Modi and Indian Politics in the Global Arena
Daily Times, July 16, 2008
Nishrin Hussein, a resident of Delaware since 1989, suffered immeasurable trauma in February, 2002. Her father, Ehsan Jafferi, a former member of the Indian national parliament and a poet, was dragged out of his house and burned alive by a rampaging mob.
In that week over 2000 members of a religious minority were killed and burned, over 150,000 were rendered homeless and many women were raped; often as police watched and stubbornly refused to protect religious minorities in the Indian state of Gujarat. According to human rights organisations, Indian government commissions and even the US government, the man ultimately responsible for this state facilitated genocide was Narendra Modi, the current and then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Modi is now seeking a US visa to come and speak to his supporters and admirers in New Jersey in the month of August. His visit also forces victims like Nishrin Hussein to relive their trauma.
Narendra Modi belongs to a Hindu fascist movement that seeks to make India a global power by first religiously and culturally purifying it through elimination of religious minorities. International Religious Freedom Reports, prepared by the US State Department, implicate Narendra Modi’s political party — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — and its religious affiliates in systematic killings of Muslims and Christians and burning of their homes and businesses, year after year.
Modi is a self-styled disciple of Adolf Hitler. He has often expressed his admiration for Hitler and even members of his own party sometimes refer to him as the Hitler of India. In Gujarat, Hitler is glorified in higher secondary school textbooks.
Modi and the state of Gujarat’s growing admiration for Hitler have even spooked Israel. Former Israeli Councillor General David Zohar Zonshine has made significant efforts to rectify the matter, including holding exhibitions to educate Modi’s followers about the Holocaust. But textbooks printed before Israeli protests are still being used in schools.
Modi frightens me. I think he is sowing the seeds of hatred and preparing the people of Gujarat for a bigger and more ominous genocide in the future.
Modi now wishes to mobilise his supporters in New Jersey. Fortunately a broad spectrum of Indians in America, American academics, human rights organisations and members of the US Congress, like Betty McCollum (D-Minn) have come together to forge a Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) and are pressing the State Department to reject this avatar (re-incarnation) of Hitler.
The Indian elite, empowered by recent economic successes, wish to piggyback on the US to superpower status. They wish to forge a new strategic alliance with the US that will facilitate the transfer of critical military technology, attract financial investments, open US markets to Indian businesses and enlist American diplomatic support for Indian ascendance.
Modi seeks to increase his influence in the US. He also wishes to increase fund raising from the rich Indian American community to finance his politics in India. It is vital to his cause that he has intimate access to the US.
At the moment, Hindu nationalists cannot have both; Modi as a national leader and the US as a vehicle to global power. As long as Modi is shunned by the US, he is ineligible for national office. It is therefore essential for his supporters to purify his image, and they hope to do so by bullying the US government into allowing him entry in to the US. If he were to be received in the US, he will be projected in India as a leader of global stature.
US law on international religious freedom (section 604) prohibits the State Department from allowing people who commit egregious violations from entering the US. Modi is now enforcing a new law against religious conversions in Gujarat which primarily targets Christians. This single act of curbing religious consciousness triggers section 604 and alone makes him ineligible for a US visa.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedoms has also asked the State department to deny Modi.
The Bush administration has been excellent on this issue, so far. In 2005 it not only denied Modi a diplomatic visa, but also rescinded a valid tourist visa underscoring his status as an untouchable. All the signals from the State Department suggest that the US will reject any new application from Modi.
All politics is now global. The struggle between secular Hindus and minorities and Hindu nationalism has spilled over to Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill. The US cannot stay away. It must engage and fight with CAG to preserve India’s democracy and its pluralistic traditions.
Dr Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.