Wharton scraps Narendra Modi’s keynote address

Sharp protests amongst academic and student body over invite to Modi.

Bureau Report

WASHINGTON, DC: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s keynote address at the India Economic Forum in Philadelphia scheduled on March 23rd has been cancelled by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The organizers said in a statement that while they stood by the decision to invite Modi, adverse reactions from among the stakeholders involved had prompted the decision, reported NDTV.

“Our team felt that the potential polarizing reactions from sub-segments of the alumni base, student body and our supporters might put Modi in a compromising position, which we would like to avoid at all costs,” the statement said.

“We do not endorse any political views and do not support any specific ideology. Our goal as a team is only to stimulate valuable dialogue on India’s growth story,” the statement said.

Modi had been approached by the Wharton School’s students’ body, which organizes the annual India Economic Forum, and he had agreed to deliver a keynote address through video conference on March 23.

Later, a group of Wharton’s professors and students wrote a strongly-worded letter saying they were outraged to learn that Modi had been invited as a speaker.

“This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on March 18, 2005 on the ground that he, as Chief Minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat,” their letter said.

A student from the group of organizers told NDTV they invited Modi because they were impressed with Gujarat’s growth story.

Last month, the Gujarat Chief Minister had faced protests while delivering a speech at Delhi’s prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC). As he addressed the students, another group outside raised slogans and protested against him, saying the invitation overlooked the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. The police had to use water cannons and canes to control the protests.

Modi has faced opposition in the US from several other quarters in the past. A group of US powerful lawmakers had earlier in a public appeal to the Obama administration, asked it not to change the ‘good policy’ of denying visa to Modi because of allegations of ‘crime against humanity’ against him.

Among other eminent guests invited for the day-long forum in Philadelphia this year are Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Union Minister of State for IT and Communications Milind Deora, chairman of the Adani Group Gautam Adani, actress Shabana Azmi and poet and scriptwriter Javed Akhtar.

Earlier, keynote speakers have included former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, BJP leader Varun Gandhi and industrialist Anil Ambani.

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