US Brackets India's Modi With Murderous Dictators: Aristide, Kabila, Mugabe and MBS
Speaking about the US decision to grant immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said that it was “not the first time” that the US government has designated immunity to foreign leaders and listed four cases. “Some examples: President Aristide in Haiti in 1993; President Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2001; Prime Minister Modi in India in 2014; and President Kabila in the DRC in 2018. This is a consistent practice that we have afforded to heads of state, heads of government, and foreign ministers,” he said.
|BJP HIndutva Leaders Modi, Yogi and Shah|
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India was barred from entering the United States from 2005 to 2014 for his involvement in the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. In 2015, a US judge dismissed a lawsuit against Modi after the US government argued that he is immune to accusations as a sitting head of government. While Modi has denied any involvement in the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom, he has never even expressed any regret over the killings in Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister of the Indian state.
While Modi has refused to accept any responsibility for the massacre of over 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, his party BJP's leaders have not shied away from claiming "credit" for it. Just yesterday, Modi's right-hand man and current Home Minister Amit Shah said Muslims were "taught a lesson" in 2002. He said that "after they were taught a lesson in 2002, these elements left that path (of violence). They refrained from indulging in violence from 2002 till 2022. BJP has established permanent peace in Gujarat by taking strict action against those who used to indulge in communal violence".
In 2002 when Narendra Modi was chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, hundreds of young Muslim girls were sexually assaulted, tortured and killed. These rapes were condoned by the ruling BJP, whose refusal to intervene lead to the rape and killing of thousands and displacement of 200,000 Muslims.
In 2012, a former Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Shankersinh Vaghela accused Modi's state government of having blood on its hand: "2002 me jo katl-e-aam hua uspe wo sarkar bani hai. Iske baad encounter hui, uske upar ye sarkar bani thi. Sarkar banti hai, lekin ye jo conspiracy karke sarkar banana hai, ye Gujarat aur desh ki janata jaanti hai aur aaj wo repeat nah o, iske liye hum janata ko request karte hain (The foundation of this (Modi) government rests on the 2002 carnage. Governments are made, but not on conspiracies. And the people of Gujarat know this, and that's why we are requesting the people for a change)," Mr Vaghela said.
Since his election to India's top elected office, Modi has elevated fellow right-wing Hindu extremists to positions of power in India. Yogi Adiyanath, known for his highly inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric, was hand-picked in 2016 by Modi to head India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.
Adiyanath's supporters brag about digging up Muslim women from their graves and raping them. In a video uploaded in 2014, he said, “If [Muslims] take one Hindu girl, we’ll take 100 Muslim girls. If they kill one Hindu, we’ll kill 100 Muslims.”
Yogi wants to "install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque”. Before his election, he said, “If one Hindu is killed, we won’t go to the police, we’ll kill 10 Muslims”. He endorsed the beef lynching of Indian Muslim Mohammad Akhlaque and demanded that the victim's family be charged with cow slaughter.
Madhav S. Golwalkar, considered among the founders of the Hindu Nationalist movement in India, saw Islam and Muslims as enemies. He said: “Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindusthan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting to shake off the despoilers".
In his book We, MS Golwalkar wrote the following in praise of what Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did to Jews as a model for what Hindus should do to Muslims in India: "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."
Paul Richard Brass, professor emeritus of political science and international relations at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, has spent many years researching communal riots in India. He has debunked all the action-reaction theories promoted by Hindu Nationalists like Modi. He believes these are not spontaneous but planned and staged as "a grisly form of dramatic production" by well-known perpetrators from the Sangh Parivar of which Prime Minister Modi has been a member since his youth.
Here's an excerpt of Professor Brass's work:
"Events labelled “Hindu-Muslim riots” have been recurring features in India for three-quarters of a century or more. In northern and western India, especially, there are numerous cities and town in which riots have become endemic. In such places, riots have, in effect, become a grisly form of dramatic production in which there are three phases: preparation/rehearsal, activation/enactment, and explanation/interpretation. In these sites of endemic riot production, preparation and rehearsal are continuous activities. Activation or enactment of a large-scale riot takes place under particular circumstances, most notably in a context of intense political mobilization or electoral competition in which riots are precipitated as a device to consolidate the support of ethnic, religious, or other culturally marked groups by emphasizing the need for solidarity in face of the rival communal group. The third phase follows after the violence in a broader struggle to control the explanation or interpretation of the causes of the violence. In this phase, many other elements in society become involved, including journalists, politicians, social scientists, and public opinion generally. At first, multiple narratives vie for primacy in controlling the explanation of violence. On the one hand, the predominant social forces attempt to insert an explanatory narrative into the prevailing discourse of order, while others seek to establish a new consensual hegemony that upsets existing power relations, that is, those which accept the violence as spontaneous, religious, mass-based, unpredictable, and impossible to prevent or control fully. This third phase is also marked by a process of blame displacement in which social scientists themselves become implicated, a process that fails to isolate effectively those most responsible for the production of violence, and instead diffuses blame widely, blurring responsibility, and thereby contributing to the perpetuation of violent productions in future, as well as the order that sustains them."
"In India, all this takes place within a discourse of Hindu-Muslim hostility that denies the deliberate and purposive character of the violence by attributing it to the spontaneous reactions of ordinary Hindus and Muslims, locked in a web of mutual antagonisms said to have a long history. In the meantime, in post-Independence India, what are labelled Hindu-Muslim riots have more often than not been turned into pogroms and massacres of Muslims, in which few Hindus are killed. In fact, in sites of endemic rioting, there exist what I have called “institutionalized riot systems,” in which the organizations of militant Hindu nationalism are deeply implicated. Further, in these sites, persons can be identified, who play specific roles in the preparation, enactment, and explanation of riots after the fact. Especially important are what I call the “fire tenders,” who keep Hindu-Muslim tensions alive through various inflammatory and inciting acts; “conversion specialists,” who lead and address mobs of potential rioters and give a signal to indicate if and when violence should commence; criminals and the poorest elements in society, recruited and rewarded for enacting the violence; and politicians and the vernacular media who, during the violence, and in its aftermath, draw attention away from the perpetrators of the violence by attributing it to the actions."
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Saddam Hussein was accused and tried by the West of killing thousands of country's minorities; Only Modi in India was accused by the West and denied visas of killing thousands of country's minorities!
Pakistan also urged India to immediately constitute an independent commission of inquiry to bring the culprits of the horrific Godhra incident, as well as the Gujarat riots, to justice.
"The recent statement by the former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shankersinh Vaghela, has confirmed Pakistan’s long-standing assertion that the BJP led government under the incumbent Prime Minister — who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time of anti-Muslim riots in Godhra — was directly responsible for fomenting violence and massacre of Muslims," the Foreign Office Spokesperson said in a press release.
This has been further corroborated indirectly by the Indian Home Minister, who recently claimed that those responsible for Gujarat riots had been "taught a lesson" and "permanent peace" had been established in Gujarat by the BJP’s decisive actions.
Pakistan also stressed upon upon the international community, particularly human rights activists and defenders to take serious note of the aggravating situation of Islamophobia in India; and called on Indian government to ensure that the rights of minorities in India, especially Muslims, were safeguarded and their lives protected, it was added.
The spokesperson said, "It is most deplorable that the crimes against humanity, targeting Muslims, were perpetrated solely for BJP’s political gains. Regrettably, the BJP once again seeks to cash in on its divisive policies two decades after the Gujarat tragedy."
Under BJP rule, India’s treatment of its minorities, especially Indian Muslims, had been discriminatory, degrading, and full of hate and violence.
In June this year, the Supreme Court of India handed a clean chit to the current Prime Minister, the then CM of Gujarat, for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The Supreme Court shut down as many as 11 petitions, including one filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, seeking an independent probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.
"It is an undeniable fact that India’s incumbent Prime Minister had been banned from entering countries such as the United States till 2014, because of his abysmal human rights record as Chief Minister of the Gujarat state," the spokesperson said.
Sadly, the entire Indian legal and administrative machinery was blindly pursuing the Hindutva-driven agenda of the ruling BJP-RSS nexus, where perpetrators of hate and violence were protected by law and enjoyed exalted status, whereas religious minorities were constantly threatened and denied the freedom to practise their faith without fear, while their lives, property, and places of worship remained under threat of violation.
New Delhi’s foreign policy won’t be insulated from its domestic politics, which demonise India’s 200 million Muslims
hen the US state department recently told a court that the Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, should have immunity in a lawsuit over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it portrayed its argument as a legal and not moral position. By way of evidence, it pointed to a rogues’ gallery of foreign leaders previously afforded similar protection. Nestling between Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who, it was claimed, assassinated political rivals, and Congo’s Joseph Kabila, whose security detail was accused of assaulting protesters in Washington, was India’s Narendra Modi.
Dropping Mr Modi into such a list was no accident. It is a reminder that while New Delhi basks in its diplomatic success at recent G20 and Cop27 summits, it might find the international environment less accommodating if Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) continue to stir up hatred to win elections. Washington’s gesture suggests that its strategic partnership with India cannot be completely insulated from domestic political issues. Mr Modi’s failure, as chief minister of Gujarat, to prevent anti-Muslim riots in 2002 that left hundreds dead saw him denied a US visa, until he became Indian prime minister. The message from Foggy Bottom was that the ban had not been withdrawn, but suspended, because Mr Modi ran a country that Washington wanted to do business with.
India is considered a geopolitical counterweight to China and, in many ways, an indispensable actor on the world stage. But Mr Biden’s team appears to see the position as more contingent, and will be less tolerant than the Trump administration of Mr Modi’s attempts to remould Indian democracy so that Hindus become constitutionally pre-eminent, with minorities reduced to second-class citizens. Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom accused New Delhi of a “crackdown on civil society and dissent”, and “religious freedom violations”. The Indian foreign ministry hit back at “biased and inaccurate observations”. Officials would do better to reflect on where their country is going.
New Delhi’s foreign policy won’t be insulated from its domestic politics, which demonise India’s 200 million Muslims
While a rising power, India’s ascent depends on building bridges with others. The Middle East is a key energy supplier and regional trade partner that supports 9 million Indian workers. India’s security depends on Arab states sustaining a hostile environment for terrorism. So when BJP functionaries made derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad this summer, Gulf states lodged formal protests with New Delhi. Chastened, the Modi government was spurred into action – suspending one party official and expelling another, as well as saying it accords “the highest respect to all religions”.
Bland assurances may not be enough. The intimidation of India’s 200 million Muslims is hiding in plain sight. State elections in Gujarat begin on Thursday, weeks after BJP ministers approved the premature release of 11 men convicted of rape and murder of Muslim women and children during the riots. On the campaign trail last Friday, India’s home minister claimed troublemakers had been “taught a lesson” in 2002. This sounded like a signal to Hindu mobs that they could do as they pleased.
Worryingly, there are signs that the communal clashes seen in India are being copied elsewhere. In Leicester, many south Asian Muslims – like the city’s Hindus – have Indian roots. Yet when violence erupted between these communities this September, escalating into attacks on mosques and temples, the Indian high commission in London condemned the “violence perpetrated against the Indian community in Leicester and vandalisation of premises and symbols of [the] Hindu religion”. Pointedly, there was no condemnation of Hindus’ violence against Muslims. Once careful to proclaim its secularism, India’s government appears content to export its Hindu chauvinism. That should trouble everyone.
Can Narendra Modi Practice at Home What He Preaches Abroad?
So, what should one make of this two-faced discourse – talk of peace, diplomacy, and the world as a family overseas, and call for war and expansion at home? Modi’s silence on hate speech and calls for the genocide of Muslims indicates that he is okay with it. If he was not, why would he not say so? Don’t these hateful calls violate the values he preaches? Are they not anti-Indian and anti-national?
Nadav Lapid, chair of the International film festival India, spoke out against work that critics say is anti-Muslim propaganda
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the film festival, Lapid said he and other jury members had been “shocked and disturbed” that the film had been given a platform. The Kashmir Files, said Lapid, was “a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”.
Lapid, who has taken an anti-establishment stance against rightwing elements in his home of Israel, is not alone in expressing concern over The Kashmir Files. Cinemagoers have started anti-Muslim chants at screenings and it has been accused of stirring up communal violence. In May, Singapore banned the film over its “potential to cause enmity between different communities”.
Vivek Agnihotri, the film’s director, said on Monday that “terror supporters and genocide deniers can never silence me”.
He added: “I challenge all the intellectuals in this world and this great film-maker from Israel to find one frame, one dialogue or an event in The Kashmir Files that is not true.”
A row has erupted in India after an Israeli director described a controversial film about Kashmir as propaganda and a “vulgar movie”, prompting the Israeli ambassador to issue an apology.
Nadav Lapid, who was chair of this year’s panel of the international film festival of India (IFFI), spoke out against the inclusion of The Kashmir Files at the event.
The film, released in March to popular box office success, is largely set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when attacks and threats by militants led to most Kashmiri Hindus fleeing from the region, where the majority of the population are Muslim.
Many film critics, Kashmiri Muslims and others, have described it as propaganda that inflames hatred against Muslims and distorts events to suit an anti-Muslim agenda.
However, the film has received a ringing endorsement from the highest levels of the Indian government, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), who have also been accused of pursuing an anti-Muslim agenda. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, has praised the film, congratulating its makers for having “the guts to portray the truth” and it was the second highest-grossing film in India this year.
Lapid said his comments were made in the spirit of “critical discussion, which is essential for art and life”, adding he was sure they could be accepted graciously by the festival and audience as such. But his critique caused outrage.
Amit Malviya, a senior BJP leader, compared his remarks to denial of the Holocaust. “For the longest time, people even denied the Holocaust and called Schindler’s List propaganda, just like some are doing to Kashmir Files,” he said.
In Goa, where the festival took place, a complaint was filed to police against Lapid, accusing him of “instigating enmity between groups”.
Fellow jurors at the film festival, which is sponsored by the Indian government, quickly distanced themselves from his comments, stating that they reflected his opinion and not that of the panel. Film-maker Sudipto Sen, who was on the panel, said: “We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film.”
Some of the harshest criticism came from Israel’s ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, who told Lapid he should be “ashamed” of his comments and that it was “insensitive and presumptuous” to speak on a subject that has political and religious ramifications in India. Gilon said he “unequivocally condemned” the statements.
In India, Islamophobic hashtags like #CoronaJihad circulated widely on social media, seeking to blame Muslims for the virus.
In India, there were multiple reports of Muslims being attacked after being accused of spreading the coronavirus.
In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced in April 2020 that more than 900 members of the Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat and other foreign nationals (most of whom were Muslim) had been placed “in quarantine” after participating in a conference in New Delhi allegedly linked to the spread of early cases of coronavirus. (Many of those detained were released or granted bail by July 2020.)
Pandemic-related killings of religious minorities were reported in three countries in 2020, according to the sources analyzed in the study. In India, two Christians died after they were beaten in police custody for violating COVID-19 curfews in the state of Tamil Nadu.
What is much more evident is how the incident and the BJP’s rhetoric fueled hate speech and bigotry against Muslims in the early stages of the pandemic. Muslims were blamed for deliberately spreading the virus across India by waging what Hindutva adherents claimed was a “corona jihad”.
For months, headlines, incendiary statements, and viral videos sought to convey the idea that the spread of the virus in the country was the responsibility of a single community.
Imagine if the Tablighi Jamaat gathering had been happening right now, with India in the grip of a brutal second wave of Covid-19 and daily case counts hitting numbers far higher than the worst days of 2020. Imagine the response of the BJP and India’s pro-government news channels if a police person had said something like this:
“We are continuously appealing to people to follow Covid appropriate behaviour. But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing… A stampede-like situation may arise if we would try to enforce social distancing at ghats so we are unable to enforce social distancing here.”
It is not hard to imagine the anger and demands for accountability that might have been unleashed by a comment like that, from a senior police officer.
So what explains the relative silence of the government and the BJP when the same comment comes from the Inspector General of the Kumbh Mela currently taking place in Uttarakhand?
This was what Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said on March 20:
“I invite all devotees across the world to come to Haridwar and take a holy dip in the Ganga during Mahakumbh. Nobody will be stopped in the name of Covid-19 as we are sure the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus.”
While claiming that all Central guidelines would be followed and that only those with a negative RT-PCR would be allowed to come, Rawat repeatedly said there would be no “rok-tok” or obstacles. “There is no strictness,” he said. “But Covid-19 guidelines should be followed… It’s open for everyone.”
By Nikhil Mandalaparthy and Tara Roy, Hindus for Human Rights
They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
“The Christians in India … have no moral conscience.”
These hateful and provocative statements would shock anyone. But what’s even more shocking is that they come from a nonprofit organization based here in the Dallas area.
The Global Hindu Heritage Foundation is a Frisco-based nonprofit that just hosted its end-of-the-year gala dinner Nov. 27.
The dinner’s agenda items included seemingly innocuous-sounding items like food distribution and COVID-19 relief, alongside more alarming topics: demolition of “illegal” churches in India and the conversion of Indian Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.
The GHHF isn’t a new organization — it has been operating out of Frisco for 15 years, with a long track record of spewing hatred against Christians and Muslims along the way.
The fact that the GHHF has been able to operate for so long without drawing attention to its incendiary rhetoric tells us a lot about the growth of Hindu nationalism in America.
It’s time for all of us to take note and stand up to this hate in our community.Last week, Indian American activists from different faith backgrounds attended a Frisco City Council meeting demanding action against GHHF.Our organization, Hindus for Human Rights, reached out to GHHF for a comment but did not receive any responses.GHHF and rising Hindu nationalism in AmericaGHHF was founded in 2006 by a group of Hindu Americans from the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with the goal of advocating for various policies in India that advance the political ideology of Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalism is an ideology that aims to transform India from a secular democracy to a Hindu nation. In recent years, under the rule of a Hindu nationalist party, India has seen a rise in attacks on religious and cultural minorities, including Christians, Muslims and Dalits, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.Just like white nationalists raise fears that racial minorities are “taking over” America —also known as Replacement Theory — Hindu nationalists argue that Muslims and Christians are plotting to take over India and convert India’s Hindu majority to Islam and/or Christianity. This is contradicted by survey data, which shows that religious conversion is extremely rare in India, and in fact Hindus gain as many people as they lose.
Another tenet of Hindu nationalism is the idea that Muslims and Christians cannot be “truly” Indian. Many Hindu nationalist groups engage in efforts to convert Indian Muslims and Christians “back” to Hinduism, an effort known as Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) in Hindi. GHHF has a team of 26 full-time staff in India who try to convert Christians and Muslims “back” to Hinduism, and their fundraising emails call on donors to sponsor a pracharak (missionary) for the cost of $3,000 per year.
GHHF’s missionary activities are accompanied by aggressive speech against Christians and Muslims. The organization has previously called Jesus an “angry, cruel, hateful and jealous God” and has said that “Christianity made many people illogical, irrational, and less objective.
”The GHHF believes in the “othering” of Muslims and Christians and has said: “All religions are different, Hinduism is inclusive and other two major religions — Christianity and Islam — are exclusive. It is all about “We and THEY”.“If they [Christians] are coming to convert our Hindus, we should drive them away. We should not even allow them to talk about their religion,” according to a GHHF blog.
