29 March 2005

Modi's US Visa Denied

Who Benefits? Why Now?
The US government has become the latest to join the list of forces working overtime to derail the movement for justice in Gujarat. The decision by the US to revoke Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi's visitor/business visa and reject his diplomatic visa application has given a fresh opportunity to some of the political parties in India to play their divisive card afresh. .

The US State Department has joined the select "contrite" group that includes the former President of India, some judges of the Supreme Court and other public figures who silently watched the mayhem that transpired three years ago this month in the streets of Gujarat under Mr. Modi's watch, without exercising the power each had to weigh down on the killing spree at the time - but have belatedly "seen the truth". The women and men of conscience waging their uncompromising struggle for justice must ponder over the question of who benefits from the US visa decision. And why now?

The movement of the Indian people demanding rehabilitation of the survivors, punishment of the guilty and accountability of the authorities has endured against all odds and made a definite contribution to the political consciousness both inside and outside India. Amongst Indians abroad, the current opposition to Mr. Modi's visit is but the latest expression of the long running struggle against communal violence and state terrorism that has confronted Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajapayee, Lal Kishan Advani etc. during their foreign visits in the past. Experience tells that only those forces who are seeking political accommodation with the status quo by narrowing the scope of the movement against communal violence and state repression may find the US visa action helpful to them.

Parties like the BJP, Shiv Sena etc. or certain anti-BJP UPA alliance partners must be elated as it provides them with a welcome opening to take some initiatives. But for the people, who have not succumbed to the self-serving judicial activism of the courts or the antics of the anti-BJP forces, this imbroglio is just one more way to differentiate the wheat from the chaff. In fact, various people's movements such as the movement against privatization and liberalization, against WTO etc. have begun to join forces with the movement for justice for the Gujarat massacre victims and Delhi riot victims, the movement of the gas victims of Bhopal, the anti-war movement, environmental movements and the show solidarity for each other's cause in recent times - and they must be amused by the one-upmanship of the US, the UPA government and the BJP.

That the decision to deny a visa to Mr. Modi was taken at the highest levels of American state can only mean that this action was dictated not by the stated reasons of "opposition to religious discrimination" under Mr. Modi's watch but to serve the US geopolitical interest at this time. The broader US strategy is to engage India within the context of conquering Asia. In the short run it means: isolate Iran and North Korea, stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq militarily and contest China's claims to be the pre-eminent Asian power. For the US, China being a "strategic competitor" of the US and the LoC in Kashmir being the "most dangerous place on earth" go hand in hand with the hunt for Islamic terrorists in the post 9/11 phase and the Islamic charm offensive in the post-tsunami phase.

The US strategy requires the Indian government to stay on the side of the US, accompanied by episodic ups and downs in the engagement. The US kept mum in 2002 when Gujarat burnt under the watch of the BJP-led right-of-the-center government; it has fabricated the current visa embarrassment to neutralize political forces within the Congress-led left-of-the-center government. The US Secretary of State, Ms. Rice, must be smiling at how easily the visa decision was able to drown out any opposition to her war-mongering Asia trip or proposals to Indian government for taking up a role on the side of the US in Asia.

The evidence points towards the US decision to revoke Mr. Modi's visa being dictated first and foremost by US self interest. It reinforces the post-tsunami “Islamic charm offensive”. In the context of India, it has translated to helping out the UPA government to ward off challenges from within for being pro-American. Within south Asia, it has provided a respite from criticism of the US policy in Iraq, Nepal, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka etc. The people's movements have been served with a diversion, and the right-of-the-centre- forces have been provided with a cause to reorganize. What more can the people expect from the US which is bent on imposing its dictate on the entire world?Now is the time to build lasting links amongst the people's movements to defend and advance their common interests.

That the official organs of power in India are incapable or unwilling to mete out punishment to those committing crimes against the people or to block the path to future state organized violence is clear as clear can be. Now is the time to create organizations that will ensure justice is meted out for all the past crimes and no state organized violence succeeds in future. The US visa action is, in the final analysis, directed against this people's agenda being taken up and realized. Rejection of the US action as being hostile to the interests of the people of India is integral part of taking up the people's agenda.


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