Here’s a strange cause Republican congressman Joe Walsh has taken on. He is advocating for a visa for Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Gujarat province of India. Modi was banned from coming to the United States under the Bush Administration due to an immigration law prohibiting foreign officials who “who have committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom” from receiving visas. “Instead of denying him a visa, we should be inviting him to apply,” said Walsh.
It’s odd that Walsh would take on Modi’s cause. The Indian official is a pariah to human rights groups. In 2002, a string of deadly riots broke out in Gujarat that ended with the massacre of hundreds of Muslims by Hindu nationalists. A resulting investigation by organizations such as Human Rights Watch concluded that Modi at least turned a blind eye to the riots and may have even played a role in inciting them. Since then, he has worked to avoid international scrutiny, and actually called off a 2005 visit to the United Kingdom after some rights activists decided to seek a warrant for his arrest. He has also dragged his feet in complying with compensating refugees from the riots, and even derided Muslim refugee camps near Gujarat as “child-breeding centres.”
But like so much in American politics, Walsh’s actions make sense in the context of money in politics. Last month, a small right-wing Indian-American organization called The National Indian American Council (NIAC) announced that it was reviving itself and would soon be forming both a Political Action Committee (PAC) and a Super PAC. In a Daily Caller article about the revival, NIAC named two candidates it would be enthusiastically backing: Reps. Allen West (R-FL) and Joe Walsh. In the article, NIAC founder Shalli Kumar — a french fry automation mogul and Bush donor — praises Walsh’s support for Modi:
And he’s also taken on another issue which became quite popular with Indian-Americans in his district besides across the country — that is one section of Indian-Americans that is Gujarati. And they love chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who has been denied a visa to the U.S. in a totally … unprofessional, doesn’t make any sense, nonsense way.
There’s lots of ways that Big Money harms our country. In this case, it appears to be buying support for someone complicit in terrible human rights abuses.