating that minorities in Gujarat are still treated as second-class citizens, he said the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act,2003,was one of the most draconian laws in the country.
In several parts of Gujarat,police visit Christian churches and demand that they inspect the baptism registers of the concerned Church, he alleged.
All this is happening apart from the fact that victim-survivors of 2002 are still struggling for justice, he pointed out.
Alleging that Modi had given a free hand to rioters to kill Muslims in 2002 riots though it was his duty to protect people,another human rights activist Zubair Gopalani said USCIRF recommendations were totally perfect to seek continuation of visa ban on Modi.
He wanted that other countries in the world should also follow US and impose ban on visa for Modi,saying his own prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at that time had advised Modi to follow rajdharma,indicating he had failed to carry out his duties as administrative head of the state.
Stating that the US panel report was perfectly okay in case of Modi,leading Gujarat High Court advocate Girish Patel wanted that the USCIRF report should also have spoken about allegedly gross human right violations of religious minorities in the US as well.
State BJP general secretary Vijay Rupani alleged,Anti-Modi elements in India and the US appear to be involved behind USCIRF report to rake the issue of visa ban on Modi. Stating that Modi had never approached for the US visa,he said a day would certainly come when the US would issue its visa to Modi.