U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Modi Visa Ban

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by parijataka, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Through Modi Visa Ban

    In March 2005, the United States denied a visa to Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, now the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate in next year’s Indian elections. The visa was denied because of Mr. Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat that left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Muslims. But it came about from a highly unusual coalition made up of Indian-born activists, evangelical Christians, Jewish leaders and Republican members of Congress concerned about religious freedom around the globe.

    I had a front-row seat to these events as they unfolded. I worked in Washington. D.C., from 2003 to 2011, mostly at Amnesty International and in the United States Congress, and I was a part of the campaign to deny Mr. Modi a visa.

    In 1996, Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, organized a summit sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group that represents 42,000 Evangelical Churches. At the conclusion of the event, the delegates pledged their collective efforts to “take appropriate action to combat the intolerable religious persecution now victimizing fellow believers and those of other faiths.”

    The timing was perfect. Two years earlier, Republicans had taken a majority of seats in the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952, and the new batch of Republican Congress members were eager to see that protection of Christians be a central part of United States foreign policy.

    The result was the International Religious Freedom Act, which Representative Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, introduced in March 1998 to wide, bipartisan support.

    Though Mr. Wolf’s original vision called for sanctions on countries that violated religious freedom, that idea ran into resistance from corporations that worked in countries like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

    In the new piece of legislation, most of the language on sanctions was dumped. However, one clause would carry over and would later prove fateful to Mr. Modi. Section 604 of the new legislation read: “Any alien who, while serving as a foreign official, was responsible or directly carried out, at any time during the preceding 24-month period, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, as defined in Section 3 of the International Religious Freedom Act 1998 and the spouse and children, if any, are inadmissible.”

    Soon after the passage of the law, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government-funded agency, was created. Many of the initial commissioners had strong evangelical leanings, but when Felice D. Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s human rights program, was selected as a commissioner in 2001, she decided to widen the panel’s scope to other religions.

    “I wanted to turn this around, to make our focus broader,” Ms. Gaer said in an interview. This chance came in February 2002 when she learned about the riots in Gujarat, India. “We learned about the riots in real time. We had people on staff who kept telling us we need to do something,” Ms. Gaer said.

    Ms. Gaer tried to arrange an official commission trip to India to survey the damage caused by the 2002 riots but was denied permission to enter India.

    Instead, the commission decided to hold a hearing in Washington in June 2002. Ms. Gaer was “shocked” by the findings at the hearing. “I can’t forget what I heard that day,” Ms. Gaer said.

    In the fall of 2002, an Indian-born, Washington-based evangelical Christian named John Prabhudoss led a delegation to riot-affected Ahmedabad that included two Republican congressmen, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Mr. Wolf. Another person on the trip was Raju Rajagopal, an Indian-born retired health professional based in Berkeley, Calif.

    “It was unimaginable what we saw in Gujarat,” Mr. Rajagopal said. “People in Gujarat told us that Indian Americans were sending loads of money to groups like the R.S.S. and the V.H.P.” that, he argued, had a role in fueling the violence, Mr. Rajagopal said. He was referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, two Hindu nationalist groups founded in 1925 and 1964, respectively.

    In a report on violence against women during the 2002 Gujarat riots, written by a collection of Gujarat-based nongovernmental organizations known as Citizen Initiative, the authors found that the violence followed “an escalation of tension and build-up by the V.H.P. and the Bajrang Dal,” another Hindu nationalist group.

    In a report in 2002, Human Rights Watch described a letter, bearing the name and logo of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, that called for an economic boycott of Muslims in Gujarat, creating a climate of fear. However, Human Rights Watch acknowledged that the letter could not be traced and that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad denied authorship.

    When Mr. Rajagopal returned to California, he began to campaign against the American support for Hindu nationalist groups in India like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He co-wrote a 91-page report that alleged that the India Development and Relief Fund, which was based in the United States, had collected $4 million and sent some of the funds to right-wing Hindu groups.

    Soon after the release of the report, Silicon Valley companies with large numbers of Indian-American employees promised to either stop or suspend donor matching programs with the fund.

    “It was a tremendous victory and it gave us momentum to keep fighting,” Mr. Rajagopal said.

    The report also did something else — it created a network of activists across the United States who could be quickly mobilized when they learned of Mr. Modi’s planned visit to the country in 2005.

    “When we heard about Modi’s visit, we were ready,” Mr. Rajagopal said. “Actually, we had been ready and waiting for Modi’s visit for a few years.”

    In early 2005, Mr. Prabhudoss learned that the Asian American Hotel Owners Association was sponsoring a conference in south Florida in late March 2005 and had invited then-Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, the TV talk show host Chris Matthews and Mr. Modi. The association was created in 1989 as a trade group for hotel owners in the United States, and today there are 10,000 members representing 22,000 hotels. The group’s chairman, Nash Patel, said at the time that 98 percent of the group’s members had roots in Gujarat.

    Soon after Mr. Modi’s United States visit was announced, 41 South Asian groups across the country came together to form the Coalition Against Genocide. On Feb. 24, 2005, a letter organized by the group was signed by over 100 professors and sent to the hotel association, asking them to rescind Mr. Modi’s invitation. Another pressure group flooded Mr. Matthews with letters.

    On March 8, 2005, Mr. Matthews backed out of the conference for “scheduling reasons.” On March 15, Amnesty International said it had written a letter to American Express asking it to withdraw its sponsorship of the conference.

    Mr. Prabhudoss focused on Washington. “If this was going to work, we had to make a legal and not a political argument as to why the United States should deny a visa to Modi,” he said. He zeroed in on the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which stipulates that no person who has violated religious freedom could enter the country.

    He knew he could count on Mr. Pitts, the Republican lawmaker who accompanied him on a visit to Gujarat in 2002, but he had a tough time convincing Democrats to block Mr. Modi’s visa.

    “We needed a Democrat so the White House could say there is bipartisan support against Modi,” Mr. Prabhudoss said. He hired two professional Democratic lobbyists to assist him with his efforts, for an amount Mr. Prabhudoss declined to disclose.

    Mr. Prabhudoss found an ally in John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan who is the longest serving African-American member of Congress and has a large Arab and Muslim constituency.

    On March 16, 2005, House Resolution 160 was introduced in Congress, condemning Mr. Modi “for his actions to incite religious persecution.” On March 18, the State Department denied Mr. Modi a visa. Three days later, the United States ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, said, “This decision applies to Mr. Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the state government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time.”

    Mr. Modi called the visa denial in 2005 “an attack on Indian sovereignty” and raised the question, “Will India also consider what America has done in Iraq when it processes visa applications of Americans coming to India?”

    Despite the success in denying Mr. Modi a United States visa, disillusionment quickly set in for Mr. Rajagopal, the retired California businessman who accompanied Mr. Prabhudoss to Gujarat in 2002.

    “The frustrating thing was that the visa denial was probably the only thing really dealt a blow to Modi,” he said. “I just wish it had been brought about by a large, secular coalition. I am not so sure that is true. The thing that made a difference was the right-wing evangelical support.”

    Mr. Prabhudoss acknowledged that evangelical support played a big part but said that Mr. Modi was denied a visa for other reasons as well.

    “Back then, we were working without any opposition. It was incredible, really,” Mr. Prabhudoss said. “The Modi supporters were there, but they sat that one out. And back then, the Indian lobby was not powerful like they are today. You could speak against Modi and there were no political consequences. Today, it is a completely different story.”

    Joseph Grieboski, the founder of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in Virginia, who also was deeply involved in trying to block Mr. Modi’s visit, said that the mood has shifted now.

    “When the U.S. denied Mr. Modi a visa in 2005, it was like the U.S. denying a visa to the governor of Iowa — no offense to Gujarat,” he said. “The U.S. did not see it as a big deal. And back then, it seemed clear to everyone in this town that Modi was involved in the riots. Now the picture is fuzzier, and many are intrigued by Modi.”

    But the American government’s stance on Mr. Modi remains the same. Two days after Mr. Modi was selected on Sept. 13, 2013 as the official prime ministerial candidate to represent the B.J.P., the United States government reiterated its policy on Mr. Modi’s visa.

    “There’s no change in our longstanding visa policy,” said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman. “He is welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant.”

    These days, however, religious freedom is no longer a foreign policy priority in Washington, and the strong evangelical Christian opposition to Mr. Modi has faded.

    While Republicans led the opposition to Mr. Modi’s visa in 2005, there are now Republicans among Mr. Modi’s strongest supporters. When the Tea Party candidate Joe Walsh campaigned in Illinois for Congress, he promised he would push the United States to grant Mr. Modi a visa. (He lost to his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth.)

    In March, three Republicans members of Congress visited Mr. Modi in Gujarat, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. The trip for Ms. McMorris Rodgers and her husband cost $15,000 and was paid for by the co-founder of the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, Shalli Kumar, a supporter of Mr. Modi based in Chicago.

