March 19, 2005

Don't speak for me

I don't get it. How does denying Narendra Modi a US visa qualify as an "insult to the Indian Constitution ... [and the] right of all Indians"? Why should it make "Indian Americans feel humiliated"? Where did this implication come from that what they said about Modi are India's internal matters that foreigners must not comment on?

This is absurdity on a whole host of counts.

First, why shouldn't foreigners take note of things that happen in my country and take whatever measures they see fit in response? (Including revoking a visa). After all, I found what happened in Rwanda in 1994 horrifying. I believe it would be a betrayal of my humanity to stay silent about it merely because it happened in another country. The same applies to the Holocaust, or to what happened to the original inhabitants of the Americas, or to Pakistan's rape of their own fellow countrymen and women in what used to be East Pakistan.

Second, a young lady I know -- for no particular reason, I'll call her Vibha -- was denied a US visa some years ago. Was that an insult to the Indian Constitution? Did it impinge on the rights of all Indians? (Do all Indians have a right to a US visa?) Did Indian Americans feel humiliated?

Answer: no every time. Why is it any different for Modi?

But this is familiar stuff. For three years now, this man has with consummate skill painted any criticism of him -- for all that happened in Gujarat in 2002 -- as an insult to the honour of Gujaratis. That's right, any criticism.

That the terrorism of Godhra and Ahmedabad and Baroda and Dehlol and Lunavada happened at all is the insult; that nobody has yet been punished for that terrorism is the insult. (And yes, I do mean terrorism). But a Chief Minister on whose watch this terror, these insults, happened has found entire political strategy in them. This, by a simple ploy: whenever anyone expresses outrage or bewilderment at this fantastic betrayal of justice, he shouts loudly that his constituents' honour is sullied.

Now that he can't get on that plane to the West, the ploy returns, only in slightly expanded form. He shouts loudly that all Indians' -- not just Gujaratis', but all Indians' -- honour is sullied.

Therefore, that my honour is sullied.

So as an Indian, I say today: for once and finally, speak for yourself Mr Modi. You want to feel insulted, go right ahead. But please don't get your friends in the States to speak for all Indian-Americans there. Even more than that, please don't speak for me. (Never ever speak for me).

Because understand this: when your US visa was revoked, I felt not an iota of insult. I felt not an iota of insult to my Constitution. Plenty of Indian-Americans I know felt not an iota of humiliation.

On the other hand, I am disgusted and outraged by the terrorism that happened in my country in 2002 (for that matter, in 1984 and 1992 and any number of other times as well). I am even more disgusted and outraged that my country has not punished any of the terrorists who were responsible for these great crimes. Again, to me these are the insults to me, to my Constitution, to the thousands of fellow Indians who died in these assaults.

But I am not in the least disgusted or outraged by your visa troubles.


Anonymous said...

No Dilip, the issue at hand is that the US State Department took this opportunity to meddle in India's Internal Affairs. It could have revoked Modi's visa under any pretext, but it had to explicitly go and say "Religious violence" etc. By doing so, it quite on purpose, created a furor. And also showed India its aukaat. That we are two-bit players, pretenders, poseuers.

It is not about Modi in the least (though I am sure your pals in the Indian Muslim Council US (u must be on pally terms with Khwaja, no?) and are poppin the bubbly.)

The US is a master at such games. And you should realise what they are playing at. This was an avoidable snub, but it chose to snub India in the most visible way possible. But that is OK. All those Chinese and Saudis etc dont in the least support religious persecution, do they?

But of course, weren't you the one to actually invite the US to come invade India? Hehehe.. You Quisling you.

Tango Charlie

Kartik said...

Amen to that!

--> An Indian in the US who has seen several vastly more deserving elderly people's rights... and visas... rejected.

Kartik said...

Tango Charlie,

Lemme ask you one small thing: you speak of the US meddling in our internal affairs and such ... you won't ever look at it as "even after all this happening, we had to wait for them to point it out" to raise a furore over it, will ya?

Sure stretching my imagination to its absolute limits, even if Modi didn't have ANYTHING to do with the riots (lighting strike me), his revoking that whole Gujarati pride and Ashmita everytime someone mentions his role with the riots is plain cowardice and skulduggery.

If you were accused of a crime, would you call it an insult to your family, caste, religion, state, nation? To humankind?... Think about it :-)

Dilip D'Souza said...

... weren't you the one to actually invite the US to come invade India?

Actually, no. If you ask, you see, I won't lie.

Nevertheless, don't let that stop you from believing it, nor from thinking it has something to do with this visa thing.

Anonymous said...

Nevertheless, don't let that stop you from believing it, nor from thinking it has something to do with this visa thing.

Awwwwww... poor Dilip, mighty miffed.


Kaktikh, now where was I defending Modi huh? huh? I yam juss tellin ya to see the larger game at play here... ya git?

Tango Charlie

Anonymous said...

Alright DD, direct q:

Do you believe that there is more to the visa denial by the US SD than meets the eye?

Tangerine Charles

Surya said...

Who was responsilbe for Kargil war? how come he wasnt denied Visa by USA govt.?(is it coz we welcomed him with red carpet?)
you cannot answer mr dilip. you are selfish, probably US denying visa to modi satisfied your christian and minority ego, thats all, because you people shed crocodile tears for the nation. the larger picture is US snubbed a head of state from india who was elected democratically. the worst enemy is the one who lives in the same household, its u indian xtiansand muslims and those desis from usa who opposed mr.modi.
Shames on you.

Shobha said...

I agree with you Mr D'Souza. My first reaction when I heard the news was of total joy, more on the lines of "Serves him right" types. But then there are some things which I found very weird. Narendra Modi has been denied the visa because of the reason that his government violated the right of religious freedom in Gujarat. Going by that logic, if Bush were to come to India, India can easily cancel the visa application of Bush because he has been responsible for deaths of lakhs of people in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am in no way defending Modi here. But just emphasising the fact that he is a democratically elected leader of Gujarat, pretty much in the same manner how Bush was elected in USA. The bottomline is, that the whole thing reeks of hypocrisy. I again reiterate that I am not supporting Modi. Just that I feel the US government has no business of citing reasons like these when it gives dictators like Pervez Musharraf a red carpet welcome.

Aarthi Bharath said...

I agree with the fact that USA has the right to reject visas for anyone and also the fact that Modi should be speaking for himself and not for the rest of us. We can decide for ourselves on what we would like to say regarding any situation.

But one thing I am unable to make any sense of is, why is it that when such political issues are discussed and opinions shared, strong feelings about religion creep in. As far as I am concerned religion is just a way of life. It tells you the right path to follow to have a peaceful life. It is the same in all religion I suppose.

When that is the case why take that up and insult each other and side track the main issue under discussion?

Dilip D'Souza said...

the worst enemy is the one who lives in the same household, its u indian xtiansand muslims and those desis from usa who opposed mr.modi.

Well said, all the way from Minnesota. Except, if that "worst enemy" is supposed to be me, I don't live in the same household as you. What are we going to do about that?

Shobha, of course there's hypocrisy in this -- in which aspect of international relations is there not? My sole point here is this: I'll decide for myself what is or is not an insult to my honour.

Aarthi, thanks for your thoughts, but I'm afraid I'll have to disagree on the comment on religion. The books and teachings might say stuff about the right path to peace and so forth, but religion has arguably caused more hatred and misery than anything else we've devised. Case in point: comments right here.

BeeDee said...

dilip, i haven't thought this through entirely, so my comments might be a bit half baked. but here's what i think.

I'm more than happy to grant you your central premise that denying modi a visa isn't an insult to the whole nation or whatever it is we're trying to make it out to be.

BUT, and this is critical...the US rejects people's visas on entirely random grounds (as you well know)..and the way this was handled is a bit bizarre. appalling as it is, modi hasn't been indicted for his personal role in the genocide in gujarat, and he remains an elected representative. so what the US government is doing is taking a unilateral stand on modi's role. which given how much I dislike the man seems fine to me...but it makes me wonder, what if they turn around tomorrow and say deny an indian activist (this time someone whose actions i agree with...say medha patkar...) using one of the many clauses they can conjure up from thin air.

i think my stand is this: i don't think there's any logic to the US state deptt's trying to pass judgement on modi's complicity in the riots. it is absolutely none of their business and its dangerous to celebrate this coz who knows who'll be their next target.

next, its my general belief that stopping modi from travelling to the US achieves little. there were massive anti modi rallied being planned here which i thought was excellent. as you well know, there are a number of people (like our good friend surya) who buy modi's shit. and the way to meet them head on is not avoid the confrontation, but to tackle him, word for word (he can't do a thing on foreign soil!!) and show him up for what he is. exactly the way ram madhav was handled a few months ago. there was a petition to prevent him from coming here. i didn't sign in because i'm much happier confronting him through a mass display of strength and by questioning him when he speaks and by showing him how many people disagree with him....denying this chap the visa unfortunately seems to have turned him into some kind of martyr to the cause of indian honour. ufff.

Anonymous said...

I want to second Buchu's thoughts - i've been receiving calls from friends who were happy with this decision, and I've called friends and relatives to see what they feel. Especially among those who were planning protests, there is a tinge of disappointment at having been denied an opportunity to ask Modi a few questions.

I'm also sceptical, however, of what steps the Asian American Hotel Owner' Association might have taken to keep any and all protests well outside Modi's sight and hearing. In the end, I understand attendance at Ram Madhav's talks were controlled, and a large number of people could not even attend the talks, let alone challenge his views.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Buchu, you ask: what if they turn around tomorrow and say deny an indian activist...

Well, so what? They might indeed, and I still would not see it as an insult to all Indians. I'm not looking for consistency in state policy, that's a futile task.

And after all, we in India once deported such an activist without letting her into the country.

You also say: i don't think there's any logic to the US state deptt's trying to pass judgement on modi's complicity in the riots. it is absolutely none of their business.

Just why is it none of their business? As far as I'm concerned, a spate of murders anywhere is the business of anyone in the world -- which is why I mentioned Rwanda and East Pak, for example. I'm outraged, for example, that Byron de la Beckwith was actually acquitted in his first trial for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers, and it took a fresh 2001 trial to convict him. Why should it be none of my business?

I do agree though, with you and Aswin when you say that it might have been better to let him get to the US and have massive, visible protests against him; now of course he is playing the martyr role like the master he is.

The Tobacconist said...

Modi can never be an issue of national honor/pride. He makes me sick everytime I have to talk about him. He represents the worst in society and lets leave it at that. But that is not the issue that we are dealing with here.

I agree with Buchu on the issue that denying him a visa is a stupid move.

If I read Indian politics right there was growing discomfort among the rank and file of the BJP with Modi and his ways. Suddenly it has become politically correct to rally behind him. The PM has to as does every other politician. It is not an issue of national insult but diplomatic norm. Regardless of a representative's views and idealogy it is common courtesy to grant him entry to the host country. If the host country really cannot doesn't want the man, there is a deft way of handling such a situation. I believe the US handled it really badly.

And Indian Americans had a beautiful welcome planned out for the idiot. I am sure we would've rallied around and shown him what we think. I believe and opportunity was lost here to nail the bugger.

If the guy sold Godhra to people in Gujarat and other states, how difficult do you think it is going to be for him to sell the idea that he is the victim of the BIG BULLY? Unless someone stomps this nut out, I feel his career just got a boost.

Damn these fundamentalists.

ak said...


No doubt Musharraf isn't exactly a good guy. Your comments in the next para, however, reek of a fundamentalist approach. India's a secular country, man. Please don't preach from Minnesotta.

Surya said...

Karnick, your kind of secularism is the one that doent let even a sound out when a Hindu is Hurt, but pour tears even if one so called minority is even just touched. Secularism doest mean your right to chide hinduism and get away with it. How does it matter where i preach from (if at all my post gave a impression that i preached)? I reek of fundamentlaism , yes for you guys who practice this so called secularism..aah what a word to hide behind and to self procalim yourself as Liberals. Hindutva is Secular. This present day fundamentalism is because of your kind of secularism which stabs hindus from behind. HAHAHAH what do you mean by Musharaf isnt exactly a bad guy? so he is partly good and that can get him red carper welcome anywhere?.
Secularism in India is Aligning with a Muslim league or ask xian pastors to seek votes in Kerala, but sayng Narayana is a taboo..What a joke you blokes play with this word secularism.

Kartik said...


