Hi India stands by report on US team’s India trip

Chicago, April 1 (IANS) An ethnic Indian newspaper here says it stands by its report that organisers of the US delegation to India that met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had canvassed for participants in the trip at prices ranging from $3,000 to $16,000.

“Hi India published the article on the basis of factual information available to it from various sources,” said Hemant Brahmbhatt, publisher of the Chicago based newspaper which published a report on the US Congressional delegation’s visit to India, in a statement.

These included a copy of the official invitation sent out by the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) as well as a news conference addressed by its founder, Shalabh Kumar, a Chicago businessman, he said asserting “the story was published in keeping with the best traditions of responsible journalism.”

The trip has been mired in controversy since the publication of the Hi India report that the organisers had canvassed in the Indian American community for participants in the trip that included four US members of the House of Representatives, all Republicans.

The US delegation, including Congress members Marlin Stutzman, Cyntia Wiederspahn, Cathy Rodgers and Aaron Schock, met Modi, who has been denied a US visa for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, in Ahmedabad March 28 and invited him to visit the US.

Brahmbhatt said the paper “also drew on our own interviews, records available with the federal and state regulatory authorities, and our own reporting of the 2012 American presidential election campaign.”

“We believe this report was in the public interest, and especially concerned those who are citizens of the United States,” he said adding, the report, as it appeared in Hi India, was restricted to issues which we think are of interest to American readers.

“This included the itinerary and charges for Indian Americans going on the trip, the record of the political action committees founded by Mr. Shalabh Kumar and the introduction of issues connected to Gujarat’s electoral politics into an Illinois race for the United States Congress,” he said.

Brahmbhatt said they had “no comment” on media reports that “Kumar’s lawyers are looking into the possibility of filing a defamation suit against Hi India. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

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