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Hindu nationalists set fire to a PepsiCo warehouse in western India on Saturday to protest the U.S. denial of a visa for a top state official due to his role in religious riots in 2002.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the U.S. government to urgently reconsider its decision.
The State Department said Friday it had denied a diplomatic visa to the Hindu nationalist chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, and revoked his existing tourist/business visa under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act that bars people responsible for violations of religious freedom from getting a visa.
Nearly 150 activists barged into the warehouse of U.S.-based PepsiCo in the western city of Surat, smashed bottles and set fire to the place, said Dharmesh Joshi, a witness. Police confirmed the attack.
The warehouse was partially burned. The demonstrators were from the Bajrang Dal, a group affiliated with Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which governs Gujarat state.
The State Department had no immediate comment, spokesman Noel Clay said Saturday in Washington.
The protesters also ransacked a nearby PepsiCo office and demonstrated outside the American consulate in Bombay. PepsiCo representatives could not be reached for comment.
Some carried placards reading: "Down with the United States," "Boycott the U.S. goods and the Americans."
The attacks came despite a tightening of security in western India where Hindu nationalists have a strong presence, to prevent retaliation to the U.S. decision.
Indian-American leaders Saturday criticized the U.S. government's decision to deny a visa to a high-ranking Indian official, calling it an insult to the world's largest democracy.
"Let me say this as a U.S. citizen ... my president is promoting democracy all over the world, and now I'm confused because my president has stopped the democratically elected leader (Modi) from coming to my country," said Niku Trivedi, an organizer of the Association of Indian-Americans of North America.
Indian-American leaders, however, said at a gathering Saturday in North Brunswick that groups critical of Modi have a right to protest him but not to prevent him from speaking in the United States.
"They have their freedom of speech, but he had a right to come to the United States. The dismissal of his visa was a great mistake," said Seema M. Singh, president of the New Jersey Asian-Indian Chamber of Commerce.