[Photo: Indian PM Narendra Modi welcoming UK PM David Cameron and his wife Samantha to Wembley Stadium on 13 Nov 2015. Photo: A J Versi/The Muslim News]
No one would be against boosting trade with the second largest populated country in the world. However, the British Government spared little effort this month in going overboard to welcome India’s partisan showman. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was given the red carpet treatment; he was honoured with an invitation to address the Parliament, allowed an overnight stay at Chequers and lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace despite his record of human rights abuses.
Sections of the UK press were scathing about the pomp and ceremony given to an ‘ex-pariah’ previously shunned from the days of communal violence in Gujarat when thousands, mostly Muslims, were killed while Modi was the Chief Minister. Even Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, declined to attend the Parliamentary address given by the extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader after he signed a Commons early day motion criticising India’s human rights record.
But this was not the case with Prime Minister, David Cameron, apparently lured by the luxury of £9 billion worth of deals waiting to be signed despite having to hold his nose before shaking the hand of such a divisive figure as a columnist for the Times suggested.
At a time when so much emphasis has been attached to the importance of British values recently, he was said to be a man who does not even share such values. The pop concert style political rally held at Wembley stadium during his three-day stay was further criticised for its obscenity.
During his speech at the stadium and during the press conference at Downing Street with Cameron, Modi’s main defence of towards those of other faiths was deflected by his reference to India being the land of the tolerant Gandhi and “therefore there is something that is deeply entrenched in our culture, our traditions, which is that we are not accepting anything that is having to do with intolerance. Any incident that happens is a serious incident, and we do not tolerate these incidents at all.”
Cameron backed Modi when he was asked about the Indian Prime Minister’s Gujarat killings of Muslims record. “He comes with mandate from the people of India who made him Prime Minister with a record and historic majority. As for what happened in the past, there were legal proceedings,” said Cameron. As it has been argued on page 4, the legal cases against Modi on the atrocities carried out in Gujarat are still continuing.
Yet despite his world tour, Modi’s popularity appears to be already on the wane with the ruling BJP already losing a key state election in Bihar amid the rising controversy over his alleged Hindu chauvinism.
This month’s vote follows weeks of bitter debate about the rise of Hindu nationalism and his encouragement of religious and social intolerance. Most recently he was widely criticised for failing to speak out when a Muslim was beaten to death in September by a Hindu mob in northern India over rumours that he had eaten beef.
Cameron told Modi at the press conference that the UK will campaign for India to be given permanent status in the United Nations Security Council (USNC). The UK will not be recommending any Muslim country to the UNSC.
In recent weeks, dozens of leading Indian writers, filmmakers, scientists and intellectuals have also handed back national awards in protest at the growing climate of intolerance. While Cameron may be reluctant to do so, it has been left to voters in the country’s third most populous state to send Modi a message to put an end to the hatemongering that has only inflamed sectarian tensions.
Cameron did not even take the case of three British Muslims who were murdered in 2002 when Modi was the Chief Minister. The family members’ plea for justice fell on deaf ears. “We don’t go into details” when Cameron talks about human rights issues, his spokesperson told The Muslim News.