SAN JOSE, CA: July 25, 2015 — “Mr. Narendra Modi was deemed the Butcher of Gujarat after his state-sponsored genocide… killed thousands of Muslims,” warned activist Jada Bernard at a June conference in Stockton, California, where he compared the Indian Prime Minister to violent white supremacists in the United States.
Modi recently announced plans to visit CA in September. His trip will be the first of an Indian premier to the Golden State since 1949, and he intends to hold a reception at the SAP Center in San Jose on September 27. Although thousands are expected to attend, his presence is certain to spark controversy.
Bhajan Singh, a resident of Northern California who serves as Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI), says he knows a broad spectrum of Indian diaspora members who are disturbed by Modi’s upcoming visit. “Having the Butcher of Gujarat in the USA is unsettling to thousands of NRIs who fled India to take refuge in this country specifically to escape the sorts of atrocities Modi perpetrates,” remarks Singh. “Because his political career is distinguished by genocide, pogroms, and draconian legislation targeting Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and others, Indian minorities feel threatened by his presence and so we anticipate his arrival on our shores will be marked by protests.”
First elected to executive office in 2001 as Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Modi is accused of orchestrating a 2002 genocide against Gujarati Muslims. Recounting the evidence, Singh pointed out that reports by international human rights groups, the U.S. State Department, and Gujarati politicians who participated in the attacks all implicate Modi directly as a sponsor of the violence. Summarizing the slaughter, a 2013 State Department report said:
“In response to a train fire reportedly set by Muslims, Hindu mobs killed 1,200-2,500 Muslims, forced 100,000 people to flee, and destroyed homes. Christians were also killed and injured, and many churches were destroyed. India’s National Human Rights Commission found evidence of premeditated killing by members of Hindu nationalist groups, complicity by state government officials, and police inaction.”
As a result of the Gujarat violence, Bernard noted that Modi was “banned from the United States for ten years, being the only world leader ever to be denied access into the United States.” Bernard, who lives in Oakland, CA, is an advocate for unifying the civil rights movements of African-Americans and Indian minorities. “Electing Narendra Modi,” he said, “to me, seemed so familiar because I grew up in Louisiana where David Duke, a Grand Master Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, was an elected official and a legislator, and he was allowed to make policy concerning how my ancestors were treated.”
In 2005, the State Department denied Modi a visa under Section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the “Immigration and Nationality Act,” which makes any foreign government official responsible for having “directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religions freedom” ineligible to enter the United States. Modi’s blacklisting for entry marks the first time a foreign elected official has been denied entry to the country under provisions granted by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Last year, California Congressman Ami Bera faced protests during his re-election based partly on his personal links to Modi. When Mohan Ram Paul of Sacramento, CA joined demonstrators on the sidewalk outside the only Indian-American representative’s district office, he noted: “All Modi’s anti-minority policies are directed at the poorest of the poor, the Dalits, the low-castes, the Untouchables. Ami Bera advances discrimination by supporting Modi. Bera’s friendship with Modi puts the most vulnerable at risk.”
Modi’s visit comes on the heels of a controversial North American tour by several Punjabi State Ministers. They faced criticism on July 22 from Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who said: “I think there is something inappropriate with foreign politicians coming in and engaging openly in foreign politics on Canadian soil.” Modi himself was embroiled in scandal in the U.S. in 2013 when Chicagoan business tycoon Shalli Kumar was ordered by senior House representatives to “cease and desist” distributing materials fraudulently suggesting they supported Modi’s prime ministerial campaign.
Congressman Ami Bera protested for links to PM Modi in 2014.