Hate has no place in Dallas. Given GHHF’s track record of discriminatory rhetoric, it’s alarming to see that it has had success raising funds here in the Dallas area, which was named America’s fourth most diverse city in 2021, according to Wallet Hub. And yet, across the country, we are seeing Hindu nationalist groups like GHHF spread hate in local communities.
In August, the annual India Day parade in Edison, N.J., featured posters of Hindu nationalist politicians along with a bulldozer, which has become a divisive symbol of hate against Indian Muslims. A month later, in September, Hindu nationalist organizations invited Hindu extremist leader Sadhvi Rithambara to deliver lectures across the country.
GHHF’s Frisco fundraiser is another grim reminder of how discriminatory attacks have become commonplace in the United States.
In September, Frisco saw a group of Indian American women verbally attacked and threatened — an incident the community is still reeling from, KTVT reported.
Beyond the Indian American community, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian hate crimes also continue to be on the rise in Dallas. While we speak out against these various forms of hate, we must also be vigilant against the rise of another violent ideology in our communities: Hindu nationalism.
Nikhil Mandalaparthy is the deputy executive director at Hindus for Human Rights where Tara Roy is the communication director. They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
The FM’s comments came minutes after his Indian counterpart had accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.
In his speech at the Security Council, the Indian minister had said that “India faced the horrors of cross-border terrorism long before the world took serious note of it” and has “fought terrorism resolutely, bravely and with a zero-tolerance approach".
Bilawal hit back at the comments saying “I am the foreign minister of Pakistan and Pakistan’s foreign minister is a victim of terrorism as the son of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif when he was chief minister of Punjab, his home minister was assassinated by a terrorist. Political parties, civil society, the average people in Pakistan across the board have been the victims of perpetrators of terrorism.”
“We have lost far more lives to terrorism than India has,” he added questioning why Pakistan would ever want to perpetuate terrorism and make “our own people suffer”.
“Unfortunately, India has been playing in that space […] where it is very easy to say ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ together and get the world to agree and they very skilfully blur this line where people like myself are associated with terrorists rather than those that have been and to this day are fighting terrorism,” he continued.
The FM then went on to say that New Delhi perpetuated this narrative not just against India but also Muslims in that country. “We are terrorists whether we’re Muslims in Pakistan and we’re terrorists whether we’re Muslims in India.”
“Osama bin Laden is dead,” said Bilawal, “but the butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the prime minister of India”.
“He [Narendra Modi] was banned from entering this country [the United States],” he continued, “these are the prime minister and foreign minister of the RSS [a right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation]”.
“The RSS draws its inspiration from Hitler’s SS [the Nazi Party’s combat branch, Schutzstaffel],” Bilawal added.
The FM went on to point out the irony in the inauguration of Gandhi’s bust at UN headquarters by the Indian FM and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “If the FM of India was being honest, then he knows as well as I, that the RSS does not believe in Gandhi, in his ideology. They do not see this individual as the founder of India, they hero-worship the terrorist that assassinated Gandhi.”
“They are not even attempting to wash the blood of the people of Gujarat off their hands,” said Bilawal, lamenting that the “Butcher of Gujarat” was now the “Butcher of Kashmir”.
“For their electoral campaign, Prime Minister Modi’s government has used their authority to pardon the men who perpetuated rape against Muslims in Gujarat. Those terrorists were freed by the prime minister of India,” said Bilawal.
“In order to perpetuate their politics of hate, their transition from a secular India to a Hindu supremacist India, this narrative is very important,” said Bilawal, claiming Pakistan had “proof” that Modi’s government had facilitated a terrorist attack in Pakistan.
The minister was referring to the “irrefutable evidence” Pakistan had of the involvement of Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in the blast at Johar Town, Lahore last year as three terrorists had been arrested.
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Country appears more divided than ever along Hindu-Muslim lines – and for many, Modi’s BJP is to blame
The procession had begun peacefully. Marching through the streets of Delhi’s Jahangirpuri district on Saturday, the devotees had gathered to celebrate the Hindu festival of Hanuman Jayanti. But the peace did not last long. As the evening drew in, an unauthorised parade began to gather. This time, men clad in saffron, the signature colour of Hindu nationalism, filled the streets brandishing swords and pistols, and started to shout provocative communal slogans.
Previous agreements between Hindu and Muslim residents for the procession to avoid passing by a local mosque, which was holding evening prayers, were ignored.
“A Hindu mob smashed beer bottles inside the mosque, put up saffron flags there and chanted Jai Shri Ram [Hail Lord Ram],” said Tabreez Khan, 39, a witness. “A caretaker of the mosque started resisting them, leading to a brawl. It was only after they started to desecrate the mosque that Muslims got angry and clashes started and stones were thrown.”
Muslim and Hindu witnesses blamed each other for the violence. Rinku Sharma, a Hindu taking part in the procession, said the clashes began “when we entered the mosque area”.
“Most of the people living in this area are Muslims,” said Mohamad Fazal, 35. “This was not a religious rally but an attack on us [Muslims].”
Six police officers were injured in the violence, and more than 20 people arrested, the majority of whom were Muslim. But among those questioned by police was the leader of the local branch of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a notorious rightwing group who had co-organised the evening procession. “There was no instigation, it seemed the attack was planned to create communal tensions,” added Khan.
Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana denied that a saffron flag had been placed in the mosque and said people from “both communities” were being investigated. “Action will be taken against any person found guilty irrespective of their class, creed, community and religion,” he said.
The events in Jahangirpuri were far from isolated. Over the weekend, almost 140 people were arrested in connection with incidents of communal violence and rioting between Hindus and Muslims in the states of Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka during celebrations of Hanuman Jayanti.
It had been a similar story in previous weeks. Celebrations of the Hindu festival of Ram Navami in seven states as far flung as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and West Bengal were marred bay communal violence, mostly against Muslims, who are observing Ramadan. The clashes left one person dead, resulted in dozens of Muslim-owned homes and shops being set alight or demolished, provocative slogans being shouted outside numerous mosques and attempts to install saffron flags inside Muslim places of worship.
The surge in communal violence has sparked concern among many in India who fear the country is becoming more polarised than ever along Hindu-Muslim lines. For many, the blame has been directed at the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, led by the prime minister, Narendra Modi. The BJP is accused of overseeing a religiously divisive agenda and emboldening hostility towards India’s 200m Muslims, relegating them to second-class citizens. Meanwhile, Hindu vigilante groups such as VHP have been allowed to operate freely and have increasingly begun to take the law into their own hands.
Modi had denied allegations that he did not do enough to stop the violence.
A team sent by the British government to inquire into the 2002 Gujarat riots said that Narendra Modi, who was then the state’s chief minister, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence, a BBC documentary released on Tuesday claimed.
The documentary, titled The Modi Question, was removed from YouTube on Wednesday.
The documentary cited a report the inquiry team had sent the United Kingdom government. The documentary said that the report has never been published.
Large-scale communal violence had erupted in Gujarat in February and March 2002 after the coach of a passenger train filled with Hindu pilgrims caught fire in Godhra. Official records show that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the riots.
Modi has denied allegations that he did not do enough to stop the riots.
The British inquiry team alleged that Modi had prevented the Gujarat Police from acting to stop violence targeted at Muslims, the BBC documentary claimed.
However, a closure report by a Special Investigation Team appointed by India’s Supreme Court to inquire into the violence said in February 2012 that there was no prosecutable evidence against Modi and 63 others. A magistrate accepted the team’s report in 2013.
On June 24 last year, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by Zakia Jafri, the wife of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, challenging the SIT report. Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people who were killed when a mob went on a rampage in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, pelting stones and setting fire to homes.
Modi told police not to intervene, finds report
The BBC documentary released on Tuesday features a former senior diplomat, one of the investigators sent by the United Kingdom government, as saying that the violence had been planned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The report of the British government inquiry team had said that the VHP and its allies “could not have inflicted so much damage without the climate of impunity created by the state government”.
The team also cited “reliable contacts” as saying that Modi met senior police officers on February 27, 2002, and “ordered them not to intervene” in the rioting, the documentary claimed.
‘Extent of violence greater than reported’
The British government inquiry team had also concluded that the extent of violence during the 2002 riots was “much greater than reported”, according to the BBC documentary. It said that the violence was politically motivated and the aim was to “purge Muslims from Hindu-dominated areas”.
The report said that the systematic campaign of violence had “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing”. It alleged that “widespread and systematic rape” of Muslim women took place during the riots.
Jack Straw, who was the British foreign secretary at the time of the violence, told the BBC that the allegations against Modi were a “stain on his reputation”.
“These were very serious claims – that Chief Minister Modi had played a pretty active part in pulling back the police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists,” Straw said. “That was a particularly egregious example.”
In the wake of 2002 Gujarat riots, the United Kingdom government had imposed a diplomatic boycott on Modi for his alleged failure to stop the violence. It ended the boycott in October 2012.
From 2005 to 2014, Modi was also denied a visa to the United States for the same reason.
In 2013, Modi had told Reuters that his government “had used its full strength” to “ do the right thing”. In comments that had led to widespread criticism, he had compared his emotional state to an occupant of a car involved in an accident.
“Someone else is driving a car and we are sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not?” he had said, according to Reuters. “Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”
On Jan. 19, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “Do note that this has not been screened in India. So, I am only going to comment in the context of what I have heard about it and what my colleagues have seen. Let me just make it very clear that we think this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias, the lack of objectivity, and frankly a continuing colonial mindset, is blatantly visible.”
“If anything, this film or documentary is a reflection on the agency and individuals that are peddling this narrative again. It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it and frankly we do not wish to dignify such efforts,” Bagchi added.
A BBC spokesperson told Variety: “The BBC is committed to highlighting important issues from around the world. The documentary series examines the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India’s PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions. This has been the source of considerable reporting and interest both in India and across the world in recent years.”
“The documentary was rigorously researched according to highest editorial standards. A wide range of voices, witnesses and experts were approached, and we have featured a range of opinions – this includes responses from people in the BJP [India’s ruling party]. We offered the Indian Government a right to reply to the matters raised in the series – it declined to respond,” the spokesperson added.
The documentary addresses the 2002 communal riots in the western Indian state of Gujarat, of which Modi was Chief Minister at the time, that left 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead, per official numbers. A decade later, a Special Investigation Team appointed by India’s Supreme Court exonerated Modi, saying that the leader had taken steps to control the situation.
On Jan. 18, U.K. member of parliament Imran Hussain, quoted the documentary during Prime Minister’s Questions, saying senior diplomats reported that the massacre could not have taken place without the “climate of impunity” created by Modi and that he was, in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office words, “directly responsible” for the violence.
Hussain asked U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: “Given that hundreds were brutally killed and that families across India and the world, including here in the U.K., are still without justice, does the Prime Minister agree with his Foreign Office diplomats that Modi was directly responsible? What more does the Foreign Office know about Modi’s involvement in that grave act of ethnic cleansing?”
Sunak replied: “The U.K. Government’s position on that is clear and long standing, and it has not changed. Of course, we do not tolerate persecution anywhere, but I am not sure that I agree at all with the characterization that the hon. gentleman has put forward.”
The second part of the documentary, which is due to broadcast on Jan. 24, could potentially be even more inflammatory. It “examines the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019. A series of controversial policies – the removal of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian constitution and a citizenship law that many said treated Muslims unfairly – has been accompanied by reports of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindus,” according to the BBC episode description.
International lawyers’ group files criminal complaint against UP CM Yogi Adityanath | The News Minute
A statement by Guernica 37 Chambers says, “Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is reported to have ordered the false imprisonment, torture and murder of civilians between December 2019 and January 2020 in the state of Uttar Pradesh to suppress protests against the adoption of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India. As set out in the criminal report, these acts may amount to crimes against humanity as they are alleged to have been committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilians, mostly the Muslim population in the country.”
Guernica 37 Chambers has also said that there is "sufficient basis" to believe that senior members of the UP government, including Chief Minister Yogi, "are responsible for ordering the UP police under their command”. The statement said, “The Chief Minister’s role in the escalation of police violence is particularly apparent in a speech given on December 19, 2019, calling on the police to take 'revenge' against protesters. Despite being an Indian State official, the Chief Minister does not enjoy diplomatic immunity for these crimes,” the statement reads.
After the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed in December 2019, many individuals, especially those belonging to Muslim community, took to the streets staging peaceful protests. Several of them were arrested and attacked by the police. “The UP police reportedly killed 22 protesters, at least 117 were tortured and 307 were arbitrarily detained,” Guernica 27 Chambers said and added that the criminal complaint states that Yogi Adityanath, who is the final executive authority over police in Uttar Pradesh, “failed to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes”.
Further, stating that neither the domestic law, the international law, or the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court acceded to the individual complaints, they said that the "escalation of violence and impunity requires urgent actions to hold the perpetrators accountable."
“The opening of an investigation by the Swiss authorities will serve as official recognition and acknowledgement of the gravity of the alleged crimes and recognition of the status of the victims, that they have thus far failed to receive at the domestic or international levels, and it will further serve as evidence that the culture of impunity will not be tolerated,” Guernica 37 Chambers asserted.
Stating that Article 264a of Swiss Criminal Code deals with Crimes against Humanity and it is under this provision that the complaint has been filed, Cadman also said that the course of action has been pursued “as there have been no meaningful attempts to hold the perpetrators accountable in India.”
The law firm had last year filed a similar submission with the United States government, asking for ‘targeted sanctions’ against CM Yogi. Cadman, regarding the submission, said that the request to the US Treasury was for the imposition of sanctions. “This is a process that takes some time and is not made public unless the US government makes public the imposition of sanctions,” he said and added that a similar request was made to the UK (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) FCDO as well.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 are a “stain” on Narendra Modi, former British foreign secretary Jack Straw has told a two-part documentary, India: The Modi Question, that is being shown on BBC2.
The first part was transmitted on Tuesday, January 17, and the second part will go out next Tuesday, January 24.
Introducing the programme, the BBC told viewers: “The programme contains scenes you may find upsetting.”
It summed up: “This series tells the story of Narendra Modi’s troubled relationship with India’s Muslims.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, confronted Rishi Sunak: “Last night, the BBC revealed that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office knew the extent of Narendra Modi’s involvement in the Gujarat massacre that paved the way for the persecution of Muslims and other minorities that we see in India today.”
Hussain went on: “Senior diplomats reported that the massacre could not have taken place without the ‘climate of impunity’ created by Modi and that he was, in the FCDO’s words, ‘directly responsible’ for the violence. Given that hundreds were brutally killed and that families across India and the world, including here in the UK, are still without justice, does the Prime Minister agree with his Foreign Office diplomats that Modi was directly responsible? What more does the Foreign Office know about Modi’s involvement in that grave act of ethnic cleansing?”
Rishi brushed the question away: “The UK government’s position on that is clear and longstanding, and it has not changed. Of course, we do not tolerate persecution anywhere, but I am not sure that I agree at all with the characterisation that the Hon. Gentleman has put forward.”
Straw, who was the British foreign secretary under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair from 2001 to 2006, was asked about the riots by the programme and replied: “I was very worried about it. I was taking a great deal of personal interest, because India is a really important country with whom we have relations. We had to handle it very carefully.” Straw was the Labour MP from 1979 to 2015 for Blackburn, which has a large Pakistani-origin population.
He said: “What we did was to establish an inquiry and have a team go to Gujarat and find out for themselves what had happened. And they produced a very thorough report.”
Straw added: “It was very shocking. These were very serious claims that chief minister Modi had played a pretty active part in pulling back the police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists.
“That was a particularly egregious example of political involvement, really to prevent the police from doing their job, which was to protect both communities, the Hindu and the Muslims. The options open to us were fairly limited. We were never going to break diplomatic relations with India. But it is obviously a stain on his reputation. There’s no way out of that.”
The BBC said: “The report, sent as a diplomatic cable and marked ‘restricted’, has never been published before.”
The programme highlighted lines from the report: “Extent of violence much greater than reported… widespread and systematic rape of Muslim women…. Violence, politically motivated.... Aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas. The systematic campaign of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.”
The BBC said: “The report contained an extraordinary claim.”
This was: “Reliable contacts have told us Narendra Modi met senior police officers on the 27th of February and ordered them not to intervene in the rioting. Police contacts deny this meeting happened.
“There were pretty credible reports he had specifically instructed the police not to intervene. The police contact who we talked to consistently denied that. So we did have conflicting reports on what his direct role had been. But we did feel it was clear there was a culture of impunity that created the environment for the violence to take place. That undoubtedly came from Modi.”
The BBC then interviewed a former senior British diplomat who was “one of the investigators. He is speaking publicly for the first time about what the British inquiry found. He’s asked to remain anonymous.”
He told the programme: “At least 2,000 people were murdered during the violence, the vast majority were Muslim. We described it as a pogrom, a deliberate and politically driven effort targeted at the Muslim community. The violence was widely reported to have been organised by an extremist Hindu nationalist group, the VHP, who have a relationship with the RSS.
“The VHP and its allies could not have inflicted so much damage without the climate of impunity created by the state government. Narendra Modi is directly responsible.” Modi has been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court of India.
The Telegraph asked the UK foreign office to see the full report.
Its existence was not denied but in response, the foreign office sent this newspaper a statement: “The violence in Gujarat in 2002 was tragic. It is a reminder of the need to continually work for respect and harmony between religious communities.
It is right that we remember the victims of the violence in Gujarat in 2002, and their families, and that we reaffirm our commitment to do all we can to foster inter-communal understanding and respect around the world.
“Where events involve British nationals, we naturally have an interest both in the provision of consular assistance and in trying to ascertain what happened through police and diplomacy.”
Three British nationals from Yorkshire — Imran and Shakil Dawood, and Mohammed Aswat — were killed by rioters when they crossed into Gujarat from a trip to the Taj. A survivor, who was 18 at the time, was interviewed for the programme.
The BBC set out what was covered in part one: “Narendra Modi is the leader of the world’s largest democracy, a man who has been elected twice as India’s Prime Minister and is widely seen as the most powerful politician of his generation. Seen by the West as an important bulwark against Chinese domination of Asia, he has been courted as a key ally by both the US and the UK.
“Yet Narendra Modi’s premiership has been dogged by persistent allegations about the attitude of his government towards India’s Muslim population. This series investigates the truth behind these allegations and examines Modi’s backstory to explore other questions about his politics when it comes to India’s largest religious minority.
“This episode tracks Narendra Modi’s first steps into politics, including and his association with the Right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, his rise through the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and his appointment as chief minister of the state of Gujarat, where his response to a series of riots in 2002 remains a source of controversy.”
It said of the sequel: “The second episode examines the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019.
“A series of controversial policies — the removal of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and a citizenship law that many said treated Muslims unfairly — has been accompanied by reports of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindus.
“Modi and his government reject any suggestion that their policies reflect any prejudice towards Muslims, but these policies have been repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.
Jack Straw, who was Britain’s foreign secretary in 2002 when the Gujarat killings happened, has confirmed that the British high commissioner in India sent a report to the Foreign Office in London which said “Narendra Modi is directly responsible” for the killings in 2002 in Gujarat. “That was the feeling of those on the ground,” he said.
BBC places Modi at heart of Gujarat riots, drawing ire of Indian government | Middle East Eye
Documentary reveals shocking details of British fact-finding mission after anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat 20 years ago
Rasheed, from the IAMC, said it was unsurprising that Modi's PR machine was out in full force to deny and distract from his role in the pogroms.
"They will do everything in their power to suppress its screening. But this important piece of journalism has already brought Mr Modi again under the international community's scanner for his role in 2002 and renewed calls to prosecute him," Rasheed added.
Excerpts of Frontline story on the BBC Modi Documentary:
"Even though R.B. Sreekumar, head of police intelligence in Gujarat, and Sanjiv Bhatt, another police officer, had maintained that Modi indeed imposed the diktat, witnesses for the Chief Minister countered that neither Sreekumar nor Bhatt was present at the concerned meeting. In 2022, both were accused of fabrication. Bhatt is in any case serving a life sentence on another matter.
"The documentary has also recorded that Haren Pandya, a minister in the Gujarat government, testified to a Jesuit priest that Modi did issue the aforementioned orders. But his attendance at the meeting was also contradicted. The programme has BJP MP Subramanian Swamy giving his opinion on Pandya’s death to the BBC, calling it “tragic and suspicious”.
"My son's death was a planned, political murder...it must be reinvestigated."
—Vithal Pandya, father of the late Haren Pandya, former Gujarat revenue minister, to Outlook on November 7, 2007
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case of forgery and fabrication of evidence in connection with the 2002 riots has arrested dismissed IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, making the third arrest after social activist Teesta Setalvad and former IPS officer R.B. Sreekumar.
Newsmaker | RB Sreekumar, a decorated cop on the wrong side of Modi govt
Sreekumar, who became Gujarat DGP after retirement, wrote affidavits to the Nanavati Commission alleging govt agencies’ complicity in the 2002 riots. On Friday, the Supreme Court called into question his role in the accusations.
Topic: BBC's Modi Documentary
“I have long been very familiar with the history of India and independence in 1947 and communal violence that ensued. I was there when there were demonstrations against Ayodhya mosque”
“There are thousands of Gujaratis in my constituency (in England), mainly Muslims”
After Godhra incident or accident (in Gujarat in 2002) there was a need for effective policing that did not happen”
“There’s a colonial history of the East India Company and the British government playing one community against the other (Hindu vs Muslim) during the Raj”
“The United Kingdom was a colonial master of India until 1947. So we felt a moral responsibility and a long term bond. …the constituency of Lancashire I represented is 40% non white… I had a concern for our Gujarati Muslim constituents”
This is compounded by the fact that banning a documentary that was not otherwise popular in India has only invited more viewers, says Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor of Indian magazine The Caravan, who also appears in the documentary as a commentator. “Frankly, the ban has been pretty stupid because it’s attracted far more attention to the documentary than would have been otherwise possible,” says Bal. He adds that it is now being screened across school campuses as “an act of resistance” among teenagers who previously viewed these events as a dated chapter in history.
The cause of that fire was known and not in doubt: it had begun in the centre of the carriage, possibly when someone knocked over a lighted cooking stove on which food was being warmed or tea made.
The flames had remained restricted to that area but the smoke the fire created had spread to the rest of the carriage, through the gaps between the upper and lower berths, and along the underside of the ceiling. As in S-6, the majority of deaths had resulted from asphyxiation. This explanation gained credibility because the railways were not using flame-retardant materials in second-class compartments then. So even a lighted match could start a fire and create large volumes of toxic smoke. What is more, cooking or warming one’s own food on long train journeys was, and may still be, a common practice among orthodox Hindus.
“There are numerous cases of torture by the armed forces. In some instances, the tortures are made audible through loudspeakers so that other people can hear the victim’s screams. There have also been deaths due to tear gas shelling at protesters. What remains a big question in this situation is, when the armed forces and other bodies of the state are indulging in such violations, where is the innocent victim supposed to go for redressal?” states the report.
The second episode looks at the BJP government’s relationship with the rise in lynchings, reading down of Article 370, CAA and communal violence in Delhi.
The report, which aired a few hours ago in the UK, looks at the sudden reading down of Article 370 and the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (considered discriminatory and unconstitutional amongst a sizeable section and still to be heard by the Supreme Court) as well as the North-East Delhi communal violence in 2020. The final episode in this BBC series looks at independent reports, testimonies and comments from affected parties, academics, members of the press and civil society, and cites the government and police’s defence on each issue. It also includes detailed comments by three persons representing the BJP’s point of view, most prominently journalist and former BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta.
The documentary claims that despite Modi promising a “new age of prosperity” and a “New India”, the country, under his rule, has been “marred by religious turmoil”. Though all the charges against him regarding the Gujarat riots were cleared by the highest court of India, it is inevitable that the “concerns will not go away”, the new episode claims.
Three years after coming to power in 2014, there were widespread cases of lynchings against Muslims. Under the name of the Pink Revolution, transporting beef had become “increasingly controversial” following which beef was made illegal in many Indian states, as cows are considered sacred by Hindus. The documentary, focusing on the issue of cow vigilantism, narrates the story of Alimuddin Ansari, who was killed by cow vigilantes in 2017, the same day when Modi spoke out after his long silence. Soon after that, there was a ‘surprising development’, avers the film.
The documentary speaks of how BJP spokesperson Nityanand Mahato was found guilty of Alimuddin’s murder, and sentenced to life in prison. But one of Modi’s ministers helped him and the other convicted men with their legal fees. And welcomed them with a garland of flowers.
“They are the rulers of the whole country and when rulers of the country support these people, we poor people can do nothing,” pleads Ansari’s wife in the film. Over four years later, the men are still free, concludes the film.
According to Human Rights Watch, cited in the film, over three and a half years between May 2015 and December 2018, cow vigilantes “killed 44 people and injured around 280 in cow-related violence, out of which most victims were Muslim.”
When Swapan Dasgupta was asked about the frequency of lynchings rising alarmingly as a generalised practice in India, he termed this an “unwarranted assumption.” Modi’s brand of Hindu nationalism was “backed by a record number of Indian voters”, Dasgupta asserts in the prime minister’s defence.
“The fundamental aim is to Hinduise the way that India functions and irrevocably change the political, social and cultural nature of India. Essentially, the gloves are off,” Chris Ogden, an expert on Indian politics and associate professor at the University of St Andrews, can be heard saying in the film.
On the controversial and drastic reading down of Article 370 in August, 2019 and the unprecedented conversion of a state into a union territory and its bifurcation by New Delhi, the film says that it was “nine weeks after Modi PM’s swearing in” that “troops were sent in to Kashmir”. The result was a “communications blackout” as “direct control” of the region was seized by New Delhi.
However, as per the film, the government claims that its policies “are bringing peace and development” to the region.
With these developments, a new policy of “Indianisation” is taking place, according to scholar, author and longtime India-watcher Christophe Jaffrelot. The film claims that “nearly 4,000 people were detained in the first month alone” (after control over the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir was established) following the reading down of Article 370.
On the large-scale protests that broke out against the CAA, meant to link religion with India’s citizenship, which rang alarm bells amongst significant sections, and then the communal violence in Delhi in February 2020 which claimed at least 53 lives, the film says, “Hardline Hindu clerics made threats against the Muslim protestors.”
Faizan, a 23-year-old Muslim man, was “beaten to death by the police”, claims the documentary, citing a viral video. Faizan’s mother can be heard saying in the film, “I want justice for my son. He was innocent and was killed for no reason.”
The film states that “two thirds of the dead [in the 2020 Delhi violence] were reportedly Muslims”.
The film cites an investigation by Amnesty International which concluded that “the police committed serious human rights violations, including torture and ill treatment, excessive and arbitrary use of force on protestors, and active participation in the violence.”
Aakar Patel, chair, Amnesty International India is heard saying that “the Amnesty report on the violence in Delhi showed that the police did not act as it should have acted. Where it did act, it often named the wrong people. Often the victims were named as the perpetrators of the violence. And we called for a proper investigation into these acts which has not happened so far.”
The Delhi police is quoted in the film as maintaining that the Amnesty report was “lopsided and biassed against the police” and “maliciously made a case of human rights violations”.
During the course of the rioting, police arrested over 2,000 people, both Hindus and Muslims.
“Muslims have got the message that they should not expect the state to protect them,” journalist Alisan Jafri is heard saying in the film.
Arundhati Roy says, “We are talking to each other saying, ‘Do you think it will happen?’ ‘Do you think it is really going to be like Rwanda?’ Why do I speak to you in this film? Only so that there is a record somewhere that all of us did not agree with this. But it is not a call for help, because no help will come.”
Today in India, the BBC film concludes, “reporters face violence, intimidation and arrest for doing their jobs. Campaigners say press freedom has declined since Narendra Modi came to power, and is now in crisis. Human rights campaigners say they are also under attack.”
Amnesty in India says it was forced to suspend operations by the government. The government said the group had broken the law by “circumventing rules around foreign donations.”
Thousands of NGOs have shut in India after 2015, claims the film. In concluding moments of the film, Dasgupta can be heard saying, “Our democracy may not be perfect, but it keeps on improving.”
When Modi came to power in 2014, India was considered to be a free country by the US think-tank Freedom House. Now it is only “partly free”, the film says.
Why has there not been more international outcry? According to Jaffrelot, “[The] West is looking at India as the best way to balance China. And that is the reason why they will not criticise, they will not condemn most of the decisions which have been made. Human Rights are not very high on the list anymore because there is a bigger challenge (China).”
Modi Documentary Part 2 features Modi, Rajnath Singh, Trump, several BJP spokespersons, Christophe Jafferlot, Akar Patel, Arundhati Roy, Safoora Zargar, Alishan Jafri, Siddhartha Vardharajan,
It discusses lynchings of Muslims across India, oppression in Kashmir after revocation of Article 370, Modi government's violent response to protests against new citizenship laws meant to strip Muslims' citizemship, police arrests, beatings and killings of Muslims like 21-year-old Faizan (500 injured, 50 killed in Delhi, no police officers charged), Modi supporters also threatened protesters, Trump speaking in Ahmadabad in support of Modi, Muslim student Safoora Zargar's arrest as "ring leaders" as a "terrorist" under UAPA, charges included hate speech, then came coronavirus,
Modi remains enormously popular and hugely divisive
Jaffrelot: West sees India as a counterweight to China, they do not criticize Modi, human rights not important to them,
Do Indians still want the Congress party’s secular politics?
They describe the yatra as an effort to promote love and unity against the hatred and division fostered by Mr Modi’s Muslim-bashing party. This recalls the principles of Mr Gandhi’s great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. He and his supporters did not seek to banish religion from public life, as secularists in France had. Yet they saw the prioritising of one religious group over another as a guarantee of conflict in a diverse country with a history of religious, especially Hindu-Muslim, violence. For them, secular liberal institutions, including the legal system and bureaucracy, represented the country’s best hope of holding together.
Over the past three decades, and especially since Mr Modi won power in 2014, the bjp has eroded that legacy. First propelled to national power in the 1990s by communal rioting that its leaders had helped provoke, the bjp considers India a Hindu country for too long suborned to its religious, primarily Muslim, minorities.
Rallying Hindus against the other 20% of India’s population has helped paper over deep differences of caste and class within the majority group. It has also been so successful in redefining Indian nationalism as a Hindu cause that the bjp is able to deride its secular critics as unpatriotic. For many Indians, secularism and anti-Indianism have become, if not synonymous, then related. “Plenty of Hindus are now unwilling to consider secularism a good thing,” says Christophe Jaffrelot of Sciences Po in Paris. “The opposition will have to recreate the appetite for it.”
Mr Gandhi appears to be trying to do so by reaching beyond his atheist grandfather to the interfaith harmony preached by Mohandas Gandhi. He has walked parts of the yatra (a word that usually refers to a pilgrimage) in bare feet and often wearing a tilak, a red mark connoting Hindu piety. He has referred to the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu text, in presenting the yatra as a tapasya, or penance. Yet he has stressed religious inclusion. After the yatra entered the state of Punjab, he donned a turban to pay his respects at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the spiritual centre of Sikhism.
He could be on to something. Surveys of young middle-class adults, a bjp constituency, suggest they are less Islamophobic than their parents. Moreover, if there is a better way for Mr Gandhi to present Congress as an alternative to the Hindu nationalists, it is not obvious. Despite Mr Modi’s pro-business and Congress’s pro-poor rhetoric, the two parties espouse broadly similar economic and social policies. But if Mr Gandhi may sense an opportunity, his heart-warming campaigning is nothing like an ideological counterweight to Mr Modi’s message of Hindu pride. Reviving secularism would require an alternative stance on divisive issues that have become vote winners for the bjp, such as uniform civil laws for minorities and interpretations of history, says Mr Mehta. “Saving secular pluralism from the charge of being anti-Hindu means giving a secular answer to communal issues. You need to explain what institutional measures you will take. It’s not enough to say ‘we’re secular’.”
If it is to revive demand for a large secular party, Congress will have to meet that challenge. There is currently no sign it is planning to. In theory, it could continue to languish. Indeed, the combined vote-share of the two big parties looks remarkably stable, at around 50% since the 1980s. They have simply switched positions. In 1991 Congress won 36% of the vote and the bjp 20%; in 2019, the bjp won 37% of the vote and Congress just under 20%. Yet this could change. The bjp was sustained in opposition by its cadre of deeply ideological activists. Congress, having no comparable ideology or foot-soldiers, could fizzle.
Sandeep Acharya is a popular musician. Millions of users stream his songs online, and thousands of fans attend his concerts. He belongs to India's Hindutva music scene — an Islamophobic scene that has been on the rise in India. Hindutva pop is often played when Hindu groups rally in India. Some songs have even sparked violence and riots.
The US and India are putting pedal to the metal on decoupling from China. Doubt it will work, but I'd like to be pleasantly surprised.
U.S. Pursues India as a Supply-Chain Alternative to China
Biden administration turns to New Delhi as it seeks to steer critical technologies away from Beijing
India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, led New Delhi’s delegation this week in meetings with Mr. Sullivan and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other officials.
The meetings underscore a broader U.S. effort to meet challenges from China through alliances with other countries. The Biden administration has given priority to Washington’s relationship with what is known as the Quad—an alliance between India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. that has focused on countering Beijing.
“President Biden really believes that no successful and enduring effort to address any of the major challenges in the world today…is going to be effective without a close U.S.-India partnership at its heart,” a senior administration official said.
NARAYANPUR, India — Over two decades of practicing and proselytizing Christianity, Badinath Salam had been kicked out of his home several times and often harassed. But in December, he recalled, the vitriol turned virulent.
Leaders in his Indigenous Indian village beat drums to summon all 100 households to a clearing, he said. There, gathered villagers pummeled their Christian neighbors, who made up one-fifth of their village, and left Salam hospitalized for three days.
When the drumbeats began again a week later, on Jan. 9, Salam ran for his life. In this part of central India, he wasn’t the only Christian forced to flee.
Since December, Hindu vigilantes in Chhattisgarh state in eastern India, enraged by the spread of Christianity and rallied by local political leaders, have assaulted and displaced hundreds of Christian converts in dozens of villages and left a trail of damaged churches, according to interviews with local Christians and activists and as seen during a recent trip to the area.
That visit to the remote region — a day’s drive from the nearest airport — revealed the extent of the chaos and its uneasy aftermath. In villages, bruised and beaten Christian converts picked through the rubble of churches destroyed by mobs wielding sledgehammers. In dusty townships, Hindu nationalist leaders led impassioned rallies promising more action against Christian conversions. In an empty government gym of the dusty township of Narayanpur, evicted families including Salam’s sought refuge, sleeping on mats next to a few sacks of spare clothes and grain.
The violence played out in one of the most culturally unique parts of India, a stretch of forested hills where missionaries from different religions and even Maoist guerrillas have long vied for the hearts and souls of Indigenous tribes. But the episode also illustrated a broader truth about India today: that antipathy toward the Abrahamic religions of Islam and Christianity — often portrayed as alien religions brought to India by its historical invaders — can be wielded as an effective mobilizing force for political ends.
Across India, reports of violence against Muslims often increase in the run-up to elections, a phenomenon that some political scientists have attributed to attempts by Hindu parties to energize their base. In the region of southern Chhattisgarh known as Bastar, the boogeyman has been the Christian.
The violence that roiled Bastar began in December and eventually affected about 100 villages, local activists said.
On Jan. 2, members of a local Hindu group known as the Janjati Suraksha Manch stormed a Catholic church in Narayanpur town, where they destroyed statues and threw rocks through stained-glass windows. On Jan. 12, more than 200 men in Chimmdi village climbed onto the roof of the small church built by Jai Singh Potai and tore it down. Around the corner, they smashed another church and wrote on a blackboard: “If you don’t leave Christianity then the same will happen again.”
As the historian Ram Guha writes in the FT that contentious attitude is born of the fact that the religious harmony that Gandhi preached is anathema to hardcore elements of the Hindu rite which seek to make India into a Hindu state.
Though Gandhi was himself an upper caste Hindu he celebrated the diversity of India both its many languages and its many faiths. But the nation's current leaders sometime seem to believe that Hindus deserve and ought to see supremacy in a land in which they are the overwhelming majority. Take one example of the antipathy of the ruling political class toward the icon. Gandhi's killer, Nathuram Godse, has become for many a national hero.
Numerous BJP lawmakers have publicly praised Godse, the party brass usually distance themselves from such comments. What the BJP has done is popularize competing figures in India's independent struggle. People who frontally challenge Gandhi's message. That includes men like Veer Savarkar, known as the father of Hindu nationalism.
As Guha notes he was a man who hated Gandhi and Muslims. He was also the ideological inspiration for Godse, Gandhi's killer. A previous BJP led government hung a portrait of Savarkar in the parliament building. Modi has bowed before it, saluting Savarkar for his undying love for India.
This moment represents a sea change for Indian politics which for most of its independent history has been heavily influenced by Gandhi and his ideas. But a militant Hindu rite has popularized a muscular nationalism that looks down on Gandhi's insistence on nonviolence. They also hold him responsible for the partition of India and Pakistan, and accused him of being too willing to appease Muslims.
Disinformation about Gandhi as an enemy of Indian Hindus circulates freely online. Posts accuse him of having urged Hindu women to cooperate with Muslim rapists, completely false of course. Others suggest bizarrely that he was secretly working for the British. And while the 1982 loving biopic "Gandhi" made by Britain incidentally was an international hit today Indian film-goers favor a more aggressive protagonist.
Take last year's blockbuster "RRR," one of India's highest grossing films ever. It's an action packed buddy movie about two freedom fighters who take on the British in 1920s India. As the "Washington Post" notes the closing song and dance number involves our protagonist singing about India's national heroes. Behind them the faces of real life freedom fighters appear. Missing from the montage is the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
Unless you think that is a mere oversight the screenwriter, Vijayendra Prasad, who developed the story for the film told the "Post," "The time has come to let Indians know the truth, the real warriors who should be honored, the real reason why we got independence was not because of Mr. Gandhi. That's the fact."
Now, I'm all for subjecting hero worship to rigorous scrutiny and many worthy historians have taken a very critical eye to Gandhi in recent years. All the same we ought not to forget that Gandhi was genuinely a world historical figure. One who pioneered a strategy of nonviolence and transformed India's struggle for independence into a grassroots based mass movement that inspired people everywhere outside of India, from Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali to Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. This is a man who took on the greatest empire in the world nonviolently and defeated it.
