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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Ivy League University cancels Modi speech following protests

The University of Pennsylvania in the US has cancelled a speech by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, following protests by teachers and students.

Mr Modi was scheduled to speak via a video-link at a conference at the University's prestigious Wharton School of Business later this month.

He has been widely criticized for his handling of the bloody communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 with his administration accused of "actively formenting" the violence which killed more than 1000 people - most of them Muslims.

Many Western governments boycotted Mr Modi's government after the riots and the US continues to refuse him a visa for travel.

The organizers of the conference, the Wharton India Economic Forum, said in a statement: "Our team felt that the potential polarising 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 Press Trust of India said a group of teachers and students had expressed outrage to learn that Mr Modi had been invited to deliver the keynote address at the meeting in Philadelphia later this month.

"This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on 18 March 2005 on the grounds that he, as chief minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat," they said in a letter.

Mr Modi, who belongs to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has not reacted to the development.
Under his leadership, Gujarat has been turned into one of India's economic powerhouses, but he is also seen as a divisive figure.

Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with the violence, but has not expressed remorse or offered an apology.

- Staff Reporter

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