A “furious” petition drafted by three Indian-American professors from the University of Pennsylvania and signed by about 135 supporters against the participation of Narendra Modi forced the organizing committee to revoke their invitation. The Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) had invited Modi to deliver his keynote address on March 23rd via Skype.
Narendra Modi, then and still Chief Minister of Gujarat, has been accused of standing by idly during the carnage that happened after the Godhra train incident. There are even accusations that his party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party and other right-oriented religious groups had carefully organized the ensuing communal violence. The riots took the lives of more than 1,000 people, a majority Muslims. Hundreds of people went missing and almost thousands fled their homes and businesses. The police stood by, and even helped the mostly Hindu mobs carry out the carnage according to investigative reporting by Tehelka magazine.
In 2005, the U.S. State Department refused Modi a diplomatic visa to enter the country. The E.U., as a bloc, also followed suit. But, Britain and Germany have since withdrawn their rejections.
Professors Toorjo Ghosh, Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul outlined the plea and with the help of social media, collected signatures of those opposed to the visit.
“Mr Modi’s keynote address at Wharton India Economic Forum has been cancelled,” the WIEF said in a statement, which was welcomed by the organizers of the petition campaign.
“Our team felt that the potential polarizing reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base, student body, and our supporters, might put Mr Modi in a compromising position, which we would like to avoid at all costs, especially in the spirit of our conference’s purpose,” the WIEF organizing committee said in a statement.
Strangely, not a single professor from the Wharton School was a signatory to this letter.
Excerpts from the petition:
“We urge the Wharton India Economic Forum to revoke their invitation to Narendra Modi. If it does not do not do so, we pledge to protest against his presence…” the signatories said.
The petition added, “It is incomprehensible to us that this is the man whom the WIEF wishes to celebrate as an exemplar of economic and social development. We find it astonishing that any academic and student body at the University of Pennsylvania can endorse ideas about economic development that are based on the systematic oppression of minority populations, whether in India or elsewhere. Our role as scholars and students—and indeed as would-be entrepreneurs and business managers—must be to develop conscientious and efficacious modes of economic organization, not to piggy-back onto the inhuman policies of politicians who not only lack a commitment to human rights and to ideals of social justice, but whose political success is based on the suppression of substantial sections of their own citizens.
“Modi still does not have a US visa to enter the US, but Wharton plans to present him on Skype to the audience. Recently there have been efforts to whitewash Modi’s grim record and to grant him respectability. Wharton’s invitation lends itself to doing just that…”
The full text of the protest letter is available here.