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Is India exempt from human rights abuses?

29th Apr 2022
Is India exempt from human rights abuses?

Boris Johnson’s “disgraceful silence” on Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim campaign (Credit: K.Tang/Birleşik Krallık Hük./Pool/Anadolu Agency)

Boris Johnson this month became the first serving British Prime Minister to visit Gujarat. His trip to India coincides with the 20th anniversary of rioting in Narendra Modi’s home state, in which some 2,000 Muslims were killed, over 200 Muslim women raped, and Muslim properties destroyed by Hindu mobs.

It also comes amid growing sectarian violence against a Muslim population of (over 200 million) rivalling Indonesia in numbers. Johnson was also facing a barrage of questions at home about his integrity, with calls for him to resign over “Partygate.”

Before leaving for India, it was made clear that Johnson would not press his counterpart on sensitive human rights abuses or on India’s refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and impose sanctions against Russia.

The UK “would continue to work with other countries to provide alternative options for defence procurement and energy for India to diversify supply chains away from Russia,” his official spokesman said. The UK “would not seek to lecture other democratically elected governments on what course of action was best for them. Rather, we would look to offer new opportunities that benefit both the people of the UK and India.”

Johnson made clear that the purpose of his visit to the world’s second-most populous country was to “effectively deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations—from job creation and economic growth to energy security and defence.”

Criticisms about the excesses of Modi’s right-wing Government were being put on the back burner, as often tends to be the case with certain countries. The differences in the Ukraine war were a delicate issue

. “As we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together. India, as a major economic power and the world’s largest democracy, is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK in these uncertain times.”

Challenged by Sky News on his warm relations with his Indian counterpart despite India becoming increasingly authoritarian, with “plenty of concern about press freedom, protection of minorities, and bulldozing homes of Muslims in several states,” Johnson resorted to the obvious retort that “India is a country of 1.35 billion people and it is democratic.”

With even more praise, Johnson emphasised that it was “the world’s largest democracy, an astonishing creation, and it is going places very fast, and the opportunity for us to deepen our partnership, deepen our friendship, deepen our ties is enormous.” His visit was to “deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations—from job creation and economic growth to energy security and defence.”

During his visit to India, Johnson was tasked with securing the remains of three British Muslims killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots, a task his spokesman wasn’t aware of despite being requested by the victims’ families and Kim Leadbeater, the constituency Labour MP for Batley, where the victims came from. It would be “an opportune, albeit long overdue moment, to right this long-standing injustice.”

But no mention was made during his press conferences on the issue before the PM returned to the UK.
With the growing incidents of persecution, intolerance, and open boycott campaigns, it appears that the Indian PM and his BJP party are in denial of what is being called a Muslim genocide that is becoming the norm in their country.

Johnson himself even provoked the situation in his usual blundering way by creating a major controversy when visiting a JCB factory that makes bulldozers used to bulldoze Muslim homes and businesses, similar to the way Israel has been doing it for decades against Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. JCB is a British manufacturer owned by Lord Bamford, a donor to Johnson’s 2019 leadership campaign. He has reportedly donated at least £10 million to the Conservatives since 2001.

Given the PM’s record of Islamophobic remarks, which he still refuses to apologise for, it wasn’t clear whether his attendance at the inauguration of a JCB factory producing machinery used for the mass demolition of Muslim properties was deliberately offensive. His spokesman insisted Johnson went to the factory “because it is a very good illustration of UK business working with India and the Indian Government to benefit both the UK and India.”

However, that explanation did not wash with human rights NGOs, including Amnesty, who branded the visit to the factory “ignorant” and “his silence on the incident deafening.” It was hardly setting a positive image of Johnson in the eyes of Muslims at a time when the Conservatives had yet to purge the embedded Islamophobia within their rank and file.

The “barbarism” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that the British PM mentioned during his trip could almost equally apply to the way India is treating the world’s largest minority population in any country.

Presiding over decades of ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, the UK is well aware of the dangers that deep religious divisions can cause in a country of less than two million, never mind of nearly 1.4 billion. The consequences are too enormous to grasp.

As the former colonial power of the subcontinent, the UK is duty-bound by its imperial past, especially after a shambolic cut and run exit strategy, leaving inappropriate and impractical partitioned chaos in its wake.


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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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