More than 1000 Muslims were killed and over 100,000 displaced because police stood by and did nothing to stop the massacre during the Gujarat riots in 2002. Ransacking the home of Congress MLA Ehsan Jafri, rioters killed him and other 70 Muslims taking refuge at his house.
They then burned and mutilated Jafri’s body. The Then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s motivated inaction was brought into stark relief commenting on Ehsan Jafri’s firing a pistol in self-defence, “When there is an action there will be a reaction”.
Not prosecuted because of lack of “prosecutable evidence,” the US State Department denied Modi a visa under a 1998 US law that makes foreign officials guilty of “severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for the US visa.
Many inherent contradictions about his bigotry, about his period in office as the CM of Gujarat (and now as India’s PM) notwithstanding, addressing a Joint Sitting of the US Congress, quite coincidentally while Modi was waxing eloquent in Washington DC about his “belief” in the Indian Constitution’s principles of “freedom of faith, speech and franchise, and equality of all citizens, regardless of background,” more than 30 people were being sentenced by an Indian court for the heinous Gujarat killings, 11 of the murderers received life sentences.
To claim that 1.25 billion Indian citizens “have freedom from fear, a freedom they exercise every moment of their lives” is really stretching the truth given that Hinduism is the one religion that viciously discriminates between the members of its own faith belonging to sects lower down the social order.
Incidents of violence against Muslims, Dalits, Kashmiris and other minorities have increased manifold since Modi took power in 2014.
A 50 year old Muslim man was beaten to death in Uttar Pradesh in September 2015 by a mob due to rumours that his family consumed beef, this despite the family’s insistence that it was mutton and not beef in their refrigerator. For more than two weeks Modi chose to remain quiet, and then termed it “unfortunate”.
More than 30 writers of consequence returned their awards in protest in October 2015 against growing intolerance in India. Actions by Hindu nationalist organisations are either ignored by the BJP government by staying silent, or the Hindu extremists are absolved of criminal charges.
Former special public prosecutor in the Malegaon blasts case of 2006, Rohini Salian, said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told her in June 2015 to “go soft” on the accused, mainly Hindutva extremists. Modi’s BJP government is rightly accused of patronising “Hindutva” terror campaign to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism dubbed as “ghar wapsi” (homecoming).
Modi’s mention of Gandhi and his non-violence in Washington DC was sheer hypocrisy since he was a member of RSS the extremist Hindu organisation whose Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi in 1948 because of his “favoring” Indian Muslims during partition.
Dr Khurram Iqbal, Centre of Excellence to Counter Extremism, NDU says Islamist militancy in the current world is being examined with a magnifying glass while other sorts of extremism such as Saffron terrorism are being downplayed.
Like Taliban madrassas where violent ideologies are taught, RSS madrassas in India are preaching hate and intolerance to its more than 5-6 million members.
While talking about terrorism, Modi mentioned Pakistan in all but name when he said,” “Although its shadow is spreading across the world, it is incubated in India’s neighbourhood.” Accusing Pakistan of being amongst those who “preach and practice terrorism for political gains”, he conveniently forgets that no involvement of Pakistani government has ever been evidenced in carrying out subversive activities in its neighborhood.
Modi asked for a security cooperation with the US based on a policy that “isolates those who harbour, support and sponsor terrorists.” How about Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian Navy Lieutenant Comd arrested in Balochistan, a “state actor” who confessed to have been sent by RAW to further its plans to keep Karachi and Balochistan burning.
Talking about the handful of F-16s to Pakistan, Modi said the US refusal was the first step towards holding Pakistan accountable for its actions. A military requirement for Pakistan as the frontline State in the war on terror for more than a decade, F16s symbolize the need for better arms and equipment to combat this menace.
Indian newspapers and TV stations concentrated more on the standing ovations Modi received and did not faithfully report the entire story. Many American lawmakers asked for a dialogue on religious intolerance and human rights abuses in India but Modi avoided these when speaking to the Congress.
A ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, wrote later in an op-ed for The Hill, “India faces immense challenges emerging from decades of debilitating poverty. Some religious minority communities face pressure and are subject to anti-conversion laws in some states.
Non-governmental organisations face restrictions from increasing government interference and most disturbingly, India is home to 18 million victims of human trafficking, the most in the world. These circumstances are not acceptable.” Cardin highlighted the need for Modi to take ownership of the mandate before him, believing that a regular conversation on human rights issues is an “eminently reasonable thing for strategic partners to consider and embrace”.
Striving to build up a counter power to contain China, supporting India in the Asian version of the “Monroe Doctrine” for over 50 years, the US must honestly try to come up with rational answers for the reason behind India’s hostility towards every one of its neighbours in varying degrees.
With Bangladesh now almost a vassal State, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka have been Balkanised. Why does India need to suppress the Kashmiri Muslims by keeping a huge military force there? Why is the Maoist insurgency raging in several Indian states? Why is religious intolerance growing in the world’s largest democracy under the Modi govt?
Modi did receive a good welcome in the US, but one can compare this to the exceptional reception that Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan received in 1961 when he was received at the airport by President Kennedy and the First Lady, and was warmly cheered by thousands of New Yorkers on the parade route.
Instead of being distracted by India’s hostility and attempts to strategically isolate it by its PM spreading litany of lies without batting an eyelash, Pakistan should focus on making the CPEC a functional reality. This would help Pakistan achieve the economic progress required to challenge India’s hegemony.
(The writer is a defence and security analyst)