By Ruth Conniff
An apologist for a mass murderer is running for Congress in California.
Dr. Vanila Singh is in the race for the seventeenth Congressional district, challenging two Democrats, Congressman Mike Honda and former Obama Administration trade representative Ro Khanna.
Singh has been defending an Indian politician named Narendra Modi, who quite possibly could be the Prime Minister of India in a few months. However, after she was called out for doing so, she unconvincingly disavowed her position in an effort to distance herself from a political patron's super PAC.
In 2002, as the head of the Indian state of Gujarat (the home state of Mahatma Gandhi, believe it or not), Modi presided over an anti-Muslim pogrom that left thousands of people dead. Official complicity in the killings was glaring.
"In many cases, the police led the charge, using gunfire to kill Muslims who got in the mobs' way," Human Rights Watch said in a report issued at the time. "A key state minister is reported to have taken over police control rooms in Ahmedabad [the state's largest city] on the first day of the carnage, issuing orders to disregard pleas of assistance from Muslims."
After initially ignoring the bloodbath, the Bush Administration, in response to pressure from human rights groups, issued a ban on Narendra Modi visiting the United States.
Singh wants that ban lifted. Her carefully worded backpedal on the matter does not deny this.
"It would be regretful if certain groups that have certain agendas would make the policy for the United States," Vanila Singh told SFGate.com, referring to the successful lobbying by human rights organizations to deny Modi a visa.
Singh would seem to be doing the bidding of a Chicago entrepreneur named Shalabh "Shaili" Kumar, a supporter of Modi -- although she denies this.
Over the past decade, Modi has gone from strength to strength. He has been re-elected to head his state a number of times and has now been chosen as the prime ministerial candidate of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party for this summer's national elections. The fact that he is persona non grata for the United States is a black mark that his backers are eager to erase.
"Singh acknowledges she never considered a political career until Kumar, founder of a super PAC, Indian Americans for Freedom, asked in October whether she would be interested in jumping into" the race, reports SFGate.com.
However, Singh told The American Bazaar that she has "not received any financial or other aid or benefit from Mr. Kumar or any organization he is part of, nor have I sought any such support and he is not involved in any way with my campaign in any official or unofficial capacity."
She added: "With respect to the Narendra Modi issue, I respect the decisions made by the US State Department and believe they should continue to determine what is in the best interest of the United States with regard to the promotion of Human Rights around the world, without prejudice or bias from special interest groups."
Despite the denials, it's fairly clear what's going on here. Singh and Kumar should not be using a Congressional race to wash the hands of someone like Modi.
The voters of California should be wise to this.
Photo: Vanila Singh for Congress.