WASHINGTON – As if politics in Washington and the United States isn’t divisive enough, Hindus and Muslims from the subcontinent have brought their decades-old partisan feud to America and it is rearing its ugly head over the contoversial an ddivisive BJP leader Narendra Modi, who has been accused of mass communal killings of Muslims in his home state of Gujarat and for this he is infamously known as the “Butcher of Gujarat.”
A tactically leaked letter by 65 Indian lawmakers, many of them Muslims, to US President Barack Obama, pressing him not to revoke the ban on Gujarat chief minister NarendraModi from visiting US because of his alleged role or inaction in the 2002 communal riots is just the latest jab in the ongoing skirmish between the two sides.
In a separate development, 27 US lawmakers have written to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing ”profound concern over the escalating violence and intolerance towards religious minorities in Pakistan, including Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis, and Shia Muslims.”
The two letters are unrelated, but they are emblematic of the growing political activism in America of Hindu and Muslims groups from India. Although written several months back in 2012, the letter to Obama from Indian MPs was selectively leaked to the media only this week by the Indian-American Muslim Council, an advocacy group of Indian Muslims in America. The leak, on the eve of BJP chief Rajnath Singh’s visit to the US capital, is ostensibly aimed at scuppering moves by the BJP and Hindu groups to seek a revocation of the ban on Modi, who is increasingly seen the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate
BJP sympathizers and activists too have been lobbying US lawmakers, resulting in at least three American lawmakers going against the administration’s current policy and making a case for entertaining Modi in the US. The US business community itself has been drawn to Modi and his Vibrant Gujarat for some months now and has been quietly pressing the administration to re-examine the issue. But leftists, human rights groups, civil liberties activists, and now Indian-American Muslims have joined forces to stall any change.
The fact that Indian MPs have brought their domestic political feud to President Obama’s desk has surprised many commentators. ”It is almost unthinkable that Indian lawmakers would appeal to the United States to take a stand on an internal matter. Most Indian politicians, many of whom still nurse a Cold War-era suspicion of Washington, would bristle at the very thought of it,” the Washington Post observed in a report on the development.
But Indian-American Muslim activists who released the letter defended their action arguing that ”human rights are universal” and they were well within their rights to lobby against Modi in the US because the BJP was trying to facilitate his visit to America. ”India took a moral stand in ‘internal affairs’ of other countries, such as against apartheid in South Africa, so why cannot President Obama be be involved? After all Rajnath Singh brought the issue to the US, coming with a begging bowl for visa and a laundry bag with Modi’s dirty linen,” Shaikh Ubaid, of the Indian Minorities Advocacy Network said.
Asked about some MPs like CPM Sitaram Yechuri denying they had signed the letter to Obama, Ubaid said they had expected some MPs not to be able to withstand the heat from BJP attacks, but he insisted the signatures were genuine and other MPs were witness to the act. However, Shantaram Naik, Congress MP from Goa, also denied that he had signed the letter and said he was mystified how his name got attached to the letter. “My views on Narendra Modi are well known and I have criticized him many times. But I did not sign any letter to President Obama,” he told TNN. The letters also showed at least one MP’s name (AA Jinnah) on both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha list.
At least 12 of the 25 Lok Sabha MPs who are said to have signed the letter are Muslim MPs , and in the case of the Rajya Sabha at least 10 out of 40 whose signatures were on the letter are Muslim lawmakers.