New York lawsuit accuses Modi of role in 2002 riots
NEW DELHI : Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-profile trip to the US will not be affected by a US civil lawsuit over riots in a state he once led, India and the US said.
Modi and the Indian government could seek to have the suit dismissed and it could take a judge months to decide, but its timing could not be more awkward.
The Indian government dismissed the legal action as a “frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention” from Modi’s visit, which will include a meeting with President Barack Obama and an address to the UN general assembly.
A senior US official said the lawsuit should not affect Modi’s visit and pointed out that heads of government enjoyed immunity from US legal suits.
“I don’t think there is any fear of the two governments being distracted,” said the US official.
Nevertheless the lawsuit was a sharp reminder that until recently, Modi was not welcome in the US because of the 2002 riots, in which 1,000 people died in a wave of reprisal attacks across Gujarat after a train carrying pilgrims was set on fire.
The lawsuit was filed in New York federal court by the American Justice Center, a non-profit human rights organization, acting on behalf of 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, according to the complaint. When he approached the police, he alleges, they told him they had orders not to save any Muslims, the complaint said.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Modi for crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killings. Modi has 21 days to respond.
“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 complaint said.
An analyst said the case was unlikely to have much impact.
“This is certainly an attempt by one activist group to embarrass Mr. Modi,” said Dhruva Jaishankar, Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund.