National

Supporting Modi: Economic interests overshadow quest for justice

London: Not to be left behind in the race to win businesses in Gujarat, the scene of worst anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002, following the UK, on 7 February, ambassadors of member countries of European Union hosted a lunch for Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the residence of German ambassador Michael Steiner in Delhi.

Mr Steiner justified this insensitive and salt-rubbing on the wounds of the victims of Modi’s fascism, by saying, “We are now in a new phase. This respect from us towards India is what the people of India expect from us.” (Mr Ambassador, Gujarat is not India and not all Gujaratis have voted for this fascist.) And in the display of this, “respect from us towards India”, according to Modi’s blog, he has been invited “to attend the European Parliament that will convene in Brussels in November this year. The Parliament will be attended by representatives of over 27 nations. He also received an invitation to attend the European Business Meet in Brussels later this year.”

L/R: Sareshwala, Lord Patel and Modi

Strangely for EU, especially Germany, it is worth reminding the readers that after visiting Gujarat in April 2010, two of German MPs, Ute Granold and Pascal Kober, had called Modi, “a dictator” and drawn parallels between Germany under Hitler and Gujarat under Modi. They further said, “Eight years have passed and a probe about his [Modi’s] role is in progress and hence Modi can’t be allowed into the European Union countries, including Germany. It is unacceptable... Gujarat seems to be doing quite well economically but our understanding is that economic development cannot be at the cost of human rights.” So enraged was Modi at their statements that he wrote a strong letter to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking an apology from the German Embassy.

Notwithstanding, does the Indian Government also see this gesture as EU’s “respect towards India”? This is how India’s Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari  commented on twitter, “It has been reported that the European Union ambassadors have told the Gujarat chief minister that accountability must be fixed for the Gujarat pogrom... Why does the chief minister not step up and take responsibility for what happened under his watch rather than the country is subjected to homilies by foreign diplomats... Does the buck not stop with their lunch guest? Ignominious to be reminded by foreigners.”

British MP Gardiner boasting proximity with Modi

Indians, in general, and Indian Muslims, in particular, have been campaigning and appealing to the British Government not to let Modi in the UK. However, while well-known Muslims, none of whom was even remotely involved in violence, have been refused visas for their alleged extremist views, in 2003 Modi was allowed to be welcomed by his supporters on British soil and so have been other politicians belonging to BJP, including L. K. Advani, Sadhvi Rithambra and Uma Bharti, who were directly involved in the destruction, on 6 December 1992, of Babri Mosque, have been issued visas. (Muslims’ protests and appeals may be seen on www.coimuk.org).

In October last year, as the news of British Government’s courtship with Modi broke, the Council of Indian Muslims-UK (CIM) sent an open letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague equating this move with, “Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s unwise move to try to please Hitler in 1939” and repeating, “ a similar blunder has gone out of its way to ‘engage’ and ‘rehabilitate’ Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi who does not only belong to a fascist party but is responsible for the massacre of more than two thousand Muslims.”

Reminding Mr Hague that among Modi’s casualties were two British Muslims of Indian descent, CIM’s Chairman Munaf Zeena wrote, “We are particularly disappointed because no consultation was done with British Indian Muslims in general and in particular the families whose members were butchered by Modi’s foot soldiers.”

The letter was responded to in December 2012 by Minister of State Rt. Hon Hugo Swire MP in which he said, “We continue to provide the families with full consular assistance...Our decision will have no impact on our determination to seek justice for the victims.” (This may sound an extreme reaction but one wonders if the victims were not Muslims and did not have non-white background would the decision have been as casual?)

With regard to allowing entry to Modi, the Minister said, “...our policy is clear that entry shall be refused for immigration purposes or to any individual who may present safety or security risk; where their presence in the United Kingdom would not be conducive to the public good; or if there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that they have committed human rights abuses [emphasis added]...”

One hopes that the learned Minister does not regard as unreliable and incredible the leaked report of its own High Commission in Delhi saying, “British officials in India say the recent widespread violence in the Indian state of Gujarat was pre-planned and carried out with the support of the state government [emphasis added].

In a damning internal report obtained by the BBC, British officials say the violence had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing [emphasis added] and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister remains in power.” (BBC online, 25 April 2002)

The son, daughter, grandson and son-in-law of  former MP Ahsan Jafri, who was insulted and sworn at by Modi when he phoned Modi to seek his help to stop and disperse the frenzied mob that had gathered around his locality and was later dismembered live, had particularly welcomed the courage the two German MPs had shown. “We applaud the courage your MPs have shown and commend your determination in helping the course of justice in Gujarat. That determination and courage are the valuable source of strength for the thousands of victims of Gujarat massacre who are working towards getting justice for their losses.” They had said in a joint letter to the German Chancellor Ms Angela Merkel.

How does the family, specially late Jafri’s widow, a key witness to what her husband and other Muslims had to endure, feel now? This is how her son-in-law summarised her reactions, “We just saw off Zakia saheba at Philadelphia airport... Every help Narendra Modi gets from national, or international bodies, making him advance towards India’s prime-ministership, breaks Zakia’s heart. She sees it as one more nail in the coffin of our justice system. She feels disappointed that the advanced countries of the EU, which often admonish developing countries on the issues of justice and sermonise to ensure justice is held supreme, in their own pursuit of economic interests, are willing to feign ignorance about Modi’s crimes. Although Zakia saheba does not speak much, we know her feelings, that do not need a language for those of us who love her so much and read in her eyes and tears everything she wants to say.”

So what has changed since then? The answer is that money-power is making all the difference. Modi is being backed by big corporate families and wealthy supporters of BJP who have been lobbying for him in UK, EU and US while the role of Indian Muslim diaspora, as far as lobbying and political activism is concerned, is  abysmally disappointing. So much so that no sooner the news of UK’s changed stand was broken than the only Indian Muslim in the House of Lords, Adam Patel, who had once actively participated in the campaign to have Modi declared a persona non grata in UK, welcomed it. "There is nothing wrong in meeting Modi. In fact, the discussions may lead to getting justice for the victims’ families.” he said. Last month Mr Patel travelled to Gujarat and shook hands with Modi. He reportedly mollified his bewildered supporters in Blackburn that he had taken the lesson to reconcile with a brute from the treaty of Hudaibiya [sic].

When confronted by an old friend, Mr Patel was honest to confess that behind his change of heart was the private dental college he was to establish in Gujarat. So if a Muslim Gujarati could embrace Modi, why would anyone else care about the atrocities and injustice Gujarati Muslims had to endure? Lord Dholakia and Lord Meghnad Desai, once vehement opponents of Modi, also welcomed the decision.

It is not only big Indian businessmen who are supporting Modi and investing in his projection as future Prime Minister of India. He has his supporters inside the British Parliament one of whom is Barry Gardner Labour MP from Brent North. In a “Vibrant Gujarat” function organised by Modi Government on 12-13 January, 2008, Mr Gardiner praised him as the “lion of Gujarat”. However, surpassing his previous records during his election campaign, Barry Gardiner published on the front page of his personal website (www.berrygardiner.com) a testimonial from Modi along with his photograph that read, “Gujarat has no greater friend in Britain than Barry Gardiner.” Imagine the outcry if a Muslim politician had published such a recommendation from an Iranian leader or a politician belonging to Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or Jama’at-e-Islami.

Without organising themselves and without being politically active, Muslims will not get anywhere. To quote poet Iqbal, “Taqdeer ke qazi ka ye fatwa hai azal se, Hai jurm-e-zaeefi ki saza marge-mufajaat!” (It is the eternal decree of the Judge sitting in Judgement on destinies-That punishment for the crime of weakness is sudden death.”

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2013 on page no. 7

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