India's Modi faces US damages case over Gujarat riots

Published: September 26, 2014
Modi, 64, was denied a US visa in 2005 under the terms of a 1998 US law that bars entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom". PHOTO: AFP

Modi, 64, was denied a US visa in 2005 under the terms of a 1998 US law that bars entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom". PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: A US court has ordered Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to answer allegations that he failed to stop anti-Muslim rioting when he was chief minister of Gujarat, overshadowing his first trip to the United States as his country’s leader.

The civil case before a New York court seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Modi for crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killings under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Modi has 21 days to respond.

The petitioner in the case is the American Justice Center, a non-profit human rights organisation, acting on behalf of two survivors of the 2002 riots in the western Indian state.

“There is evidence to support the conclusion that minister Modi committed both acts of intentional and malicious direction to authorities in India to kill and maim innocent persons of the Muslim faith,” the petition said.

After years of being unwelcome in the United States, Modi arrives for a five-day visit on Friday in New York, where he will speak at the United Nations (UN) before heading to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.

The first meeting between the two leaders follows Modi’s landslide general election victory in May.

Compared with other foreign powers, Washington was slow to warm to Modi, with its ambassador to India only meeting him in February when opinion polls put the Hindu nationalist leader on course to win.

Modi, 64, was denied a US visa in 2005 under the terms of a 1998 US law that bars entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom”.

At least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, died in a wave of reprisal attacks across Gujarat after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire in February 2002.

Critics accuse Modi, who was chief minister of the state from 2001 until this year, of doing too little to stop revenge attacks on minority Muslims.

He denies the accusations and was exonerated in an Indian Supreme Court inquiry in 2012.

An Indian government spokesperson was not available for comment while a spokesperson for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declined to comment.

Thick skinned

An analyst said the case was unlikely to have much impact.

“Modi is very thick skinned about the allegations after all these years,” said Satish Misra, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

“The evidence against him is based on conjecture as the courts in India have found. This case won’t make much difference.”

Nevertheless, Modi faces being dogged by protests on his US trip even as he is expected to be warmly welcomed by much of India’s large overseas community in the United States.

Modi will draw perhaps the largest crowd ever by a foreign leader on US soil when he takes the stage on Sunday at New York’s Madison Square Garden before a crowd forecast to total more than 18,000 people.

A group called the Alliance for Justice and Accountability is calling for people to picket the venue and wave black flags in protest. Another group, the Sikhs for Justice, will convene a ‘Citizen’s Court’ where they will indict Modi at a park in front of the White House when he meets Obama.

The court case seeking damages from Modi is being brought by two unidentified people from Gujarat.

One is a Muslim woman whose mother was allegedly attacked by a mob during the riots and died of her injuries a year later, according to the court documents.

The other plaintiff is man whose grandmother was killed and who says he was attacked by a gang of Hindus. When he approached the police, he alleges, they told him they had orders not to save any Muslims, according to the petition.

On the other hand, Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that the case against Modi was frivolous with baseless and with the malicious intent to distract attention.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Yippie
    Sep 26, 2014 - 2:38PM

    This is like Adolf Hitler touring NY.


  • Milind
    Sep 26, 2014 - 3:08PM

    When will these guys grow up? What’s the point in filing cases, when you can’t prove anything? – Filing cases against the wrong folks.


  • Guru
    Sep 26, 2014 - 3:18PM

    What about drone strikes in pakistan, yemen etc where thousands innocents also killed???Recommend

  • Pk_Paris
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:04PM

    Proof is Mr Modi is having private dinner with President Mr Obama and Mr Nawaz is meeting Vice President. This clarifies everything


  • Manu
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:33PM

    Do US have the guts to touch Modi, already US is isolated in world stage..Recommend

  • Lal
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:34PM

    After all who cares what US courts says ……..Recommend

  • The Master Blaster
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:57PM

    Shocking that India elected this dude

    Its like some dude from Jamat e Dawa becoming PM in Pakistan (highly unlikely).

    One wonders which direction India is headed when people who stood at the helm when pogroms against muslims was taking place become PM


  • Raja Habib Jalib
    Sep 26, 2014 - 5:02PM

    Every one knows that Modi was behind these attacks, it was proved beyond resonable doubt that incident in Rail was due to the neglegence of Hindu passengers ,who were warming the food in cooking oil heaters. He used that incident to force over 500,000 Muslims from the their homes & over ten thousand people were killed. The true estimate will never come out as the government banned any new reports & investigatin. Modi committed war crimes in INdia but now he is a Prime Minister & the World need commerce so they will ignore all crimes ,If it was small African State then he could have been in cage in World criminal Court but the desision is always done by big Powers so the Powerful Nations have their own ecnomic intrest & they forget the innocent civilians massacred by these power hungry people who use religion to kill, what is differance between Modi & other extrimist.(raja habib jalib chairman jammu & Kashmir human rights council int wing)


  • AD
    Sep 26, 2014 - 5:17PM

    Modi is only Hope of “Rest of World”.


  • Mohsin
    Sep 26, 2014 - 5:20PM

    Poor indian minorities. Goverment leads the attacks on them


  • Rashid
    Sep 26, 2014 - 5:22PM

    @Raja Habib Jalib
    Let us focus on internal affairs instead of obsessing about Indian muslims.
    The number of dead in Gujrat riots is just one week’s death toll in Pakistan- Muslims killing Muslims.
    Besides, let’s be honest. Some of the Muslim minorities are today safer in India than in Pakistan and they are allowed to proudly call themselves Muslims. No one telling them who is the real Muslim, etc.


  • ModiFied
    Sep 26, 2014 - 5:30PM

    Filing a court case in USA is not a big deal. Pay money to any lawyer and he will do the job. As a first step court issues the summons to the parties. If party is some VIP, it makes headlines world over. Can summons be served over to Modi ? Everyone knows what these court cases are all about.


  • Indian
    Sep 26, 2014 - 5:54PM

    The Indian side just do it for politics…Muslims know that and that’s why they elected Modi despite Congress alligations. On the other side Jamat e Dawa is a real monster. They kill people for religion. You cann’t compare both


  • Eddied
    Sep 26, 2014 - 6:04PM

    This is just a useless case that will quickly be dismissed by an American judge based on the fact that no evidence will be available or acceptable from a foreign country that has no juristiction in USA…this is just a publicity stunt by modi’s detractors…


  • someone
    Sep 26, 2014 - 8:34PM

    @The Master Blaster:
    First of all, Pakistanis hardly get a chance to elect their government. This is the first time ever a successive government is chosen through ballot. Second, is PMLN, or PTI or PPP different from JUD? Nope. Those are the parties of same pious Muslims. What actions have been taken against the Ahmadi or Shia killers? Any action on the rioters who burnt down the Christian colony? Nope. So the democratic governments in Pakistan are silent over the minorities execution and hence Pakistanis should be a last one to lecture Indians over electing Modi.


  • Irony
    Sep 26, 2014 - 9:59PM

    @The Master Blaster:
    Irony in ur comment is that it comes from a country which does not know what the term ‘Elected’ means. In 2014, forget about democracy u are still debating over ‘Naya’ and ‘Purana’ Pakistan. The world is asking – does Pakistan even has a way to head forward?
    One suggestion to Pakistan – come out of ur delusional world before everyone stop taking u seriously!!


  • Rakib
    Sep 26, 2014 - 10:08PM

    This case will benefit Modi in India. His Party (BJP) will use it advantageously during the forthcoming provincial elections to get the most of the Hindu vote by appealing to their pride. It would be normal for an Indian to think our internal differences are our own, we shall deal with them, vote Modi out if possible, but why US court? Indians are touchy, due to historical reasons, about foreign interference. Quite a few Indians that may be fence sitters or even opponents of Modi will take affront at this case.


  • N.Sid
    Sep 27, 2014 - 1:28AM

    Just read the story of Ehsan Jafri (a Muslim Parliamentarian in Gujarat) who was killed in the most brutal manner ever by the RSS Hindutva mob.
    Modi didn’t killed the poor Gujarati Muslims…he didn’t act to stop the mob, being the CM of the state, it was criminal negligence and entitled/tantamount to connivance in the murder. Two thousand Muslims killed is a conservative figure.


  • Dm
    Sep 27, 2014 - 8:18AM

    Does Modi care !!! It’s not Pakistani prime minister … Mark my word…. No court can deter Modi and Americans to standby Modi.


  • joji
    Sep 27, 2014 - 9:31AM

    Pakistan has religious extremists but does not arrest them. India not only fails to arrest them but also makes them prime minister. I have to feel pride for my country.


  • Sep 28, 2014 - 8:08AM

    US is agreat country if it calls PM Modi togive explanation for themassacre of Muslim minority in Gujrat.It declaresthat justice is more important than relations between twocountries.


  • Sep 28, 2014 - 8:12AM

    US is agreat country if it calls PM Modi togive explanation for themassacre of Muslim minority in Gujrat.It declaresthat justice is more important than relations between twocountries.Recommend

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