Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t we Indians?

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As we speak, the “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” of India is moving heaven, earth and everything else in between to conclude a civilian nuclear deal with the United States of America.

Yet, how is it that the same “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” of India is taking the disgraceful denial of a visa to one of its citizens by the same United States of America lying down?

The citizen I am referring to is Narendra Damodardas Modi.

The Gujarat chief minister, re-elected with a thundering majority by the people of Gujarat last December, has had to address the World Gujarati Conference in New Jersey by video because the US State department wouldn’t give him a visa, the second time this has happened following Gujarat 2002.

On what grounds can a visa be rejected for a person who applies for it through the proper channels on a passport issued under the seal of the President of India?

Judging from its silence, it appears the Congress-led UPA government of Manmohan Singh is “happy” that Modi has been barred entry into the United States. Else, it should have sent a stiff memo in private and raised hell in public for this insult to the democratically elected chief minister of a State.

So far, only Modi’s party, the BJP, has chosen to respond.

“Dictators can go there [the U.S.]… fascists, murderers can go there… but the democratically elected Chief Minister of a federal State of India cannot go there,” the party’s spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad has said. “Should America bow down to this kind of vilification campaign by a group of people whose agenda is anti-BJP throughout?”

Those are good questions, but why isn’t the government asking them? Why isn’t the Congress, which is not entirely populated by angels, not asking them? Why aren’t the non-BJP opposition parties, which too are not entirely populated by angels, not asking them? Why aren’t the media, which also is not entirely populated by angels, not asking them?

Do only Gujaratis have asmita?

Don’t we, as Indians, not have asmita?

Would the Chinese government and media react so sanguinely if one of its not-so-democratically elected leaders was denied a visa? Would the Japanese? If we are an emerging regional superpower, if we are supposedly getting close to the United States and standing shoulder to shoulder, how on earth does the US get away with such a stinging slap?

On the other hand, should this surprise us?

George Fernandes, as defence minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee team, was strip-searched and frisked down to his knickers, a fact happily reported by deputy secretary Strobe Talbott in his book, Engaging India.

If we could happily accept that national insult, obviously the “Rejected” seal on Narendra Modi’s passport is proof, full, firm and final, that while we as a nation bend backwards to please western countries, we crawl shamelessly, effortlessly when need be.

Especially if a nuclear deal is at the end of the road.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The Economist calls Narendra Modi a ‘disgrace’

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