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Issue 286, Friday 22 February 2013 - 12 Rabi' al-Akhar 1434

Comment: Economic interests overshadow quest for justice in Gujarat

By M Ghazali Khan

Students from Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce protested against a visit by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Feb 6. (Photo: Mukul Dube)

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

Steiner justified this insensitive and salt-rubbing on the wounds of the Muslim victims by saying, “We are now in a new phase. This respect from us towards India is what the people of India expect from us.” Modi has been invited to attend the European Parliament in November. He has also received an invitation to attend the European Business meeting in Brussels later this year.

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

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

Indians in general and Indian Muslims in particular have been campaigning and appealing to the British Government not to let Modi in the UK. However, while well known Muslims, none of whom was even remotely involved in violence, have been refused visas for their alleged extremist views, in 2003 Modi was allowed entry into Britain.

In October last year as the news of British Government’s courtship with Modi broke, the Council of Indian Muslims—UK (CIM) sent an open letter to Foreign Secretary, William Hague, condemning the move to “engage” with and “rehabilitate” Modi, alleging that he “does not only belong to a fascist party but is responsible for the massacre of more than two thousand Muslims.”

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

Minister of State, Hugo Swire MP in reply said, “We continue to provide the families with full consular assistance...Our decision will have no impact on our determination to seek justice for the victims.”

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

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

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

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