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Rediff.com  » News » It's an issue of swabhimaan: Modi

It's an issue of swabhimaan: Modi

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March 19, 2005 01:20 IST

The United States government revoked Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's business and tourist visa on Friday, March 18.

The US State Department also denied the Bharatiya Janata Party leader a diplomatic visa to visit the US.

Modi was scheduled to travel to the US on Saturday night to attend the Asian American Hotel Owners Association conference in Florida.

The reason given by the US embassy was that Modi's government violated the right of religious freedom in Gujarat.

The move sparked strong reactions in India and the US. While progressives and Islamic activists in America hailed the move as a victory for pluralism, the Bharatiya Janata Party said that denying a democratically elected leader a visa was an insult to the Indian Constitution.

'Decision taken at the highest levels'

Here is what Narendra Modi had to say on the controversy:

The US embassy in New Delhi told my officials in New Delhi, who were handling my visa papers on my behalf, that the State Department has decided against giving me a diplomatic visa as recommended by the Ministry of External Affairs in a letter dated February 28, 2005.

I had been invited by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association to preside over a conference. I also had an invitation from an American university.

'A great victory for pluralism' | Cong supports Modi on visa

The US also cancelled the ten-year visa that had been granted to me in 1998, which was still valid.

Between 1990 and 2002, I visited America several times, each time at the invitation of the US government. So when the news of the denial of my visa was communicated to me around 11am on Friday I was shocked and surprised.

I was shocked because I hold a Constitutional post and there has been no precedent of a Constitutional head being treated in this manner, and surprised because the action came from a government that claims to be a democracy and refuses to respect an elected chief minister.

Did this letter stop Modi?

The reason advanced was not only intriguing but beyond one's comprehension. The American embassy said they have denied me a visa for my religious intolerance.

I have been told what more could we have expected from the US administration which humiliated George Fernandes when he visited the country in his capacity as India's defence minister.

No, I did not expect this kind of treatment.

Denial of Modi visa: Right or wrong?

In 1984, after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, thousands of Sikhs were killed in Delhi and elsewhere. But the same USA accorded her son Rajiv Gandhi a red carpet welcome six months after he took over as prime minister.

Pakistan has been sending terrorists from across the border and is responsible for forcing Kashmir Pandits to flee their homes, but the same United States accords a warm welcome to Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf.

But Narendra Modi is denied a visa on grounds of religious intolerance.

I appreciate the stand taken by the Government of India and the Ministry of External Affairs in this matter and the kind of support they have shown me. I am indebted to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for his bold decision.

This is not just a question of the denial of a visa to Narendra Modi. This is an issue of the right of all Indians and our swabhimaan.

Let us wait and see what response the US administration has to the protest lodged by the Indian government.

If they do not change their stand then India should be prepared to raise its pitch and make its voice heard in the international community.

How would the American government feel if the Indian government denies a visa to the US army chief because of what the US army has done in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Narendra Modi spoke to rediff.com Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh

Narendra Modi
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