No doubt quoting from "Kya Lagaya hai, yeh secular, secular?" yesterday on

by Arvind Lavakare ...

Yes, that is a ponderable issue, but I'm afraid the previous few comments have all been completely off the issue, such being: Modi raised pride and "swabhimaan" as an issue upon a nation rejecting HIS visa ... can you or I expect the same treatment? Heck, if tomorrow I go start shouting in front of the US Embassy in Mumbai, Madras, Delhi or Kolkata "my visa's been rejected, shame has been inflicted on my country" who am I fooling?

Modi, unfortunately, seems to have done the same quite adroitly.. ie, fooling.

Surya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dilip D'Souza said...

The problem, Surya, is this. A man is denied a visa, and he reacts to it the way he does, and this is your response: the worst enemy is ... u indian xtiansand muslims ; your kind of secularism is the one that doent let even a sound out when a Hindu is Hurt, but pour tears even if one so called minority is even just touched ; stabs Hindus from behind [etc]?

What's the connection?

I'm not interested in apologies. But an apology to me because I'm a "professional columnist", but not to others because they are not, is one I'm especially uninterested in.

The Tobacconist said...

I just followed the thread. Read Surya's comments. All I have to say is :


What's with this "Hindu" insecurity? Why on earth are you doning the mantle for all Hindus? What is with this hatred? Your opinions sound conditioned. They sound immature. Seriously dude. Do some thinking. If Hindus need any protection it is from their own kind.

Surya said...

why this joy that Mr. Modi's visa was rejected ( i read in some comments words as 'glee') and the reasons give by US for its decision. just speaking for hindus, gives you the guys the impression of fundamentalism in my post, thats exactly what my point is, this secularism thing has done to your thinking, not mine. my language might be immature, not my thoughts. It definitely is a shame for us Indians, that is if the country is first for you rather than your pseudo secularists/monirity identities. Mr.Nasi calls how discussion got "idiotic", well i dint ask him for proof/evidence. Mr.Dilip,It wasnt just your column that made me put my comments here, it was seeing all other comments that i jumped in., that the connection between modi visa rejection and "all my comments"

Anonymous said...

Surya...with views like that you should stay indoors.


Dilip D'Souza said...

just speaking for hindus...

Who told you could speak for Hindus and what makes you think you do?

Besides, what does speaking for Hindus have to do with rejecting a visa?

Saraansh said...

Frankly as far as I am concerned it is of no concern to me whether Mr.Modi gets to go to the US or not.On the same thread I won't feel insulted or degraded if they don't give him a visa because my pride in my country is larger than one,Mr.Modi. What I was taken aback by was some of the comments that were posted here.Call it my inexperience but it was quite sad to see some people here, question entire communities and their loyalties.

Dilip, remember when we were at Pudukuppam during the tsunami, how the entire muslim community had adopted a Hindu village and how the wedding was stopped to accomodate the Hindu fishermen and yet inspite of this, there are people who say that the minorities don't give a rat's ass to what happens to the hindus.The same people who go on ranting about the whole "oh we poor Hindus...Nobody cares about us", will say that this was an isolated event. For them all I can say is guys, get a life...really.

-an irritated "Hindu"

Anonymous said...

Dilip , I dont agree to below comment for many reasons .."why shouldn't foreigners take note of things that happen in my country and take whatever measures they see fit in response?"

I strongly believe such steps taken by US in no way helps India ,in reducing such instances as Godhra or bringing about unity in the country or any such thing . This would give more ammunition for fundamentalists to exploit . This would be used by fundamentalists to further divide the country and plant suspicion on the people about nexus of minorities with western countries .

Also the real reason US has taken this step is not with the purpose of bringing unity in India and to
condemn Modi's action .

This is done by US as a policy to appease the world muslim community and to portray that US is a friend of Muslims . Its a diplomatic policy and it has been a success .

It has caught the attention of Media in Arab and Islamic countries .

Im a hindu and i hate Modi for all what he has done to the country.

But i also donot want my country's weakness exploited by other country for their advantage .

Also i love your blog and its great that you are dessimating your thoughts here .

This was once a regular blog but, after six said...

It's interesting how Modi, Advani, everyone in the current White House, Michael Moore, Arundhati Roy and everyone else on both extremes of the political spectrum can achieve such polarisation of debate just by using emotive language and appealing to the lowest common denominator.

