Summit cancelled. Now Stop Murder Minister Modi!
POGROM IN GUJARAT. Is Chief Minister Modi coming to Britain for
respectability and support?
A top-level economic conference on India that was due to be held in London in May has been cancelled, after protests over the invitation to the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, whom many people hold responsible for the anti-Muslim pogroms there in February 2002, in which as many as 2,000 people may have been killed.
Brent Trades Union Council, in north-west London, heard of the India Summit's cancellation from Arun Kundnani, a member of Awaaz-South Asia Watch, who spoke to the trades council's AGM on Wednesday evening. Arun, who was speaking for a Stop Narendra Modi coalition, said protest letters and calls to the conference organisers may have persuaded them to cancel the summit. But he warned that Modi could still be intentending to visit Britain this year.
India Summit 2009 had been organized by Dow Jones Financial News for May 19-20. Dow Jones now say it has been cancelled "for business reasons". But several organisations, secular and Muslim, had voiced concern over the invitation to Gujarat's chief minister. Munaf Zeena, of the Council of Indian Muslims, wrote to British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith saying Muslims would be grieved to see a mass murderer welcomed to Britain.
Modi has been here before. In the Summer of 2003 he addressed a huge rally in Wembley, and in 2005 he came again despite protests from British Indian Muslims who urged the Foreign Office declare him a persona non grata and refuse him a visa. This was rejected at the time, despite strong evidences of Modi’s crimes.
But the right-wing politician was refused visitor status by the US government that year, and it revoked his existing diplomatic visas under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Explaining the background to violent religious communalism in India, Arun Kundnani said the turn to neo-liberal economic policies in the 1990s had sowed competition and insecurity, in place of unity and faith io progress. This reinforced barriers of caste and religion, behind which people sought protection, and extremists took advantage. The destruction of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya by a Hindu mob had begun a series of actions and counter-actions.
The pogroms in Gujarat had not been just a spontaneous outburst. They showed co-ordination, mobs led by middle-class men with mobile phones and lists of Muslim addresses that could only have come from the authorities. Narendra Modi had made sure police did not interfere.
Arun explained that Modi, a leader of the right-wing BJP, had a background in the RSS that was formed in the 1930s, as a Hindu version of Hitler's Brownshirts. They still held military training camps for their young men. BFunds were raised from Hindu communities in Britain and other countries, many of whom probably thought they were donating to genuine charities. Now the BJP was also receiving backing from business interests in India, and some thought Modi might become a future prime minister. But he needed support from abroad, not just for funds, but "respectability".
A visit to Britain might help Modi aquire a visa for the United States, from the Obama administration, which would be used back in India to demonstrate his "acceptability". This was why he might still come here , business summit or not.
Rrent TUC had invited a speaker from the Stop Modi campaign after learning that Brent North Labour MP Brry Gardiner has been a prominent ally of the BJP minister , whom he called "the Lion of Gujarat". The Labour MP put down an Early Day Motion supporting "vibrant Gujarat". Gardiner's constituency has a large Asian community, many of them Hindus of Gujarati origin, though as a trades council delegate pointed out, many of them had come from East Africa, rather than having a direct connection with Gujarat. Britain's first state-funded Hindu school opened in Kingsbury. People turning to religious leadership might support things from a sense of identity without realising the political implications fully.
But there was concern that Barry Gardiner was opportunistically relying on divisive "community" support, rather than trades union campaigns to unite people across communities. Ealing North MP Stephen Pound appears to be another one enlisted into support for Modi. But others had lent their names to the Gardiner EDM who would surely not support what had happened in Gujarat. Brent TUC will be writing to MPs and to other trade union bodies to alert them, and support the campaign against a Modi visit.
India Summit 2009 cancelled:
Awaaz-South Asia Watch, opposing communalism, war, and reactionary religious politics:
Brent Trades Union Council: