There has been a steady increase in Indo-US bonhomie ever since Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India .During his two years in chair, he has taken long strides than his predecessors in reducing the distance and increasing convergence in the strategic perspectives of the two supposedly democracies . During his latest visit to US, Modi has received a thunderous applause to his forty five minute speech to the joint session of US congress during which he is reported to have received extraordinary number of clappings & standing ovations.
The rousing reception begs a very important question. Has the US, which positions itself as a champion of human rights around the world ,forgotten or forgiven Modi for his complicit role in killing minority Muslims thus committing grave crimes against humanity during Gujrat riots 2002 .The question is important because in its answer lies the future survival of democracy as a best model which respects human rights. I will explain that a little later.
That Modi’s Complicity in Gujrat riots is well researched & adequately documented. The latest addition to the existing implicative material on the subject is Rana Ayub’s book ‘Gujrat files- Anatomy of a cover-up’. Prior to that Manoj Mitha’s book ‘The fiction of fact finding’ & Sreekumar’s Book ‘Gujrat behind the Curtain’ have provided ample evidence of Modi’s involvement through his acts of omission & commission. Not to speak of Teesta Setalvad’s material compiled after untiring efforts and Tehlka’s sting operations conducted in 2007.In an open letter published in ‘the Guardian’,(10th April 2014)most respected global intellectuals of Indian Origin held him culpable for the massacre of Muslims under his watch when he was chief Minster in 2002 According to Ashish Nandy, India’s most reputed political psychologist & social theorist, ‘The Gujarat pogroms were not just about the number of helpless victims killed (over 3000) and rendered homeless (several hundred thousand). It was about the sheer planning, the brutality, the maniacal genocide that was perpetrated over a population for days on end. Narendra Modi, according to Nandy, did not only shamelessly preside over the riots and act as the chief patron of rioting gangs, the vulgarities of his utterances have been a slur on civilised public life. His justifications of the riots, too, sound uncannily like that of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president and mass murderer who is now facing trial for his crimes against humanity. I often wonder these days why those active in human rights groups in India and abroad have not yet tried to get international summons issued against Modi for colluding with the murder of hundreds and for attempted ethnic cleansing. If Modi’s behavior till now is not a crime against humanity, what is?
Following Gujrat riots in 2002 & widespread allegation of State complicity, a US Commission for international religious freedom (USCIRF) established that Gujrat Chief Mister, Modi was linked to communal riots in a significant way. It also noted that Modi’s ministerial colleague, Maya Kodnani fully involved in the massacre of Muslims was actually a fall Guy for Narendra Modi. Following its findings, the Commission recommended a US Visa ban for Modi. The Chair person of the Commision ,Katrina Lantos Swett went further to recommend India to be placed in Tier 2 Countries on religious freedom along with that of seven other countries Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia. Tier 2 countries are those Countries where religious persecution and other violations of religious freedom are either promoted with State connivance or tolerated by the governments in chage
According to a report of British High Commission in India, the pogroms in Gujarat in 2002, “had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister,Modi remains in power.”The report further said, “far from being spontaneous” this massacre, “was planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government headed by Modi.”
Now reverting back to the earlier question, it is important to seek an answer as to whether Modi has been forgiven or his crimes relegated to the dustbins of history? America may say that Modi is an elected chief executive of a largest democracy and it was for Indian people to punish him through electoral calculus or for the Indian judiciary to indict him. But that is a specious argument to say the least. Immediately after riots, Modi won elections in Gujrat and irrespective of that favorable result, Modi was treated as a persona-non-grata by America and his entry to USA banned. So taking shelter under this alibi will be self defeating for USA. Should it take the Indian judiciary argument, then none better than USA knows that the whole criminal Justice system in India is slow & heavily loaded against minorities. And even the remote chances of getting justice are scuttled by influencing and/or threatening honest Judges & bureaucrats. Does USA need to be reminded that for anti Sikh riots of 1984, no political heavyweight has been punished so far by Indian system? Recently an Indian Court acquitted all the accused policemen (Provincial armed constabulary personnel) responsible for murdering 42 innocent Muslims of a non-descript UP village in broad daylight in 1987.
And if it is presumed that USA has forgiven Modi, then we can only mourn the sad demise of core values from American hearts. Slobodan Milosevic must be wondering in his grave for the differential treatment he got at the hands of those whose priorities are guided more by revenue & market valuations. Whatever be the case, a caveat is in order. America by its odious behavior has undermined & debased the structure of democracy, it so enthusiastically promotes in rest of the world.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)