In a country riven with divisions, he built a coalition that included and honored everyone. He was uncompromising about the need to reform inequities such as India's caste system, renaming the lowest caste often called untouchables as children of God. He was passionate about bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide. In fact he gave his life for it.
The Indian prime minister’s attempts to suppress a critical BBC documentary show how sensitive he is to his international reputation
he clue to the Indian government’s thin-skinned response to the BBC’s two-part documentary, India: The Modi Question, is in the name. The documentary lays out the evidence for the argument that the anti-Muslim bigotry that characterises India today is rooted in Narendra Modi’s alleged decision to rein in the police in Gujarat in 2002, giving anti-Muslim rioters a free hand, leading to the killing of hundreds of people.
The first part explores the 2002 pogrom as the ideological foundation of Modi’s power and political persona. The second part surveys the actions of Modi’s government after his re-election in 2019, and tries to show how both formal policy and informal violence have been deployed by the state to reduce Muslims to second-class citizens. It was the documentary’s unequivocal framing of India’s recent history as “Modi v India’s Muslims” that has infuriated Modi’s government.
Paradoxically, this is a characterisation that Modi and his allies have often embraced for domestic political advantage. Modi’s image as a Hindu strongman who had the nerve to put a malcontented minority in its place has helped him win two terms in office and remake the republic in his majoritarian image. Why then did the central government issue directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary? Why did it play whack-a-mole online and resort to desperate measures such as seizing laptops on university campuses where students were planning to screen the film?
One reason for this reaction was that the film was produced by the BBC. Post-colonial states will grudgingly acknowledge the credibility of the BBC even as they accuse it of condescension or, in the words of the Indian government’s spokesperson, “a colonial mindset”. This credibility is based on the BBC’s institutional memory, its ability to reach into its archive and produce evidence for its narratives.
In the first part, for example, we were shown a BBC reporter, a young woman called Jill McGivering, reporting on the riots and interviewing Modi in the aftermath. The Modi on show here is not the groomed and costumed persona that Indians have become accustomed to since he became prime minister in 2014. This is a rough-and-ready Modi, willing to be caught on camera laughing and taunting a young female reporter, and doing his best to intimidate her. McGivering reappears in the documentary, 20 years older, reflecting on Modi’s charisma and menace. This persona plays well with his base, but it isn’t how this famously image-conscious, multiply-made-over politician wants to be remembered.
Even less welcome is the documentary footage of the anguish of Muslim men and women who have been attacked, bereaved or imprisoned. The men who defend Modi in this documentary emphasise time and again the courts and tribunals that have cleared him of criminal conspiracy. They speak of the need for closure, the importance of moving on. But the testimony of Zakia Jafri, Mariam Ansari, Kismatun, Safoora Zargar and many others, backed up by video clips of Muslims being subjected to horrific violence, bring back ghosts that makes “closure” impossible.
Individual stories of trauma and tragedy can be discredited by citing exculpatory verdicts won in court, but when these voices, ragged with pain, are brought together, as they have been here, they become a Greek chorus, a voiceover on an unfolding tragedy and Muslim suffering that becomes a spectre at the prime minister’s feast.
This year India hosts the G20 summit. Modi has used the moment, in this pre-election year, to announce India’s imminent leadership of the world. He has cast India (and by implication, himself) as a kind of universal mentor, a Vishwaguru. It’s not a claim that goes well with a recent past riven with bigotry. Modi has profited and continues to profit electorally from his reputation as an anti-Muslim strongman, but electoral dog-whistling is only for domestic consumption. He knows that a reputation for alleged ethnic cleansing puts India’s geopolitical standing at risk.
The Indian government trades on the fact that western countries will overlook a lot to ally with a democratic India as a counterweight to China. Britain’s former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, says as much in the documentary, and that role’s current incumbent has bent over backwards to distance himself from its narrative. James Cleverly cited the BBC’s independence as a way of disclaiming responsibility, and emphasised his government’s commitment to investing in India in every possible way.
Soon after both parts of the documentary were released, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, was asked in the House of Commons if he agreed with the diplomats cited in the documentary, and with the charge of ethnic cleansing. It is unreasonable to expect Sunak to comment on a controversial documentary involving a major country and a potential ally. He made the appropriate boilerplate response about it being settled policy that the UK government did not tolerate political persecution anywhere.
He didn’t stop there, though. He went on to say: “I am not sure I agree at all with the characterisation that the honourable gentleman has put forward.” This went beyond diplomatic deflection. This suggested that Sunak disagreed emphatically with both the questioner and the documentary he was citing. Unlike Cleverly, he chose to offer an opinion. On Indian websites, this was accurately interpreted as the British prime minister coming to Modi’s defence. Sunak’s seeming deference to Modi’s narrative, is proof, if any was needed, of the value of the historical documentary and the indispensability of the BBC.
Varanasi, INDIA - MARCH 04: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets crowds of supporters during a roadshow in support of state elections on March 04, 2022 in Varanasi, India. India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, is holding state elections in seven phases, as the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Modi looks to defend its majority in its "cow belt" heartlands. The election is expected to be a barometer for the national political mood amid deepening sectarian divisions
Narendra modi had a better 2022 than most world leaders. India’s prime minister was projected to end the year as leader of the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth close to 7%, in spite of multiple global crises.
Russia’s war in Ukraine plunged Europe into an energy crisis and strained relations among Western allies. In India, by contrast, it facilitated the purchase of cheap Russian oil and lifted Mr Modi’s international standing. As Western countries jostled to gain India’s support, the prime minister succeeded in styling himself as an ostensibly neutral advocate of resolving the conflict peacefully, managing to scold Vladimir Putin while simultaneously resisting Western entreaties to join the anti-Russia coalition for good.
The BBC says it will not be “put off” from reporting in India after the government prevented a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from airing in the country and raided the broadcaster’s offices.
Indian tax authorities spent three days searching BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai last week. The raids came nearly a month after the Indian government used emergency powers to ban the two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question.”
In an email to staff in India, BBC director general Tim Davie applauded their courage in the face of what press groups and India’s main opposition Congress party have condemned as an attack on press freedom
“Nothing is more important than our ability to report without fear or favour,” Davie wrote in the email, a copy of which was shared with CNN.
“Our duty to our audiences around the world is to pursue the facts through independent and impartial journalism, and to produce and distribute the very best creative content. We won’t be put off from that task”
Davie added that the BBC “does not have an agenda.”
Indian authorities have accused the BBC of tax evasion. India’s Income Tax Department said it had found “several discrepancies and inconsistencies” in the records of “a prominent international media company.” The BBC said last week that it would “respond appropriately to any direct formal communication received from the Income Tax Department.”
Davie said in his email that the BBC continued to cooperate fully with the Indian tax authorities.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that the searches had “all the hallmarks of a reprisal,” coming as they did weeks after the Indian government prevented the Modi documentary from airing and blocked clips of it circulating on social media.
The documentary, which broadcast in the United Kingdom in January, criticized the role played by Modi as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when riots broke out between the state’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims in 2002.
Modi was accused of not doing enough to stop the violence, which killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Modi has denied wrongdoing, and a special investigation team appointed by India’s Supreme Court in 2012 found no evidence to suggest he was to blame.
The prime minister has been accused of silencing his critics in recent months and on Thursday, a senior member of India’s Congress party was arrested for allegedly insulting Modi.
— Swati Gupta and Manveena Suri in New Delhi, Olesya Dmitracova and Martin Goillandeau in London, and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed reporting.
An excerpt from ‘India is Broken: And Why It’s Hard To Fix,’ by Ashoka Mody.
In 1987, Indians owned just 13 million televisions. Friends and neighbours gathered around television sets in homes and at shopfronts. In villages, hundreds of people assembled around the one available set. On average, about 80 million people (almost 10 percent of the population) watched an episode. By the time the serial ended, almost all Indians had seen multiple episodes. More so than the Ekatmata yagna (the series of processions in late 1983), the Ramayana serial fused Savarkar’s view of India as the fatherland and holy land of the Hindus.
In a tribute Savarkar might have savored, the Indian Express’s media correspondent Shailaja Bajpai commented on August 7, 1988, a week after the series ended, “From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Gorakhpur, millions have stood, sat and kneeled to watch it.” Reflecting on that total absorption, she wondered: “Is there life after Ramayana?” No, she answered, there could be no life after Ramayana. Instead, echoing the void Jawaharlal Nehru sensed when Mahatma Gandhi died, Bajpai wrote: “the light has gone out of our lives and nothing will ever be the same again.”
For the 78 weeks that Ramayana ran, it presented a martially adept and angry Ram dispensing justice. The VHP projected its partisan view of the serial in its iconography of Ram. The author Pankaj Mishra described the Ram in VHP posters as an “appallingly muscle- bound Rambo in a dhoti.” Theatre scholar Anuradha Kapur lamented that VHP images showed Ram “far more heavily armed than in any traditional representation.”
In one image, Ram carried a dhanush (a bow), a trishul (trident), an axe, and a sword “in the manner of a pre-industrial warrior.” In another image, Ram, the angry male crusader, marched across the skies, his dhoti flying, chest bared, his conventionally coiled hair unrolling behind him in the wind. Accompanying those images, every VHP poster pledged to build a temple in Ayodhya. The dismayed Kapur noted that Ram, the omniscient and omnipresent Lord, was everywhere. Pinning him down to Ayodhya made no sense. “Hinduism,” she despairingly wrote, “is being reduced to a travesty of itself by its advocates.”
The Hindutva movement’s heavy reliance on young hypermasculine warriors to achieve its mission only exacerbated this travesty. In April and May 1987, when the Ramayana serial was in its early months, bloody Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Meerut, a city in western Uttar Pradesh. By most accounts, Muslims provoked the riots. But then the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary, infected by the Hindutva virus, killed hundreds of Muslims in cold blood.
All over the Indian capital these days loom posters of Narendra Modi, presenting him as the great modernizing prime minister pulling India forward. But those posters also hint at the opposite: an emerging personality cult and an authoritarian streak that is dragging India backward.
In immediate political terms, the personality cult perhaps succeeds. With approval ratings at home of about 78 percent, Modi is far and away the most popular major leader in the world today, according to Morning Consult.
With the opposition in disarray, Modi is expected to win a third term as prime minister in next year’s elections.
While Modi polls extremely well, many worldly Indians are aghast that he has made India less secular and tolerant, creating what some argue is a Jim Crow Hindu nationalism that marginalizes religious minorities, particularly Muslims. And it’s not just marginalization: Muslims are periodically accused of slaughtering cows, which are sacred to Hindus, and lynched. In a typical case this month, a mob in Bihar state accused a Muslim of carrying beef and beat him to death.
Modi has presided over a crackdown on news organizations, and Indians have been repeatedly arrested for their tweets. Sweden’s V-Dem Institute, in a new report, listed India not as a democracy but as an “electoral autocracy” ranking 108th among 179 countries in its electoral democracy index.
“It’s very scary what’s happening,” said Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College, one of India’s most celebrated rural development initiatives. “I think we’re going into authoritarianism.”
Pakistan was founded by a not particularly observant Muslim, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who drank alcohol and appointed a member of the (now persecuted) Ahmadi religious minority to be the country’s first foreign minister. But then in 1977, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq seized power and engineered a wave of conservative Muslim nationalism that still tears Pakistan apart.
That would be my nightmare for India, because the fires of religious extremism and grievance are easier to ignite than extinguish. But I honestly don’t think India will tumble that far. I agree with Urmi Basu, a civil society leader from Kolkata, that Indian democracy will get through this, just as it survived a retreat from democracy under Indira Gandhi. India still has a federal system that gives power to the states, and that constrains Modi.
Modi is now to all of India what he was for many years as the boss of the state of Gujarat. There he was a pro-business leader who oversaw strong economic growth, but his record was badly damaged by a pogrom against Muslims on his watch in 2002 — there is disagreement about his degree of complicity, but he certainly mismanaged it. He also undermined pillars of civil society like the Self-Employed Women’s Association.
Looking ahead, what I fear is that the authoritarian, Hindu nationalist Modi is eclipsing the economy-boosting, toilet-building Modi. To imagine a worst case, just look next door at the sad shambles of today’s Pakistan.
The case related to the deaths of 11 Muslims who were killed after their homes in the city of Ahmedabad were set alight by Hindu mobs who rampaged through the streets during communal riots that took place in February 2002. According to an investigation into the attack afterwards, “there was no police help received by the Muslims and they were simply at the mercy of the miscreants”.
Thursday’s verdict by the special court dealt another blow for those still fighting for justice for the Gujarat riots. Over the past two decades, the state has been accused of protecting alleged Hindu perpetrators – including those who now hold some of the most powerful political offices in the country – as well as obstructing justice, intimidating Muslim victims and recently releasing some of the few who had been convicted of rape and violence against Muslims in the riots.
Shamshad Pathan, who represented the victims, said they would challenge the court’s decision in a higher court. “Justice has eluded the victims once again,” he said.
The Gujarat riots began after Muslims were suspected of setting alight a train carriage carrying Hindu pilgrims, sparking revenge attacks by Hindu groups in what became one of the worst outbreaks of religious bloodshed in India’s post-independence history. Officially about 1,000 people died in the violence, mostly Muslims, but civil society groups say the number was much higher.
India’s current prime minister, Narendra Modi, who leads the Hindu nationalist BJP government, was chief minister of Gujarat at the time and was accused of complicity in the bloodshed by allowing the Hindu groups to carry out the revenge attacks and encouraging police and authorities not to intervene to stop the violence. Modi denies any role and a supreme court panel found there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.
In this particular case, 86 Hindus were accused but 17 had died during the trial. Among those acquitted was Maya Kodnani, a former minister for Modi, who was a lawmaker at the time of the riots. She was also an accused in a case relating to the murder of 97 people during the riots and was convicted but later cleared by a higher court.
Those involved in rightwing Hindu vigilante groups Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which both have close links to them BJP, were also among the accused cleared of charges. As the verdict was announced, cries of “Jai Sri Ram”, a Hindu religious greeting that has been increasingly co-opted and weaponised by Hindu nationalists as a battle cry, were shouted outside the court.
“We have been saying from the first day that they were framed,” said the defence lawyer Chetan Shah. “Some of the accused were not present at the scene on the day of the incident.”
The acquittal of the 69 comes after the Gujarat government, which is still ruled by the BJP, recently decided to give early release to 11 Hindu convicts who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for the gang-rape of a Muslim woman and the murder of members of her family, one of the few convictions successfully made in the Gujarat riots.
“India is getting this free pass on account of China," said Manoj Joshi, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi who has advised previous Indian administrations on national security issues. “The only country in Asia, in terms of size and potential, that can balance China is India."
The Biden administration has decided to remain publicly quiet on India’s democratic backsliding, according to senior US officials, as the US intensifies efforts to keep New Delhi on its side in the rivalry with China.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pressure on religious minorities and the media is troubling, as is his party’s targeting of opposition lawmakers, said the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. But the decision to largely refrain from criticizing Modi comes as growing concerns about China make India increasingly crucial to US geopolitical and economic goals in the Indo-Pacific.
The decision on handling India is an example of how President Joe Biden’s emphasis on human rights — and his framing of a global conflict between democracies and autocracies — has run up against the strategic realities of a world where rivals such as China and Russia are vying for greater control.
So while New Delhi’s strong defense ties with Russia and its vast purchases of Russian crude have drawn scrutiny from US lawmakers after the invasion of Ukraine, the administration believes it needs India to buy that oil to keep prices low. And rising concerns about China’s growing assertiveness under Xi Jinping have helped drive the US and India even closer together, these people said.
“India is getting this free pass on account of China," said Manoj Joshi, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi who has advised previous Indian administrations on national security issues. “The only country in Asia, in terms of size and potential, that can balance China is India."
In a sign of the close ties, Biden is set to host Modi for a state dinner in Washington this summer. While Biden might press Modi to take a more explicit stance on Ukraine, one US official said it’s doubtful New Delhi would publicly rebuke Russia, given their close defense ties.
Asked whether the administration is reluctant to criticize Modi, John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement, “As we do with other nations around the world, we regularly engage with Indian government officials at senior levels on human rights concerns, including freedom of religion or belief."
US officials also have frequently pointed to India’s shipments of humanitarian aid to Ukraine as well as Modi’s comments to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “today’s era is not one for war."
India’s foreign ministry declined to comment. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has made no secret of his country’s decision not to pick sides regardless of what others may want, echoing India’s Cold War leadership of what was called the “non-aligned movement."
“Whether it is the United States, Europe, Russia or Japan, we are trying to ensure that all ties, all these ties, advance without seeking exclusivity," Jaishankar said during a visit to the Dominican Republic last month.
As India eclipses China as the world’s most populous country with more than 1.4 billion people, the Biden administration believes it’s impossible to solve pressing global challenges such as climate change without New Delhi, one official said, and the country remains a central part of the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
That’s led to the relative silence on issues that the US would normally speak out about publicly, and loudly.
Most recently, India’s government banned a critical documentary about Modi released by the BBC and sent federal tax authorities to raid the British news organization’s Delhi office.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party also won a defamation case against the main political opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, that has seen him kicked out of parliament. Modi’s government has also choked local and international nongovernmental organizations of foreign funding.
Other Indian moves also run against a greater strategic alignment with Washington: In recent months, India pledged closer defense ties with Russia. Although India has sought to scale back purchases of some Russian weapons, its military has more than 250 Russian-designed fighter jets, seven Russian submarines and hundreds of Russian tanks. It has also received Russian S-400 missile defense systems despite US efforts to keep those purchases from going forward.
“President Biden would be remiss if he doesn’t raise the Russia issue and restate the importance of supporting Ukrainian sovereignty and explain why that is important for the Indo-Pacific region," said Lisa Curtis, who was the National Security Council senior director for South and Central Asia under former President Donald Trump.
“It’s no use pretending we don’t have serious differences on such a crucial issue," said Curtis, who directs the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
The US has also moved on from concerns about India’s vast purchases of Russian crude oil even as the country rejects a Group of Seven initiative to put a cap on the price for which it’s sold.
At one meeting in Delhi between US and Indian officials following the invasion of Ukraine, a US diplomat told a senior Indian official that if their refiners weren’t buying Russian crude and putting it back on global markets, oil prices might have soared to about $180 a barrel, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Indian officials always viewed Western criticism of their oil purchases as hypocritical, given that Indian refiners do simply put the product on global markets — in many cases for US and European buyers.
Jaishankar, the foreign minister, has often invoked broader sentiment in the so-called Global South as he defended his country’s position on Ukraine amid soaring food and energy prices that have put immense pressure on poor countries. He has waved off US concerns about India’s human rights record, saying “people are entitled to have views about us."
The US’s positioning on India reflects a calculation it’s had to make several times in the past, most prominently with Saudi Arabia. After declaring during his presidential campaign that he would declare Saudi Arabia a “pariah," Biden has had to backtrack as he seeks the kingdom’s help countering Iran and keeping oil prices low.
“I can understand governments’ reluctance" to take on Modi," said Shashi Tharoor, a senior lawmaker in the opposition Congress Party. “There’s an overriding strategic interest on the part of the West, and other countries in Southeast Asia, in staying on the right side of India."