Making A Difference

'I Stand By My Assessment'

Those who are vigorous in their denunciation of the human rights of the Christian and Muslim minorities in India remain muted on the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq and the serious violations of the human rights of the Iraqi Muslims by the Ame

'I Stand By My Assessment'

Apropos the comments on my article, Hidden Persuaders, I wish to state thefollowing:

Aziz Hanifa, the well-infomed Washington DC based correspondent of IndiaAbroad, had contributed a report to his weekly dated  March 18, 2005,on the controversy over Narendra Modi's then planned visit to the US. Thereport, which was carried by the weekly under the title  "US UnlikelyTo Stop Modi", stated inter alia as follows: 

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is unlikely to bar Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from entering the country, senior State Department officials said.  Rice was bombarded with e-mails, letters and messages from secular, Christian and Islamic groups protesting against Modi's visit at the invitation of the Asian American Hotel Owners' Association. State Department officials told "India Abroad" she was aware of  the protests and concerns raised over Modi's visit , but no decision has been made on denying him entry to the United States. The officials said it was highly improbable that Modi, who reportedly  holds a ten-year multiple entry visa to the US, will be stopped at the port of  entry and turned back. The officials explained that there is a provision of  law to refuse visas  to people, who have denied religious freedom  to people and it is possible  it could apply here, but we are not sure. But that is one thing we may be looking at."

Shortly thereafter, the announcement about the rejection of  NarendraModi's application for a diplomatic visa and the cancellation of the ordinaryvisa already issued to him before the Gujarat riots was made. In response to myenquiries as to what went wrong made with my Indian as well as American friends,I  ascertained that there were serious reservations in the US StateDepartment over the political wisdom of applying a  1998 law relating tothe denial of visa to those accused of violating religious freedom to NarendraModi in view of the role played by the BJP in strengthening  India'srelations with the US.. 

Ultimately, the office of Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, at the instance ofsome Christian organisations, intervened and persuaded the State Department toapply the  law to Narendra Modi and deny him a visa. I was told by crediblecontacts that one John Prabhudoss  and his organisations were among those,who had successfully sought the intervention of  Cheney's office.

Till I received this information, I had not heard of either John Prabhudoss orhis organisations. On scrutinising the reports sent by the Washington-basedIndian journalists on the visa denial, I came across the following reference ina despatch  of March 23, 2005, sent by the Outlook correspondent inWashington DC, which was carried in the Outlookonline edition:.

"Tactically, enlisting Congressman Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, an evangelist with strong feelings about the persecution of Christians, may just have tipped the scales in their favour. It was easy to activate Pitts since he had first hand knowledge of Gujarat. He had been there on a private visit last year and never stopped talking about the persecution of Christians and Muslims. P.D. John who leads the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) was walking the halls of the US Congress, reminding young staffers of Gujarat 2002 and the arson in the Dangs. "

On further enquiries, I came to know that  P.D. John referred to in the Outlookreport was identical with John Prabhudoss. I was told he calls himself sometimesas John Prabhudoss (when he went to Iraq after the US invasion and occupation,for example) and sometimes as P.D.John (when he visited Gujarat after the riotsin 2002, for example) and that he wears two hats. It is also alleged that heuses other aliases such as J.P. Doss. He is reportedly the Chairman,Governmental Relations Committee of the  Federation of Indian AmericanChristian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), Washington DC; and theExecutive Director of the Policy Institute for Religion and State (PIFRAS).

My enquiries and research also indicated that both are Christian organisationsand that, while the FIACONA  focusses on lobbying in Washington DC on theissue of the violations of the  rights of the religious minorities and the restrictions on the right of the Christians to proselytize in India, thePIFRAS largely concentrates on backing the Bush Administration's policy ofpromoting democracy and good governance, particularly in the Islamic world. Icame across the texts of the reports prepared and disseminated  by JohnPrabhudoss on his visits to Iraq and noticed that most of the members of thedelegation, which he had taken to Iraq, were Christians.

My research and enquiries also indicated that  while he and hisorganisations have been very vocal in their criticism of the violations of thehuman rights of the Christians and Muslims in India, they have been muted on theviolations of the human rights of the Sunni Muslims of Iraq by the US troops,the alleged brutalities committed by the US troops at the Abu Gharaib prison andthe alleged massacre of the Iraqi Sunnis, particularly at Falluja, by the UStroops. Nor did I find any  activism by him and his organisations on thebrutal violations of the human rights of the Muslim detenus at the GuantanamoBay in Cuba. If they have campaigned on these issues as vigorously as they have campaigned on the issue of the violations of the human rights of the Muslims andChristians in India, I would  be glad to know the details and would be onlytoo happy to stand corrected.

My research also brought out his acquaintance with and  proximity to someof the political leaders in Washington DC, who had played a role in the decisionto deny a visa to Narendra Modi.

After taking all these into consideration, I wrote my article and stand by myassessment as given in that article. Since March, 2002, I have written stronglyagainst Narendra Modi and on the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. I have writtenequally strongly in Indian and foreign media on the serious violations of thehuman rights of the Muslims by American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and in theGuantanamo Bay detention camp. I find it difficult to accept the arguments andthe allegations against me of those in the community of  Indian origin inthe USA, who are vigorous in their denunciation of the human rights of theChristian and Muslim minorities in India  and walk the lobbies of theCongress almost every day on this issue, but prefer to remain muted on theserious violations of the human rights of the Muslims by the American troops so well documented by prestigious Human Rights organisations such as the AmnestyInternational and the Human Rights Watch. 

In my view, this is because many of those on whose support they rely fortheir campaigns relating to India, are supporters of the Bush Administration'spolicies in Iraq. Who is devious, mischievous and motivated? Me?

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapte