Modi Goes To London
Good news is followed by a flood of bad news.
Narendra Modi, the ‘architect’ of today’s Gujarat, must be realising the truth of this dictum despite the fact that the corporate media – to quote an analyst – ‘loves’ him.
Whether it is the growing resistance of the peasantry inside the state to his vision of development, compelling him to withdraw a major chunk of villages from the much discussed Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (SIR), or the crude manner in which his government’s anti Dalit stance is coming to the fore, the signals are definitely ominous.
And now comes the news that in the recent elections to the students’ union at the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSUSU ) of Baroda, the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) – part of what is popularly known as the ‘Sangh Parivar’ – has been completely wiped out, after a gap of ten years, and the gainer has been the student wing of the main opposition party. Interestingly, the BJP, which had put up Modi posters around the campus describing him as a ‘youth icon’, began removing them after the results started coming in. Around a dozen hoardings with Modi’s photo, asking people to join the “Youth for Change” Facebook page, had also come up in the city two weeks ahead of the MSUSU polls. It was absolutely clear that the BJP’s attempt to project Modi as a youth icon had backfired. Neither did the posters find any takers nor could the hoardings influence the students.
And this was not the first time that the youth in Gujarat had exhibited its growing dislike for the brand of politics propagated by Modi. Only few months back in the Gujarat University student senate elections, the ABVP had similarly lost its majority.
Undoubtedly, at a time when the BJP is tapping into new communication platforms in a big way as it prepares for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and also aims to use new media for “crowd sourcing” (obtaining ideas from online community), portraying Narendra Modi as a “youth icon”, these results are further proof of the great hiatus between what the Party/Parivar thinks about Modi and what is the actual situation on the ground.
Not long ago the BJYM (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha) – another affiliate of the RSS ‘Parivar’ – president Anurag Thakur had told IANS that “since the time Narendra Modi was appointed head of the party’s campaign committee for the Lok Sabha polls, youth want to associate with the BJP with great vigour.” Perhaps now it is time that he modulates his words to stay relevant. And not only him but the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai will also have to revisit their understanding about ‘Why Modi strikes a chord with youth ..’.
Coming to the Party – thanks to the intervention of the RSS in its day-to-day affairs – Modi is right now numero uno. Interestingly, while he has established an early lead over his ‘adversaries’ within the party and the issue at hand is when to project him as PM candidate for the 2014 polls, the scenario outside has become less enthusing.
Take the recent passage of the Food Security Bill. As was reported, Modi had written a letter to the Prime Minister opposing the bill, and it was expected that the party would revise its stand, as its leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had initially agreed to support the Bill, albeit with some amendments. The letter by Modi did create some doubts but ultimately Modi had to step back. As put by a JD(U) leader, “In the passing of this bill, the biggest loser has been Narendra Modi.”
The manner in which the ‘Parikrama’ issue fizzled out and the alleged ‘fixing’ between the VHP and the Samajwadi Party became evident is clear to everyone. People are openly saying that if the Samajwadi Party had not put a ‘ban’ on the rally then the VHP would have found itself further exposed. Despite all its attempts the VHP could organise only a few hundreds for this programme, and all its wishes to raise the heat over the Ayodhya issue just could not materialise. Hindutva’s plan to further communalise the situation in the state and garner votes, lies punctured, as of now. As an aside it may be mentioned here that while Modi himself had refused to visit Ayodhya immediately after his anointment as Chief Campaign Manager of BJP – supposedly to give added proof of his ‘pro development’ image – the first thing his assistant Amit Shah did as in-charge of UP was to visit Ayodhya. It need not be underlined here that Amit Shah happens to be an accused in the encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, has spent a few months in jail, was even ‘externed’ from his home state for a few months, and is right now out on bail.
And now it is learnt that Modi’s much awaited London sojourn is also facing rough weather.
While he could not hide his glee when British MP Barry Gardiner invited him to the United Kingdom – supposedly signaling the end of his isolation in the Western world because of his alleged complicity/inaction during the 2002 carnage – there came the news that another UK MP has launched a protest against the invitation claiming that Modi will receive a “hot reception” in the country. It may be noted that George Galloway, who is an MP belonging to the Respect Party, has been a consistent critic of the attacks by US-led coalition forces against Afghanistan and Iraq and a long time supporter of the Palestinian cause.
In an exclusive interview with CNN-IBN, George Galloway of the Respect Party said: “Mr Modi, better come prepared with a spare jacket because I suppose the eggs and tomatoes will be flying.” Taking a dig at the Gujarat Chief Minister in the context of the 2002 riots, Galloway said, “I hope of course nothing more deadly than that. We wouldn’t like to reduce ourselves to his level but it will be a boisterous, vocal and hot reception.” He said that his party will rally protesters to ensure that the controversial visit “doesn’t go unmarked”.
It may be recalled that for more than eleven years Modi has been yearning to visit the UK, but because of a consistent opposition put up by the secular forces there exposing his alleged role in the 2002 ‘riots’ and with the British government denying any guarantee for his security the plan could never materialise. In fact, he had to cancel his last planned visit to the UK looking at the massive protests which awaited him there accompanied by the inability shown by the British police to defend him as he was to go on a private visit. (2005)And since the families of two British Muslim citizens who had been killed by the frenzied mobs in Gujarat in 2002 were thinking of filing a case against Modi in a British court then, it was considered risky for him to travel there.
Perhaps more worrying for him is the news of the cancellation of Sukbhir Badal’s proposed trip to Canada. Sukhbir Badal, deputy chief minister of Punjab, had planned to visit Canada in the third week of September, but as reported by the media, rights groups were planning to move a court there for his prosecution for allegations of ‘human rights violations’. Groups like Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and the Canadian Sikh Coalition (CSC), which represents more than 50 gurdwaras and societies, had “..[a]lleged that as deputy CM and Home minister Sukhbir Badal commanded a police force that had committed, ordered, incited and abetted extra judicial killings of several Canadian Citizens in India, they would seek the prosecution and arrest warrants of Badal during his upcoming visit to Canada under the Criminal Code of Canada which provided that “every official, or every person acting at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of an official, who inflicts torture on any other person is guilty of an indictable offence”. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-29/india/41579773_1_sukhbir-badal-kanwarpal-singh-dal-khalsa).
It needs to be added here that the group Sikhs for Justice, which recently opened a branch in Canada, had filed a similar case against Sukbhbir Badal’s father Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal last year when he was planning to visit the US in June, which had forced him to cancel the trip.
But why is this cancellation of a visit by close ally of BJP of any import for Modi’s proposed trip?
In an important write-up, ‘Narendra Modi, British Invitation and Universal Jurisdiction’ (http://www. countercurrents.org / jayaram160813.htm), senior journalist N Jayaram tells us why ‘for human rights groups, the prospect of Modi’s London visit is not a crisis but an opportunity.’
According to him
“Should he take up the invitation, they could move courts for his arrest and trial under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction for crimes against humanity.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_jurisdiction) Although Universal Jurisdiction was not invoked in the 1998 arrest of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in London, it put worldwide focus on the principle. Judge Baltasar Garzon in Spain called for his arrest on the ground that some of the thousands of victims of human rights abuses in Chile after the 1973 coup were Spanish citizens. Britain’s Law Lords ruled that Pinochet could not cite diplomatic immunity as certain crimes were too serious for that international arrangement to be invoked. Pinochet spent nearly a year and a half under mostly house arrest.
It may be mentioned here that Pinochet had to spend more than one and half years in London effectively under house arrest and his supporters in the western world like Margaret Thatcher – who had supported Pinochet’s coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende and the bloodbath that followed and the then US President George Bush had to lobby hard for his release. He was ‘freed on health grounds’ despite protests from Jurists and medical experts. This incident was ‘one of the greatest episodes in international legal history’ and ‘the words Universal Jurisdiction gained currency beyond the groves of academe.’
The author discusses other examples of leading personalities or army commanders who had to cancel their trips abroad for similar fear of litigation. He talks about the cancellation of former US president George W, Bush’s trip to Switzerland (2011) in view of the threat of large scale protests. “Amnesty International had asked the Swiss authorities to investigate his role in torture. Amnesty was told that the authorities had no plans to prosecute Bush. But there have been rumblings in other countries, including Spain and Germany, with threats of investigations against leading US officials for torture and other crimes against humanity.”
It was in 2005 that Doron Almog, a former Israeli army commander, had to literally fly back from London without getting down from his aircraft as he was told that some Palestinian groups had moved a court to charge him with crimes against humanity. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7251954.stm). Similarly, Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister of Israel, cancelled her proposed trip to Britain (2009) when reports came in that an arrest warrant was out for her role in alleged war crimes in Gaza. The author adds:
She was invited back by Foreign Secretary William Hague in 2011 after an amendment that prevents private individuals from seeking such arrests. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 might make it difficult for private individuals to call for Modi’s arrest should he visit Britain. But nothing prevents foreign governments and judges from issuing warrants to be acted upon by the British authorities.
Definitely Modi is not the only Indian politician whose visits elsewhere have become subjects of controversy. Jagdish Tytler, a senior Congress leader, who has been under the scanner for his alleged role in the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, was similarly dropped from a delegation (2009) which was to visit Britain following protests.
The author concludes with this observation:
“India has not signed the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court in 2002. China, the United States and Israel are among a number of countries that have chosen to stay out. Thus far the ICC, which has 122 members, has only been able to net perpetrators of mass crimes in Africa. The idea that crimes against humanity such as those that occurred in New Delhi in 1984 or Gujarat in 2002 need to be investigated and punished has yet to catch on in India. But it is an idea whose time may yet come.”