I want Modi to be locked up and for the key to be thrown away, or even better that someone arrests him when he goes abroad and sends him to the Int'l Criminal Court. But I also think it's a bit rich for the US to make any decisions like this on principle when they have such an awful record of sticking to principles themselves.

Nuance unfortunately is not effective in our world. Why are we so susceptible to the lowest common denominator?

ankan said...

Just my two cents:

1. Modi being denied visa to US is not a big deal. Both glee and outrage at this looks so immature.

2. Those who are trying to believe that it was a 'principled decision' are grossly out of touch. US is all coochie-coo with the fanatical islamic republics in the middle east where practicising other religions is so difficult.

3. It is better to sort out our own problems. If ppl want to fight Modi, he should be fought in the elections and courts. Dragging it to international fora is pathetic.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Saraansh, I do remember Pudukuppam. One of those breathtaking stories that terrible tragedy seems to invariably produce, and it inspires me still.

(Saraansh means the second story here).

MS, I couldn't really care what the "real reason" is for the US taking this decision. That it is supposed to be an insult to me is what I find laughable. And it seems to me that the best way to prevent other countries from taking advantage of our weakness is to address that weakness ourselves. In this case, swiftly punishing the perpetrators of all the killing in Gujarat, and make sure it never happens again.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Nihilist, while the venom is ugly, it hardly helps to be venomous in return.

Roshan, why are you surprised? The job of the extremes of the political spectrum is to stir debate, polarize opinions. As for principle, seems pointless to me to go looking for it in relations between countries.

Ankan, here's an analogy. Billa and Ranga kidnapped the Chopra kids in Delhi in the 1970s and killed them. They were tried and executed. Suppose during their trial, they applied for a US visa, and I heard about this, and I wrote to the US authorities saying "Please don't give these two guys visas, I believe they are murderers."

Would you then write to me to say It is better to sort out our own problems. Dragging this to international fora is pathetic?

wise donkey said...

the issue is just so stupid.
agree with ur post.

Anonymous said...

Ankan, here's an analogy. Billa and Ranga kidnapped the Chopra kids in Delhi in the 1970s and killed them. They were tried and executed. Suppose during their trial, they applied for a US visa, and I heard about this, and I wrote to the US authorities saying "Please don't give these two guys visas, I believe they are murderers."

Dilip, that is one of the most asinine analogies I have ever read. That was not even a kindergarten level debating trick... you are better off comparing Modi to the Nazis. That at least is middle-school level. All the best in your schooling...

Dilip D'Souza said...

that is one of the most asinine analogies I have ever read. That was not even a kindergarten level debating trick... [etc].

OK Anonymouse, here's where you get put on the spot. Why is it asinine? Explain so I may progress out of kindergarten.

Anonymous said...

" I couldn't really care what the "real reason" is for the US taking this decision"..

I object to this Dilip .. You want US to take notice of India's communal problems and you do not care what the repercussions of US interference would be . Especially when US policies are always known to be opportunistic and based on self interest ,be it in Middle east
or be its cosiness to pakistan.

I still think we all need to fight Modi in India and not to seek the help of other countries who have their own agenda .

Harish said...

Was blog-hopping when I landed here.. good post..

I have to however agree with the idea tht Modi is an exemplary politician. Keeping aside the guj riots and other emotions attached to it - I find Modi to be the mass leader who can stir passions where none exist.

It suited him to have the riots and it suits him now to have his visa rejected.. Hats off to this singular politician!!

Anonymous said...

"Not in India and among sections of Indians abroad. If one Indian stabs another Indian in the back with the help of a foreign power, he is considered a progressive, a liberal, a secularist. Cry, the beloved country!"

Can somebody identify themselves here ?

ankan said...

Ankan, here's an analogy

Since you brought this up: I would, if this was getting wide publicity and if this was a politician or someone who could possibly not be seeking a visa to escape the trial.

Let me ask you this:
Would you write to oppose a visa for Lalu Yadav, as an MP/Railway Minister/anyone, and tell the world about the killings, rapes, extortions, the private armies and the mass murders that have taken place on his watch ? Or would that be too much because there is a tacit approval for all his killings as long as there is this secular cow to be beaten?

