The open letter titled-“The idea of Modi in power fills us with dread’- written by 75 professors and other academics of Indian origin working at some of Britain's prestigious institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford university and London School of Economics targeting the authoritarian ways of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narender Modi, is a one sided argument created to instill a wrong and misinformed public opinion about Modi, who many believe will be the next Prime Minister of India.
The academics led by Prof. Chetan Bhatt and Gautam Appa of the London School of Economics issued the open letter in the UK's Left-leaning 'Independent' newspaper expressing their concerns for the implications of the Modi-led BJP government for democracy, pluralism and human rights in India. What disappoints most is that the so called intellectuals have only collected facts (have not verified them) against Modi and are raising the same issues that have been raised by pseudo-secular parties in India, to malign his image.
If Modi is a dreaded authoritarian as is claimed by the intellectuals in the letter, he would not have garnered as much love and support from the youth in this country as he does. The fact that about 13 million people follow him contradicts the contention that he is authoritative and nullifies the claim that he is as an emerging threat to Indian democracy.
The counter argument to the claims made in the letter are shared below
Claim No.1: “There is widespread agreement about the authoritarian nature of Modi’s rule in Gujarat.”
The common dictionary definition of the word “authoritarianism” is: “Strictly forcing people to obey a set of rules or laws that are often wrong or unfair”. Modi is often criticized for committing this crime even when there has been no direct evidence to prove it. In this light, therefore, the claims made in the letter bears no relevance as one, the arguments made, have not been supported by credible facts, and the other being the partisan approach of the intellectuals in criticising Modi for ways that pseudo-secular parties like Congress have been practicing in the garb of secularism post independence.
The letter reflects that the people who have written this letter seem to have also forgotten that the “Constitution of India” ensures if any government in power deviates even slightly beyond the purview of the constitution, a suo motu action is taken by the judiciary to contain such unconstitutional action, and that there are effective checks and balances prevailing in the parliamentary form of democracy in India. In fact it appears this letter shares nothing more than the perspective of an unfounded fear of a few intellectuals who have only researched about Modi but have skillfully ignored the authoritarian ways behind corruption and scams in India during Congress’ rule.
Claim No.2: “We recall the extreme violence by the Hindu Right in Gujarat in 2002 which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.”
The November 1984 Sikh riots were a systematic and deliberate attempt to kill a religious minority. The Sikh activists who have been demanding justice for long have reiterated that the riots happened with the complicity of the Congress government and, as revealed by documented cases, with the participation of the government. While the official death toll of the anti-Sikh riots is 3,000, Indian media estimate that as many as 7,000 Sikhs were killed all over the country.
“The Time” of the U.K. reported about the genocide as: “Such wide-scale violence cannot take place without police help. Delhi Police, whose paramount duty was to upkeep law and order situation and protect innocent lives, gave full help to rioters who were in fact working under able guidance of sycophant congress leaders like Jagdish Tytler and HKL Bhagat”. There are incontrovertible documentary evidences against prominent Congress ministers, clearly establishing their direct complicity in the genocide of Sikhs, and yet they roam freely as the congress government is in power. The Human Rights Watch of the USA reported as recently as in 2011 that the “Government of India is yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings of the Sikhs.”
The letter has not taken cognizance of such brutal killing, and has only highlighted the 2002 Gujarat riots, and has implicated Modi, even when the Special Investigation Team has given a clean chit to him.
Citing statistics of those who were arrested and prosecuted for their involvement in the 2002 riots, Mr. Arun Jaitley, leader of fopposition in Rajya Sabha said: “There were 1,00,488 preventive and punitive arrests, this is more than the number of persons arrested in any other [case of] caste or religious tension in India. More people died in police firing during disturbances than in any other riot, which negates the allegation of police connivance. 4,272 cases were registered, 1,168 of these cases have been decided and hundreds of accused have been convicted.
There are several prominent Indian patriotic Muslim leaders in India who are active members of BJP. M.J. Akbar, a former bureaucrat and a renowned writer is the national spokesman of BJP. At an interview he gave to a foreign T.V. Channel he declared: “In ten years, no other politician has gone through so much scrutiny as Modi. He was scrutinized by police, central government, CBI, court-appointed institution, etc.” In short, all of them have jointly and severally given clean chits to Modi. In the highly researched book “Narendra Modi: A Political Biography” by Andy Marino, a Western scholar, containing incontrovertible documentary evidences, it was established that “Narendera Modi wanted to quit as C.M., saying: It was unfair on the people of the State”, and that “No court has come even close to establishing his complicity in the violence”.
When Sikh riots took place after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh security men, her son, Rajiv Gandhi had said, “When a big tree falls, earth shakes.” On the contrary, Modi has openly challenged that if at all there is even a grain of truth in the allegations of his complicity either directly or indirectly in the alleged crime against minority he can be publically flogged to death, and he has kept demanding this since the year 2002.
Claim No.3: “Modi’s ideology stems from the Hindu Nationalist organisation, namely RSS, with its history of inciting violence against Muslims.”
A couple of days before the open letter was written, Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister of U.K. (wherein these intellectuals earn their living), called upon the world community to contain “the growing Jehadi threats from Radicalized Islam” in England. . In a recent US National Counter-Terrorism Centre publication, titled: “A Chronology of International Islamic Terrorism”, it was stated: “India suffered more terrorist attacks than any other country”. The million dollar questions that arises is that : The intellectuals have have ignored the riots during Congress’ rule in Gujarat, and has only raised the issue of Gujarat riots in Modi’s tenure, without acknowledging that after Akshardham terrorist attacks in Gujarat about a decade ago no more terrorist strikes have taken place in the State. And if so can somebody take this letter seriously?
Infact without knowing about the organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it’s blamed for inciting violence against Muslims. A former Senior Supreme Court Judge, K.T. Thomas, said at a function attended by RSS Chief Mohan Bhagat, “I am a Christian. I was born as a Christian and practice that religion. I am a church going Christian. But I have also learnt many things about RSS. There is a smear campaign that RSS was responsible for Gandhi’s assassination, just because the assassin was once upon a time an RSS worker and the organization was completely exonerated by the court. Can the entire Sikh community be held responsible for Indira Gandhi’s assassination? I became an admirer of the RSS in 1979 when I was posted as a District Judge of Kozkhikode. Simple living and high thinking is the hallmark of RSS. During the emergency, RSS was the only non-political organization which fought against it. We owe very much to RSS for sacrificing many lives for regaining our fundamental rights…”
Claim No.4: “The Modi-BJP model of economic growth involves close linking of government with big business, generous transfer of public resources to the wealthy and powerful, and measures harmful to the poor”.
One of the newspapers of India termed these 75 U.K. “NRIs” as “Left-oriented academics, teaching at U.K. universities”. Does it mean that their opinion will also be one sided and they will only see what they want to see, or is it that like others even this letter is a vicious campaign against Modi. One concludes this after the letter criticises Modi’s development model even when there has not been a single instance of corruption or any financial bungling on the part of the decade-long government of Modi in Gujarat. But has intentionally/inintentionaly ignored the large-scale corruption and looting of country’s resources in Congress/UPA’s rule in the last decade that has made poor poorer and the rich wealthier.
-M. Surendra Nathan, an advocate, with High Court, Mumbai, and can be contacted at email: [email protected]