Human rights groups criticize chief minister of an Indian state.
The Asian-American Hotel Owners Association on Wednesday refused to
withdraw its invitation to controversial Indian statesman Narendra Modi to
speak at a Fort Lauderdale hospitality conference next month.
In a brewing debate imported from a far-flung Indian state and imbued with
ethnic tensions, the association is coming under increasing pressure to
cancel Modi's visit as guest speaker at the group's annual convention,
running from March 24- 26. Human rights monitors charge that Modi, chief
minister of the western Gujarat state, turned a blind eye in 2002 as Hindu
nationalists rampaged against Muslims and that his government later
obstructed investigations into the atrocity.
Almost all the 9,700 members of the Asian-American Hotel Owners Association
also hail from Gujarat.
Speaking by phone from the association's Atlanta headquarters, President
Fred Schwartz said the group was standing by its decision to bring Modi to
"We invited him from a business perspective, to discuss investing in
Gujarat ... regarding infrastructure and the socio-economic situation,"
Asked about allegations that the association was being influenced by an
exclusivist agenda of Hindu operatives based in Gujarat, he said, "We
recognize the concerns over the tragic events that took place in Gujarat in
2002," but, "We're a business group. We're not a political group."
Opposition to Modi's visit centers on his role in a massacre that was
sparked in late February 2002, when attackers set fire to two train cars
carrying Hindu activists in the town of Godhra. Fifty-eight people died in
the blaze, many of them women and children.
In the days that followed, Hindu nationalists rampaged through the state
capital and then into outlying villages. Seeking revenge, they left a trail
of corpses, burned businesses and razed mosques. Washington-based Human
Rights Watch put the death count near 2,000, mostly Muslims, and reported
that Muslim girls and women were raped and mutilated in Gujarat before
Human rights monitors also have accused the state government of failing to
prevent the violence, and even encouraging it. In the aftermath, Modi was
reported to have claimed that Gujarat's largely Hindu population had "shown
remarkable restraint under grave provocation."
Among those opposing Modi's visit is the Washington-based Council on
American-Islamic Relations, which wrote a letter Wednesday to Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice asking the White House to deny U.S. entry to Modi…
ASK STATE DEPT. TO BLOCK ENTRY OF GUJARAT MASSACRE FIGURE
U.S. MUSLIMS SEEK TO BLOCK ENTRY OF GUJARAT MASSACRE FIGURE