Dilip D'Souza said...

MS: no country's policies are NOT "opportunistic and based on self-interest." Not the US, not India, not Pakistan, not Tonga. And that's entirely the way it should be.

I fail to see how this visa rejection amounts to seeking the help of other countries to fight Modi. Is the US prosecuting him? Is the US about to jail him? We still have to do those things, if we think he deserves it and we can do them.

I really couldn't care less if anyone in the world took notice of our problems, communal or otherwise. What I do care is that we took note of our problems, communal or otherwise, and paid no attention to who else is doing so. Then we might solve them.

Anonymous, thanks. Last I heard, Indians stabbed other Indians in the back (and elsewhere on their bodies) in Gujarat in 2002 with no help from any foreign powers. Cry the beloved country, all right.

Ankan, I didn't say politician or wide publicity or anything. I just made a simple analogy. As for Lalu, I have written plenty of times about the killings on his watch, and certainly I would like the entire world to know and care about it. Most recently, today.

But a man who thinks that people he disagrees with "tacitly approve" of killings is a man who is hard to take with any seriousness.

Anonymous said...

Dilip, I agree with you on the communal problems but i differ in the the means of protesting these and towards a solution .

The self-interst factor of countries is the reason of not lobbying in the US to deny Modi Visa .

Its the short sightedness of these
secularist and minority organizations of indian origin in US .

Whats the result ...Modi goes to masses in he next election to get one more term .

He shall fool the gullible voters to idenify the "hindu" in them and teach a lesson to
so called "unpatriots"

We need to go a far more than preaching secularism or go lobbying for it in other
countries who have their own interests ., or as punchline or vote gaining during elections or as the material
in textbooks( also i heard are distorted in some states ) .

It needs to be practised we may be we need some kind of social engineering and this needs to come from within.

May be a carrot n stick policy .. an incentive for an induvidual to rise above the age old divide of caste and religion and
very stringent laws to prosecute the perpetrators of the communal crimes .

If Europe thinks that its diversity can be taken adavantage of and forms EU , i see hope ..
I hope there woud be more tolerance in my country and we all move swiftly towards economic development.

If we look at all the great causes such as the Civil rights movement in te US , it all started
against the mainstream thinking of the time . It was against the age old practices that divided men .

I hope we get there soon and definitely not as much the time we took to get rid of the Colonial powers from the country.

Anonymous said...

This is the stupidest set of comments ever seen for a blog that too from this so called intellectual secular morons, are all of them from BITS? Pity what kind of an education they received. Does studying in BITS and IVY league make them intellectuals and secular? secularism is not in words but should be in deeds.

Anonymous said...

Let me start by saying that I am proud to be a hindu, proud to have a religion that enables me to define my own boundaries, my way of life, making me answerable to my conscience and only that.

But then I also detest anyone and their uncle claiming that my voice echoes their own narrow wordview. For any so called "hindu organisation" to dictate what i should do, what i should see, and how i should think and feel is an insult to my intelligence.

So the egregious Modi got denied a visa. Tough shit. It is indeed a shame that someone else has to tell us what we should have realised a long time back, that the perpetrators of communal discord cannot go unpunished.

In any conflict, truth is invariably the first victim. No doubt in the utterly shameful incidents in Gujarat, there were faults on both faces of the coin. What does irk me however, is that elected representatives chose not to act for the greater good of all. And therein lies the issue. A chief minister is not only responsible and accountable to those who elected him, but also to those who didn't vote for him. Public office obliges one to discard the same partisan politics that perhaps got them there to begin with. A lapse in this is a crime more heinous than that committed by assorted arsonists who had a field day.

Well, yeah, so, as many are wont to say, the US bombed the living hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe. But seriously, I doubt any US congressman would have gotten away with a Gujarat like incident in his/her constituency in the US. So, if the US of A feels squeamish about letting in someone who, either by active support, or by inaction, helped half his people maul the other half, then I would say they have every right to.
So when our man Modi says it is a shame rendered unto all Indians, is he correct? I am tempted to say no, but yes it is. We should have dealt with this man and his brand of politics long before this. It is shameful that we stood by and did nothing, either during, or after the shenanigans of yon man put a blot on the name of our country.