A Visa for the Talented Mr. Modi?

Lifting the US visa ban might make a man with a history of anti-Muslim persecution the next Prime Minister of India

The big debate right now in America is whether to hand more visas to Indian techies who want to study or live in the United States. But the issue that dominated the news cycle in India last week concerned the visa of one man: Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, who wants to do neither.

Sixty-five members of the Indian Parliament—some of whom have since backtracked —released a letter they wrote to President Barack Obama urging him to maintain America’s eight-year-old visa ban on Modi. The U.S., along with England and other Western countries, imposed the ban after human-rights groups implicated Modi in the 2002 massacre of Muslims in his state.

That year, Hindu mobs—some led by figures from Modi’s own party, one of whom was eventually convicted—went on a revenge spree against Muslims for burning a train with Hindu pilgrims. They razed Muslim homes, raped Muslim women, and killed Muslim men.

The Indian Supreme Court exonerated Modi a decade later, but by then many witnesses had been tampered with or died or killed.

However, when asked by Reuters a few weeks ago if he felt any remorse over the grisly events that unfolded on his watch, his response was: If your driver runs over a “kutte ka baccha”—a crude term for a puppy—you would obviously feel regret; it was a statement that simultaneously dodged responsibility and dehumanized Muslims.

The latest scandal dogging Modi involves the killing of a young Muslim woman with alleged links to Pakistani terrorists in a staged encounter with the Gujarati police. Some of the accused cops have alleged that Modi knew and gave the encounter his blessing.

But none of this has fazed Modi’s solid fan base in the majority Hindu population that has made him the opposition BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) standard-bearer in next year’s elections for prime minister.

Part of Modi’s attraction is that, in sharp contrast to the incompetence, corruption, and intellectual bankruptcy of the ruling Congress Party, he is a man of vision (he advocates a Hong Kong-style free market and deregulation as the tonic for India's flailing economy) —and an able administrator who has done wonders for Gujarat's economy. This is an image he feeds constantly. A month ago, a story floated by someone in his party about how he orchestrated the rescue of 15,000 people stranded in a flood zone, even as the Indian army struggled, caused a sensation among his followers. When media investigations proved that Modi’s Rambo-like rescue could not possibly be true, they blamed not him but his political opponents for planting the story to embarrass him.

But the main reason Modi attracts worshipful Hindu throngs is his open contempt for Congress’ ideology of secularism that, in his view, has balkanized the country by extending special favors to Muslims and other minorities to win their votes. That is not a baseless accusation. But what is Modi’s solution? Deepening that balkanization. He proudly calls himself not just a nationalist but a Hindu nationalist. His insult-of-choice for Congress is that it wears a “burqa of secularism”—a thinly veiled reminder to Hindus that Modi represents their—not Muslim—interests.

But the question is: why does Modi covet an American visa, given that unabashed love for the motherland is a central plank of his politics? It is not because Modi is desperate to visit Disneyland. It is because the Hindu nationalist project involves not just changing the perception of Hinduism as a weak religion at home but abroad as well. India’s economic success has given Hindus—especially the urban nouveau riche—a resurgent pride in their religion after enduring decades of digs about India’s “Hindu rate of growth.” They want Hinduism to be seen as the solution to the centuries of mess created by Muslim and British “foreign” rule. They want the world to regard India’s success as synonymous with Hinduism.

Modi, a fire-brand Hindu, is perfect for the job—except that he can’t do it so long as he remains a pariah on the international stage. Obtaining a U.S. visa is an important step in rehabilitating himself in the West.

All of this puts the United States in a difficult predicament. Should Modi become the elected prime minister of India next year, it would be awkward for the head of the world’s most populous democracy—and an American ally—not to be able to travel to America. At that point, an ongoing ban will become a slap in the face not just of Modi and his backers, but of India.

However, removing the ban right now will whitewash his sins and make him more electable. A U.S. visa is not a travel permit; it is an international seal of approval, which is why his backers have been fiercely petitioning the State Department to grant it. The letter that Indian M.P.s wrote was an effort to exert counter-pressure and neutralize that campaign.

There are no good options but, all things considered, America should err on the side of not enhancing Modi’s appeal right now—hoping that the core decency of the Indian people keeps this polarizing, saffron-robed figure (who won’t wear green because it is the color of Islam) out of New Delhi next year.

This column originally appeared in The Daily Beast.

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  • Anders||

    I totally thought this was an article about Deepak Chopra.

  • amanda012||

    before I saw the paycheck that said $5576, I accept that my neighbour was like they say really erning money in their spare time at their laptop.. there friend brother started doing this less than eighteen months and resantly cleared the morgage on their villa and bourt themselves a Bugatti Veyron. we looked here... WWW.CNN13.COM

  • Anders||

    The English created the paradise of Pakistan for the Indian muslims to live in.

    If they would all migrate there, these little tribal conflicts would be a thing of the past.

  • anon||

    The English created the paradise of Pakistan

    I lol'd.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    If he is a "Hindu nationalist" as he says, then he should have no objection to remaining within the nation of Hindus.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Sometimes you gotta visit the land of the infidels so you can get information of what you're denouncing.

    See also Sayyid Qutb, the Islamist who spent time in the USA.

    "On his return to Egypt, Qutb published an article entitled "The America that I Have Seen." He was critical of many things he had observed in the United States: its materialism, individual freedoms, economic system, racism, brutal boxing matches, "poor" haircuts,[4] superficiality in conversations and friendships,[23] restrictions on divorce, enthusiasm for sports, lack of artistic feeling,[23] "animal-like" mixing of the sexes (which "went on even in churches"),[24] and strong support for the new Israeli state.[25] Hisham Sabrin, noted that:

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "As a brown person in Greeley, Colorado in the late 40s, studying English he came across much prejudice. He also felt quite appalled by what he perceived as loose sexual openness of American men and women (a far cry by any measure, from Musha, Asyut where he grew up). But, in fact this American experience was not truly a crisis for Qutb, but rather a moment of choice and fine-tuning of his already Islamic identity. He himself tells us on his boat trip over “Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, like those who are satisfied with idle talk and sleep. Or should I distinguish myself with values and spirit. Is there other than Islam that I should be steadfast to in its character and hold on to its instructions, in this life amidst deviant chaos, and the endless means of satisfying animalistic desires, pleasures, and awful sins? I wanted to be the latter man.”.

    "Qutb noted with disapproval the sexuality of American women:

    "the American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs—and she shows all this and does not hide it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "He also commented on the American taste in arts:

    "The American is primitive in his artistic taste, both in what he enjoys as art and in his own artistic works. “Jazz” music is his music of choice. This is that music that the Negroes invented to satisfy their primitive inclinations, as well as their desire to be noisy on the one hand and to excite bestial tendencies on the other. The American’s intoxication in “jazz” music does not reach its full completion until the music is accompanied by singing that is just as coarse and obnoxious as the music itself. Meanwhile, the noise of the instruments and the voices mounts, and it rings in the ears to an unbearable degree… The agitation of the multitude increases, and the voices of approval mount, and their palms ring out in vehement, continuous applause that all but deafens the ears."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....to_America

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    USA! USA! USA! USA!

  • Virginian||

    Seriously. One of the best things about being American is being hated. I find it invigorating.

    My favorite is how sophisticated Euros hate the US for being super Christian and uptight and fuddy duddy, while the Muslim wackjobs hate us for the porn industry and the booze and the scandalous pop culture.

  • Robert||

    Remember the Feiffer cartoon, "It's the man in the middle who gets hurt the most."?

  • Anders||

    Hats off to Van Halen for quoting Qutb.

    I know he was horrified by America, much as one can be horrified by watching so many things in America. Dancing with the Stars for Instance reminds one of the true depravity of the American mind and the bankruptcy of its culture.

    But forming a fucking terrorist group as a reaction seems a little bit much. He needed a thicker skin.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I guess their dislike of dogs extends to horses too.

    http://www.10tv.com/content/st.....ction.html

  • johnl||

    Why should the USA error on the side of supporting the ethnic victimhood industry in India? Just give him a visa. It's a good option.

  • MappRapp||

    Wow man, I ever thought about it like ethat.

    www.Anon-Top.tk

  • Robert||

    I agree with the author's conclusion. Wait & see if he becomes PM, and then if he does, a visa. AFAICT, that's the perfect straddle.

  • Sevo||

    My question is WIH the US gov't should be involved in disputes concerning which mythical being is preferred.
    Using the power to grant a visa to bias a religious argument is the wrong use of that power. Assholes get visas everyday; give him his visa and let the idiots kill each other over their religions; I don't care.

  • ||

    Guess we finally found an immigrant Shikha doesn't like. Of course, using her own logic, there's no reason to keep him out since he poses no threat to the United States and has no criminal record. But why let a little intellectual consistency get in the way of a good hate boner.

    Maybe if he got really good at picking lettuce he could win her over...

  • Acosmist||

    Indian techies? That's what they're calling Mexican stoop labor now? Odd name.

  • Rhywun||

    It is because the Hindu nationalist project involves not just changing the perception of Hinduism as a weak religion at home but abroad as well.

    I'm surrounded by dozens of these guys at work (I'm in IT). They seem more interested in making money than spouting off about the Hindu nationalist project.

  • zohar||

    What a shame! This article is totally biased and half-baked facts. Never does the author mentions that Modi is a widely popular politician that is democratically getting selected as chief minister of the state from last 13 years.
    Never in the article it is mentioned that all opinion polls shows that the youth of india prefers Modi as prime minister as most favorable.
    US visa could not stop modi from becoming cheif minister of gujarat, neither it could stop him in become the cheif of election management of BJP, neigther it will stop him from becoming the prime minister.

  • 4thaugust1932||

    Ambedkar demanded Independent Nation, not Reservations to Untouchables in 4th August 1932 Round Table Conference (Communal Award).
    http://tl.gd/n_1rlkhjr

  • M Patel||

    This propaganda piece should come with disclaimer:
    "All characters appearing in this work are mauled beyond recognition. Any resemblance to facts is unintentional. Any shred of reason is purely coincidental, and should not be construed as rational."

    Few example of Sikha's suppression, and falsehood in this & prior article:
    1) Sikha trots out "modi won't wear green" as a proof that Modi is polarizing. Firstly, Modi won't wear green is a lie. The fact is Modi was offered an Islamic Skull Cap which he refused to wear and requested a Shawl. Islamic cap is nearly identical to Jewish Cap.US & Europe has substantial Jewish & Islamic population. I haven't seen Obama in a Skull cap. Does that mean he is anti-semitic and anti-muslim?

    2)Sikha used word "allegedly" for Godhra train massacre which was proven in Court, and used word "allow" for allegations which were found false in Court.

    3) Absent Facts:
    a) In response to riots, Narendra Modi's police detained 35,552 civilians (27901 Hindus and 7651 Muslims), fired 10,000 rounds of bullets killing 170 civilians and injuring many more. Sikha is indirectly asking for more police brutality. Is this how Reason foundation promotes individual liberty and the rule of law?
    b) Article deceitfully created the impression that 0 Hindus were killed during riots; However, Nothing is further from truth. Here are the factual numbers: 790 Muslims and 312 Hindus were killed. 61,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus fled from their homes.

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