WASHINGTON  - In an apparent gesture towards Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist who is Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, the United States dropped his name from its human rights report in connection with his involvement in the 2002 massacre of Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat, while insisting that Washington continues to express concerns about communal violence across India.

Responding to a series of questions that the State Department’s Congressionally mandated “2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”, which was released on Thursday, makes no reference to the Gujarat chief minister by name, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said that it did not indicate any softening of US stand towards him.

“I think you’ll find if you review the text that we’re very clear about our concerns about several episodes of communal violence across India,” she said.

“So I would encourage you to take a look at that and -think you’ll find if you review the text that we’re very clear about our concerns...”, the spokesperson said when a reporter said that all previous State Department reports specifically mentioned Modi, who is leading in the polls. About the US position on possibility of entry visa to Modi, Psaki said, “I don’t have any new policy or change in policy or new update to report to you,” or anything “to convey to you on the status of a visa” for Modi, she said.

Modi was denied a diplomatic US visa and his business/ tourist was revoked by the State Department in 2005 over his role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots Gujarat when he was the chief minister.

Repeating the standard US formulation, Psaki said: “We encourage individuals to apply, and those proceedings or processes are private by standard. It’s standard that they’re private.”

“What I’m conveying to you is that we continue to express concerns about communal violence as it exists in India,” she said. About US ambassador to India Nancy Powell’s recent meeting with Modi, Psaki said, “Obviously, we’re meeting with a broad range of officials” ahead of India’s May general elections.

“There’s obviously a political season happening, but we’ll meet with a range of officials on the ground, and it’s an indication of nothing more than that,” she said.

The Human Rights report released by Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday said “The most significant human rights problems” in India “were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government, leading to denial of justice; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence.”

“Other human rights problems included disappearances, poor prison conditions that were frequently life threatening, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention,” it said “Authorities continued to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights,” the report said. “The law in some states restricts religious conversion, and there were reports of arrests but no reports of convictions under those laws.”

“Some limits on the freedom of movement continued. Corruption was widespread,” it said.

“Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honour killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious problems.”

On Gujarat, the report said: “The government made some progress in cases that seek to hold police and security officials accountable for killings committed during the Gujarat riots in 2002.”

But “Civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to protect the population or arrest many of those responsible for communal violence in 2002 that resulted in the killings of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim, although there was progress in several court cases.” It said.

The Gujarat government appointed the Nanavati-Mehta Commission to investigate the 2002 violence, the report noted. In December the Gujarat government granted an extension for the 21st time, extending the commission to June 30, 2014.

The 2013 Study on Internally Displaced Persons of India by the Centre for Social Justice reported 3,964 internally displaced families in 86 settlements in Gujarat, all of them Muslim. 

The study reported that 30 percent of the IDPs had not received any aid and the rest had been inadequately compensated.

“The Gujarat government, which initially claimed there were no IDPs, continued to hold back compensation although the central government directed it to provide compensation.

“The state government also denied identified IDPs their entitlements under various social welfare programs, and the camps lacked basic amenities such as drinking water, power, sanitation, health care, and education. Having lost access to their previous jobs or farmlands, most displaced persons worked as casual labourers.

The Report notes that the Indian government had no national policy or legislation to address internal displacement resulting from armed conflict or from ethnic or communal violence. The responsibility for assisting IDPs was delegated to the state governments and district authorities, allowing for gaps in services and poor accountability.

Regarding this year’s violence in Muzaffarnagar, the Report says on August 27, clashes began between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, and led to the displacement of more than 42,000 persons, according to a fact-finding report submitted by the Centre for Policy Analysis. State governments organized relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli Districts for riot victims from approximately 9,000 families.

In the countrywide perspective, the Report says violence between ethnic groups in the states of Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram displaced an unknown number of persons during the year, and more than 115,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) remained from previous incidents of communal violence dating back to 1993.”