By Arun Kumar
Washington: Describing Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as the “poster child for India’s failure to punish the violent”, two US officials have wondered which India would prevail in 2014 elections.
There are “two faces of India” suggested Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent commission created by an act of US Congress, and Mary Ann Glendon a USCIRF Commissioner in an OpEd published in the CNN website.
The annual commemoration of end-of-year holy days from Diwali to the Islamic New Year to Christians “are a testament to India’s remarkable religious diversity, they wrote. “Yet on the ground, in a number of key areas across the country, there exists a second, markedly less benign India.”
“Indeed, the governments and societies of several Indian states display unmistakable hostility to freedom of conscience and religion, especially for religious minorities,” Swett and Glendon wrote noting “Over the past decade, hostility has often devolved into violence.”
“At least two factors have fuelled the bloodshed – anti-conversion laws and a failure to bring perpetrators to justice,” the officials wrote.
“But the poster child for India’s failure to punish the violent remains Narendra Modi, who is Gujarat’s chief minister – a post he held during the 2002 riots,” they wrote noting in 2005 the US State Department had revoked Modi’s visa at USCIRF’s recommendation.
The officials acknowledged that in April 2012, the Indian Supreme court’s Special Investigative Team had failed to prove guilt against Modi and others in a case involving the deaths of nearly 70 people.
“But he remains implicated in other Gujarat-associated cases that have yet to be investigated or adjudicated. That is why, more recently, 65 members of India’s parliament wrote to President Barack Obama, requesting that he not issue Modi a visa,” they said.
“Sadly, despite all this, Gujarat’s most controversial resident is the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in India’s 2014 prime ministerial election,” the two officials wrote.
Noting ” It was another son of Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi, who once offered a broad, tolerant vision for the country and its multi-religious society,” they wondered, “So, as 2014 draws nigh, whose vision will be embraced?”
“Which India will prevail – that of religious freedom or religious intolerance? Time will tell,” the officials wrote.