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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 17:27 GMT
India condemns US visa decision
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Modi has been criticised over his handling of the 2002 riots
The Indian government and opposition have condemned a US decision to refuse a visa to a controversial right-wing Indian politician.

The US revoked the visa of Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, for alleged violation of religious freedom.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in religious riots there in 2002.

But independent groups have placed the numbers of those killed far higher at nearly 2,000.

The government said the US move was "uncalled for" and "displays lack of courtesy" to an elected chief minister.

'Insult'

Mr Modi said the US had "insulted" India by revoking his visa, and asked the federal government to take up the matter with the US authorities.

The US revoked Mr Modi's 'tourist/business' visa under a law that makes "any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, ineligible for a visa".

Granting visa is the sovereign right of any state but the manner in which it was done and reasons given are unacceptable
Yashwant Sinha, BJP leader

Mr Modi's request for a diplomatic visa was also turned down because the purpose of his visit to the US did not qualify him for such a visa, a spokesman for the US embassy in Delhi told the BBC.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said on Friday the government "expresses its deep concern and regret" at the visa denial.

"The action on the part of the US embassy is uncalled for and displays lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally-elected chief minister."

US deputy chief of mission in Delhi, Robert Blake, said he would convey to Washington the Indian government's request to review the decision.

Resolution

The main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to which Mr Modi belongs, also expressed anger at the US decision.

Senior BJP leader and former foreign minister, Yashwant Sinha, said the Indian government should take up the issue "strongly" with the US government.

Gujarat riots
Official figures say more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed.

"Granting visa is the sovereign right of any state but the manner in which it was done and reasons given (for denial of visa to Mr Modi) are unacceptable," Mr Sinha told journalists.

However, the largest US Muslim civil liberties group welcomed the US decision.

"This case demonstrates what can be accomplished when Muslim, human rights and minority groups work together for a common purpose," it said.

Earlier this week, two US congressmen introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives criticising Mr Modi's conduct during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Congressmen John Conyers and Joe Pitts accused Mr Modi of carrying out religious persecution against Muslims, Christians and indigenous tribals.

"Our government should speak with one voice in condemning these policies and the actions of the Modi administration that has led to the death, torture and imprisonment of thousands in Gujarat," Mr Pitts said.

The Gujarat chief minister was due to speak at several events organised by the Indian community in the US.

His actions during the riots came under severe criticism from human rights groups and independent observers, but he continued to remain in office and even won re-election later that year.

Three years after the violence, no one has been brought to justice.



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