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Published in the 1-15 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The Basis of national 'swabhiman'

By Dinesh Shukla

The Milli Gazette Online

The American government denied visa to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi because of ‘violating people’s right to religious freedom.’ This event has raised some important issues. It is necessary to anaylise and discuss them.

Many people ask why did America picked up only Modi to treat him this way? In India there have been a number of killings and riots (in the name of caste and creed) in which politicians have been involved. Sikhs were killed on a large scale after the murder of Indira. The names of Congress leaders like H.K.L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar come out in that connection. Leaders of BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal-Shiv Sena had taken a big part in the anti-Muslim riots after the demolition of Babri Masjid. Kashmir Pandits had to leave their motherland due to the terror spread by Islamic extremists. Why all these cases have not been reflected on the radar of human rights violation detection. Why only Modi has been singled out on account of Gujarat violence.

It cannot be said that the human rights watch organisations have not taken a note of the above-mentioned happenings. After the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, India’s famous organisation People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) published a report. Organisations working for human rights in America as well as US Congress committees are publishing such reports and so also does the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. In short, a big amount of literature is being published exposing violations of human rights in the world. This is the reflection of an awakening which is talking place on global level. Those who know all this are not surprised by the denial of visa to Modi.

Another argument is about double-standards adopted by America. Much has been written in the press regarding US policy of one kind for her dear ones and another for others. Even American intelligentsia has criticised this bitterly. In a way almost all countries adopt such double-standards in view of their national interests. We can certainly ask why did you give visa to such and such person and not to Modi. But it must be remembered that to give or not to give visa is the sovereign right of the concerned country. India can also deny visas by passing a law which may not allow entry to those who violate human rights openly. It is necessary to look into the issue of denial of visa to Modi in a proper and wider perspective.

In the beginning of the 21st century the world witnessed some very important events having far-reaching effects. America has become world’s only superpower. Her might can be seen in the post 9/11 attack on Iraq. Consequences of such partiality are dangerous for the entire world. The hollowness of US claims for attacking Iraq has been proved false. Her mission of establishing ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic freedom’ has been proved as only a mask for establishing her supermost power and her national interests concerning economy and security. She openly acts against her claims of establishing some human values while dealing with other countries and other people.

Secondly, the speedily spreading globalisation and its changing form also raise an important issue for serious thought. This globalisation is not limited merely to markets and financial dealings. Relations between different peoples living in different continents are also being globalised. This is something which could not be even imagined about two or three decades ago. National borders have become blurred. Power of nations to mould and maintain people’s lives is gradually decreasing. We have not yet fully appreciated and understood the signals given by unprecedented squeezing of space and time.

If we talk about India, what is happening in India is at once known to us here to those living abroad in America and UK. They also give their reaction instantly. Difference of opinion about Modi in NRIs is the same and on the same level as it is in India. A section of Indians living in other countries is ready to welcome Modi there. But there also is another section which is equally prepared to oppose it and to prevent Modi’s visit. For one section Modi is a ‘hero’ while he is a ‘villain’ for another. Modi has become a living example of such great difference of opinion. 

Thirdly, there has been a marked increase in the global awareness in the matter of human values (independence, equality, human rights, equal attitude towards all) which prevailed in earlier decades. Heads of states who oppress their own citizens are also being made to stand before the court of international world opinion. They now cannot escape by saying that "this is our internal affair." Their nation may connive or even forgive them. But the world’s wiser opinion is not prepared to pardon them.

BJP may organise in Ahmedabad a ‘Swaabhimaan’ or ‘self-respect’ rally in favour of Modi but in the eyes of a section of NRIs and in the opinion of believers in human values, Modi stands responsible for the violence which took place in Gujarat. We must not limit our national self-respect to one person (even if he is elected by people). Our true self-respect is in remaining bound by high and noble ideals and aims which have been given a glorious place in our Constitution. We must criticise the double standards adopted by others but should not connive at the double-standards adopted by our rulers (separate standards for the majority and the minority). Just as the American government has no moral right to advise us regarding democracy, human values and democratic rights, we too have no moral right to overlook and cover up the violation of these rights and values by our rulers. 

Does our national self-respect rest on the weak foundation of a denial of visa to Modi? The true foundation of our self-respect is our Constitution which is based on democracy, human values and justice. We can defend self-respect only by adopting these values and ideals. (Translated from Gujarat Today, Ahmedabad, by Sultan Akhtar Umarji Patel)
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