    But the opposition to Mr. Modi continues to be led by Republicans as well, in particular by Mr. Pitts and Mr. Wolf. In November, Mr. Pitts introduced House Resolution 417, which urges the United States government to continue to deny Mr. Modi a visa. Notably, the resolution has 28 co-sponsors, the majority of them Democrats.

    The resolution is not expected to pass, partly because India is not seen as a priority in American foreign policy at the moment. When I conducted research in Washington this summer, many House and Senate aides said they had no idea who Mr. Modi was. Those who did know told me they would make up their minds about Mr. Modi when next year’s elections in India are decided.

    Despite his rising profile in India, there is still little interest in Mr. Modi in Washington. This may be a harder pill for Mr. Modi to swallow: It is not that he is hated or loved in Washington; he is just not mentioned much.

    What has shifted, however, is that the Indian lobby is much more powerful today than it previously was. “There is no Modi lobby,” said a former colleague of mine from Amnesty International, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. “There is an Indian lobby, and they do not want to hear any criticism of India, whether it be on the Delhi rape case or on the Modi issue. They just want to hear good things about India.”

    Others I spoke with, especially Indian Americans in the United States government, said they are anxious to see how the issue plays out.

    One of them, who was appointed to a senior position by President Obama, agreed to meet me at a cafe in Washington but asked to remain anonymous because this official was not authorized to speak to the media.

    “I know it is a cliché,” the official said, “but our talking point on India has always been, ‘India and the U.S. are both democracies that share the same values.’ You cannot really apply that statement to Modi. If Modi becomes prime minister, I guess we will have to come up with something new to say.”
     
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  3. Free Karma

    Free Karma Senior Member Senior Member

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    lol so basically they are what they accuse modi of being,, someone who is deeply influenced by brainwashing religious zealots.

    I like how they allow the king of saudi to visit whenever he wants, but deny Modi of the same, the religious rights org itself, has like 90% right wing christian nuts, and a token muslim and a jew when I last checked. And oh, the U.S is exempt from the watch of this "religious freedom" group.

    if Modi is elected, what will they do? not work with us? Yeah okay! Go on, be more dependent on China, and they also have their best buddy Pakistan who they've backed for all these years, that sparkling gem of a country! :lol:
     
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  4. hello_10

    hello_10 Tihar Jail Banned

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    Modi was always a wrong choice for BJP itself. he is the man who always gives an opportunity to label BJP as a religious party so ever if Congress is full of corrupts, and no one wants this party in India anymore, there is always one reason to favor Congress this way :toilet:

    there are many candidates who may lead BJP, like Mr Advani, and BJP is in a very good position to come with full majority next time if they take out this certain reason, Mr Modi, who always down BJP and India too on the world platform on time to time......

    Bad Achchha Badnam Bura, and this line is quite applicable on Mr Modi. (while im mainly threatened with that certain time when Western Racial group will have got a good reason to mobilize the whole world against India if he gets the top position, as its very likely that BJP would come in power next time.) :facepalm:
     
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  5. sesha_maruthi27

    sesha_maruthi27 Senior Member Senior Member

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    This whole thing of 2002 riots is a propaganda of the congress party to win elections. If Modi really did something bad then how did he come back to power twice after the riots and this time around the Muslim support for Modi in Gujarat has seen a drastic increase.

    Ok, keep the matter of 2002 riots. Go back in history and see, the muslim invaders destroyed over 600 temples and killed over 50,000 Hindus, especially in Somnath were the Mohammed of Ghazni attacked the city of Somnath 16 times repeatedly and destroyed the living wonder of the LORD SHIVA TEMPLE in Somnath which had the SHIVA LINGA FLOATING IN MID AIR, which is an engineering marvel of that time.
     
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  6. Defenceindia2010

    Defenceindia2010 Regular Member

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    We should follow the Russians, they know how to handle Foreign Funded Organisations and their dollar funded traitors. The Americans are getting a thrashing in the middle east,(Ended up supporting Cannibal Sunni terrorists and recognizing the Russian influence) not to mention the second Vietnam which they are experiencing in Afghanistan and who can forget that they now have had to bow down in front of the Iranians on the nuclear issue, this is noting but a ploy to appease the Muslim population in India to shore up back home the thought that they are not hated by the majority of the Muslim's around the globe the above statement by this Christian Rights Activists shows that propaganda and bullshit cannot hold sway for much long after all the Indian courts have ruled that NaMo did not have anything to do with the riots and all this when the govt at the center is Congress,(Italy). We must work towards isolating these FFO's and track down their support structure within the nation freeze their bank accounts and seal their offices then expose their anti-national designs to the wider population + throw their White Western Free Loader Activists Masters from the nation and ban their entery for life.. :dharma:
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
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  7. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    The interesting thing is that China has courted Modi more heavily than any other Indian politician, and Sino-Indian trade has driven a sizeable chunk of Gujarat's economic success. That might be the real reason why the U.S. remains suspicious of Modi.
     
  8. aerokan

    aerokan Regular Member

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    China courted Modi for two reasons:

    1. He is a strong leader and China respects strength.
    2. More importantly, he was in bad books of US.
     
  9. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    The idea that Indians in US support Republicans' agenda is beyond absurd.
     
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  10. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Look up Bobby Jindal.
     
  11. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley are exceptions, I will say.
     
  12. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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  13. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
  14. dhananjay1

    dhananjay1 Regular Member

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    Evangelists might be on Republican or "right wing" side in US, but in India missionaries and their supporters are on the side of Congress and they get support of many anti-Hindu organizations. As evangelist groups of US and India have close links, this is not a surprise.
     
  15. hello_10

    hello_10 Tihar Jail Banned

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    look, too many soldiers die on the border to defend the nation, do they want to become Prime Minister at any cost? so how can Mr Modi justify his claim for this top position, which may result in a serious geo-political/ strategic losses to India on the world platform? why does he want to become Indian PM, at any cost, which is mainly intended to down reputation of "non-religious"/ democratic structure of India, just because of one man? :toilet: :tsk:

    and, we would like this statement of mine to be always remembered by the Indian Members, before keeping Indian Flag on any political forum/ platform, as below. i can't be on the forums for ever, :nono:, and few certain works i have done to date, which must be learnt if you are a true patriot of India :india:

     
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  16. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Absolutely. Unfortunately, India is overcome, more by emotion than reason. All our mistakes are a result of short sightedness and selective blindness. :(.
     
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  17. Waffen SS

    Waffen SS New Member

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    Advani was not perfect choice for BJP. He led BJP from 2004, in 2009 BJP sunk. It is due to Modi for which BJP may win next time. BJP was just about to sink, if Modi did not come. It was BJP party leadership who told Advani not to lead.

    And what exactly are we gaining from our "secular" image? Can you please tell? To keep this Secular image Missionaries are converting Hindus, we do nothing. Muslims kill Hindu we do nothing.

    How exactly are we benefited from our secular liberal image? How? There is a vast difference between character's humbleness and weakness. Can you tell what Geo-political loss we talking about?

    India is overall for Indians, not for any single book or for any secular image, that book was written by Indians, the book is used b Indians, hence Indians have right to abandon that, when that book's doctrine is not working.

    Christianity is brother of European imperialism. Christians in India most time favoured British. Christians ruined Native American civilization, Australia and New Zealand's native civilization.

    Does it mean Modi will give us heaven? No, in our present corrupt system it is impossible. But Modi can give us at least 30-40% while Congress is giving only 15-20%.

    Keeping a good image that we secular and etc other BS is always good, but we need to see that no one can consider our liberalism as their opportunity, which now is happening.

    After all the responsibility to keep India's secularism is not only up to Hindus, but to every Indians, regardless of their religion.

    Secularism does not mean appeasement of a certain minority, secularism means every body is equal, which does not exist here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013
  18. sesha_maruthi27

    sesha_maruthi27 Senior Member Senior Member

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    For the past 1000 years we Hindus who are the natives are being ill treated and killed and forcibly converted to other faiths. And still people are saying Hindus are communal. Today u may silence the Hindus, but in the future the other faiths in this so called pseudo secular India will bow down and accept their wrong doings. THOU SHALL FORGET WHAT SIN HE HAS COMITTED, BUT THY SHALL KNPW EVERYTHING AND WHEN THE DAY COMES THY SHALL SHOW NO MERCY TO THOU, WHO HAS COMITTED UNTHINKABLE SINS.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013
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  19. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Two decades as witness to the Babri Masjid demolition

    Two decades as witness to the Babri Masjid demolition - Rediff.com News

    Anyone may make hue and cry regarding how the the whole hindutva agenda is being vilified and its affect on the people of India, but details keep emerging showing how everything was doctored. Unfortunately, we are too much indoctrinated into our own views that we cannot accept anything otherwise.
     
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  20. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    When was the last time Modi tried to get a US visa?

    Is the story important now, and why was it ever important?

    Typically some bigwig gets his feelings hurt and we never hear the end of it.
     
  21. sesha_maruthi27

    sesha_maruthi27 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Modi not getting a VISA is a political issue raked up by some lunatics in the public...
     

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