US denies going soft on Narendra Modi

Washington, Feb 28: Denying it had gone soft on Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi over his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots, the US says it continues to express concerns about communal violence across India

Unlike previous years, India section of the State Department’s Congressionally mandated “2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” released Thursday makes no reference to the Gujarat chief minister by name.

But spokesperson Jen Psaki insisted that it did not indicate any softening of US stand saying, “We’re very clear about our concerns about several episodes of communal violence across India.

“I don’t have any new policy or change in policy or new update to report to you,” or anything “to convey to you on the status of a visa” for Modi, she said.

Modi was denied a diplomatic US visa and his business/ tourist was revoked by the State Department in 2005 over his alleged role in the 2002 riots. Modi has not applied for a US visa since then.

Repeating the standard US formulation, Psaki said: “We encourage individuals to apply, and those proceedings or processes are private by standard. It’s standard that they’re private.”

“What I’m conveying to you is that we continue to express concerns about communal violence as it exists in India,” she said.

Psaki also “cautioned against linking” US ambassador to India Nancy Powell’s recent meeting with Modi saying, “Obviously, we’re meeting with a broad range of officials” ahead of India’s May general elections.

“There’s obviously a political season happening, but we’ll meet with a range of officials on the ground, and it’s an indication of nothing more than that,” she said.

The Human Rights report released by Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday said “The most significant human rights problems” in India “were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government, leading to denial of justice; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence.”

“Other human rights problems included disappearances, poor prison conditions that were frequently life threatening, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention,” it said

“Authorities continued to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights,” the report said. “The law in some states restricts religious conversion, and there were reports of arrests but no reports of convictions under those laws.”

“Some limits on the freedom of movement continued. Corruption was widespread,” it said. “Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honour killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious problems.”

On Gujarat, the report said: “The government made some progress in cases that seek to hold police and security officials accountable for killings committed during the Gujarat riots in 2002.”

But “Civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to protect the population or arrest many of those responsible for communal violence in 2002 that resulted in the killings of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim, although there was progress in several court cases.” It said.

The Gujarat government appointed the Nanavati-Mehta Commission to investigate the 2002 violence, the report noted. In December the Gujarat government granted an extension for the 21st time, extending the commission to June 30, 2014.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

IANS