Indian Muslim Councl-USA Participates in Pluralism Rally
Demands Supporters of Modi to stop fueling Anti-American Hatred
New York, NY; March 21st, 2005: Braving snow and rain, over 300 activists and representatives of 50 organizations held a press conference and rally outside Madison Square Gardens, New York to endorse the US State Department’s revocation of Narendra Modi’s Visa and condemn his anti-American incitements. Having been barred from entering the United States, Modi was expected to deliver a speech from Gujarat via a satellite link to his supporters at the Madison Square Gardens.
The rally and press conference were extensively covered by Indian and American media.
Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat in India, was denied a US diplomatic visa by the US State Department for his involvement in flagrant human rights abuses against minorities in India. His existing tourist/business visa was also revoked. Over 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, were massacred, hundreds of women and young girls were raped and an estimated 150,000 were ethnically cleansed from Gujarat in 2002 while Modi was the Chief Minister. Modi is also accused by human rights groups of persistent violence and harassment of Christians and other marginalized communities in Gujarat. Modi’s administration has imposed a ban on religious conversions and missionary activities.
Addressing the rally, several speakers countered Modi’s claim about the denial of his visa being an insult to India. Dr. Shaik Ubaid, President of Indian Muslim Council-USA said "It was Modi and his human rights abuses, not the revocation of his visa, which brought shame to India. If supporters of militant Hindutva had the interests of India close to their heart, they would not have invited a fanatic like Modi to the United States."
Dr. Ubaid denounced Modi’s incitements and hate speeches against the United States and the subsequent destruction of American business in Gujarat by Modi supporters. He demanded that the Association of Indian Americans in North America (AIANA) not add further fuel to this anti-Americanism by supporting Modi and demanding the reinstatement of his Visa. Supporters of Modi had destroyed several American businesses in Gujarat after Modi addressed a rally in India lambasting United States.
Smita Narula, a former Asia specialist at Human Rights Watch, who authored the damning HRW report "We Have No Orders To Save You" spoke at length about the complicity of Modi’s administration in the massacres of 2002 and the subsequent policies of religious persecution adopted by his administration.
Several speakers called upon the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh to focus on delivering justice to the victims of the Gujarat pogroms rather than campaigning for the instatement of visa for a mass murderer who presided over the violence and feels no remorse for his actions.
Addressing the demonstration, Anu Gurnani of Manavi (an organization for South Asian women) said "We condemn the state-sponsored violence and systematic targeting of women and children that took place under Modi’s leadership. We demand that the perpetrators of sexual violence be brought to justice and that victims receive adequate assistance to rebuild their lives."
Biju Matthew, member of the Coalition Agianst genocide (CAG) and coordinator for the rally, spoke about the major victories of CAG in its campaign against Modi. Among the accomplishments of the coalition, he cited the withdrawal of MSNBC Hardball host, Chris Matthews’ from the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)’s convention where Modi was invited to speak. American Express, one of the cosponsors of the AAHOA convention also withdrew its sponsorship.
Congressman Kendric Meek (D-FL 17th), who was to host a reception for Modi at the AAHOA convention also withdrew upon pressure from CAG. In addition, CAG also worked with 21 congressmen who wrote to the US State Department to not allow Modi to enter United States. Congressmen John Conyers (D-MI 14th) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA 16th) introduced a resolution in the House condemning Modi’s human rights record. The US State Department finally rejected Modi’s visa upon a sustained campaign orchestrated by Coaliton Against Genocide.
Wilson Jose of the Indian Christian Forum (ICF) spoke about the perils of the monochromatic "saffron" vision that Hindu nationalists have for India and emphasized on the need for the celebration of plurality and diversity in the Indian polity.
Voices For Freedom Director, Ranjit Singh, a prominent Sikh leader, declared "This is the right thing to do. The US State Department has expressed and has defended the rights of the minorities. All such oppressors need to be tried and punished. The original International Religious Freedom Bill only allowed consideration of acts committed in the previous 24 months, it was amended by the Intelligence Reform legislation passed in December 2004 to include violations that occurred at any time"
Some of the other speakers who addressed the gathering were Dr. Ashwini Rao (International South Asia Forum), Dr. Usha Zacharias (Campaign to Stop Funding Hate), Ranjit Singh (President of Tri State CAG), Abraham Mammen (ICF).
The activists brought to the rally a large number of eye catching posters. Some of these stated
Love India? Save India?
Stop funding Hate, Stop funding Hindutva
Modi, forget about US visa, you can easily get a visa to the Hague
Silence is violence
Speak up against Hindutva
Rally for justice, Rally for peace
Rescue Gandhi’s Gujarat from communal atrocities
Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians,
Brothers and Sisters, we are all Indians!
United, lets all work for a Harmonious, Peaceful and Prosperous India !
The rally and press conference were organized by members of two umbrella groups, the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) and its New York based associate, the Tri-State CAG. These umbrella groups represent over 50 organizations and have come together to promote pluralism and tolerance and voice their opinion against sectarian politics in India. Members of CAG and Tri-State CAG include organizations representing a diversity of faiths, ethnicities and ideologies. They includes women’s groups, human rights organizations, representatives of Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities as well as organizations of secular persuasion.
M. A. Khan
Director of Outreach, IMC-USA