If we stand for the politics of “One Nation” – we cannot support Narendra Modi. An open letter to Iain McNicol

August 17, 2013 6:47 pm

Dear Iain,

As you can imagine, the invitation by Labour Friends of India to Narendra Modi to speak in Parliament has caused concern in the UK and India. As Barry Gardiner MP states in his invitation letter, Mr. Modi is the elected Chief Minister of an Indian state. But he is also a leading figure in a party of the right whose politics stand directly opposed to the values of the UK Labour party.

Modi remains under investigation in India for his role in the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat riots in 2002. His party refuses to acknowledge that Muslims and other minorities are equal members of Indian society. In power in Gujuarat, his party has created aggressive form of state-sponsored neoliberalism, which has allowed some to prosper at the expense of many hard working Gujaratis. Gujarat has one of the lowest sex ratios in India, and suffers from some of the worst malnutrition in the country.

If we stand for a politics about creating one nation in Britain, we cannot actively support someone whose politics are build on creating, often by violence, social and economic division in India.

It is up to every individual MP to cultivate relationships with politicians across the globe as they see fit. But the invitation is made in the name of an organisation which claims to be a member of the Labour movement and to subscribe to Labour’s values. It is also made by a shadow minister. It has created in the minds of many the idea that Labour supports Narendra Modi.

This association between Labour and Modi is undermining confidence in our party amongst activists and friends fighting to ensure everyone leads a dignified, secure life – for social cohesion and a responsible form of capitalism – here and in India. Friends of mine have already told me they’ll no longer campaign for Labour in marginal seats as a consequence of Labour Friends of India’s decision.

We are an internationalist party. We stand firmly for the right of every people to democratically elect its own political leaders. But we have fraternal relationships with centre-left parties and politicians across the world that share our values. The BJP is not such a party, and Modi not such a man. By seeming to make this alliance, we are taken to have abandoned our political standards.

I am writing, therefore, with two requests.

First of all, could you make it publically clear that Barry Gardiner’s invitation to Narendra Modi has not come from the Labour Party.

Secondly, could you clarify the constitutional position of Labour Friends of India within the party and Labour movement more generally.

Given the centrality of India to British life and the global economy, it is essential Labour has an organization with a wide and active membership making the case for strong British links with India. Labour Friends of India claims to be that organization. Yet it does not appear to be publically open to new members or run on the same democratic lines as other associations within the Labour movement. Your efforts to ensure the questions I’ve raised can be debated in association which represent the plurality of views amongst Labour’s friends of India would be greatly appreciated.

With best wishes,

Jon Wilson
Historian of India at King’s College London and Labour activist in Greenwich

  • RogerMcC

    The lack of comments from anyone other than communalist apologists for the vile BJP and its particularly loathsome Chief Minister in Gujarat is profoundly depressing.

    Under his rule in 2002 paramilitary Hindu fascists closely associated with his party raped, tortured and murdered thousands of Muslims in circumstances which are almost indescribable while his police watched on approvingly – except that there are films like Rakesh Sharma’s Final Solution which through survivor and witness interviews do give us a picture of quite unimaginable cruelty and bestiality.

    A monster like Modi should not even be allowed to enter this country never mind invited to any gathering associated with the Labour Party.

  • Mike Homfray

    The BJP is a far-right party, supporting neoliberal economics and a form of Hindu nationalism.
    They have no connection with Labour at all

  • RogerMcC

    Where the hell do you get my hankering for the restoration of the Raj from?

    And I know a great deal about India and having read books and watched documentaries on the subject specifically know more than anyone should have to know about the pogroms in Gujarat which are what qualifies Modi as a monster.

    The Italian? A racist dig at Sonia Gandhi?

    • SamsGhost

      So you “know” Modi is “monster” based on books and a YouTube video? Have you read the judgements of the Indian courts on this issue? What makes you a superior authority on such matters than the courts of India?

      • RogerMcC

        I thank God that I am not from Gujarat and did not have to personally witness any of these horrors.

        I strongly suspect that you are not either and so your basis of forming an opinion on this is exactly the same as mine: reading and watching stuff by people who you believe to be reliable witnesses and analysts.

        And that youtube video I linked to is a long and widely acclaimed documentary.

        Have you watched it?

        Are you going to claim that every stomach-churning story of rape, torture and murder, every scar, every word spoken by the RSS/VHP/BJP people who you yourself admire and support is an elaborate lie?

        Stupid question – of course you will.

  • RogerMcC

    You actually have one thing right: there is literally no better thing we left wing activists can do with our lives than to help publicise the crimes of the racist thugs, murderers and rapists for whom you are an apologist.

  • SamsGhost

    He gave no such permission. It is time that people read the decisions of the Indian courts on this and inform themselves rather than keep inventing new things in their imagination.

  • RogerMcC

    ‘Modi actually controlled the riots’

    There you go – you yourself admit that he could turn off and turn on these riots (and I think ‘riot’ is a poor word for a pogrom that even a BJP apologist like yourself must admit killed hundreds).

    And you resort to ‘whatabout x’ – the first recourse of someone who has no actual argument.

    In point of fact those of us who read/watch what you would regard as the left-wing media do know about Assam which has been covered quite fully by for instance the Guardian and BBC – just as were the massacres in 1969 and 1984.

    The couple of us who are responding strongly to you are doing so not because of ignorance and prejudice (although there is more than enough of that on the British Left) but because we do know something about India’s recent history – and in Jon Wilson’s case he actually teaches it.

    So you piling up yet more examples of the murderous rampages that the Hindu Nationalist Right engage in every few years is really not going to help your case as we already know about these and see Modi and the slaughter in Gujarat in precisely that historical and political context.

  • RogerMcC

    You are seriously telling us that Modi is not a member of the RSS or BJP?

    It is you who is seeking to play on the admittedly profound ignorance of most Brits about Indian politics – but some of us do take a real interest and read not just the UK or US press but the English language Indian media as well.

    Which actually makes us pretty knowledgeable compared to the typical low information Indian voter – just as you assuming you are an Indian probably know more about UK politics than 95% of our voters.

    And your analogy is absurd – many people on the UK Left (but not myself) have been for a decade demanding at every opportunity that Tony Blair should be in jail for war crimes and TV stations have even commissioned plays fantasising about this happening.

    And had he instead of liberating Iraq presided over racist pogroms in Britain itself where a thousand people died horrible deaths and many more were left beaten, raped, mutilated, traumatised or homeless by his supporters he actually would be in jail.

    And if judges appointed by his party (or even by an opposition party elements of which are indeed not at all unsympathetic to the murderers) mysteriously ‘failed to find him guilty of any wrongdoing’ due to his having constructed an elaborate wall of plausible deniability around his actions that would not make him one whit less guilty.

    But you clearly have no concept of morality so it is pointless arguing with you.

  • RogerMcC

    Actually I did know this and have already addressed your feeble resort to whataboutery.

    India is indeed a vast and complicated country and has many murderous religio-nationalist fanatics who belong to more than one party and to none.

    And Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty have a long and shameful record of their own.

    But we’re specifically talking about Gujarat, 2002, Modi and the party and the paramilitary fascist organisation of which he is a leading member.

  • RogerMcC

    Again with the absurd overstatement.

    The Supreme Court of India are like other supreme courts ultimately political appointees whose decisions are political – some will be BJP appointees, others owe their position to Congress and other parties, some might even be genuinely non-partisan.

    But all will be motivated by a general presumption in favour of what they see as preserving the Indian state.

    And there may even be a rational utilitarian argument that convicting a Modi – who is at least a known quantity – could cause more harm than good and even set off new massacres.

    So no they don’t all need to be Hindu Nationalist Nazis to let Modi off, any more than the US Supreme Court have to be flaming queens to sanction gay marriage or ku klux klansmen to strike down laws ensuring that blacks can vote in Southern states.

    And actually I have spent many, many, many wearisome hours arguing online and face-to-face with know nothing western pseudo-leftists who apologise for Islamist terrorism on anti-American, anti-Israeli and ‘anti-imperialist’ grounds and will continue to do so unless as I have breath to do so.

    And being an old Labour leftist I am instinctively pro-Indian and on general principle will usually support any genuine democracy however imperfect against any state that alternates between military dictatorship and theocracy and elements of whose state actively support and shelter Jihadists who kill British soldiers and civilians (and Indians and for that matter Afghans and Pakistanis themselves).

    And I no more hate Hindus than I do Christians or Muslims or Buddhists – what I do hate are fundamentalist bigots whatever holy books they wave around.

    While I regularly quote Carl Schmitt’s dictum that to be political is to accept that you have enemies and act accordingly and wish that the Left would do so.

    But it is depressing to encounter someone so profoundly partisan and closed to any possible alternative worldview as yourself.

    • SamsGhost

      Once again your comments on the Supreme Court of India shows a great deal of ignorance. I follow one simple rule in my life and that is to never argue with people who combine ignorance with stubbornness. I have watched the highest courts in India in action and happen to have a great degree of faith in them. And I have not seen anything to persuade me that these are not real courts but Kangaroo courts filled with Hindus who harbour a deep seated hatred for Muslims (which is what you are implying – which is quite insulting to Indians generally by the way. It implies that no Hindu (no matter how enlightened) can be trusted to deal fairly in a matter involving Muslims because he is likely to be biased. This view also accords with Jinnah’s two nation theory which you Brits supported to divide India and cause unprecedented bloodshed in 1947 but we won’t go there).

      • RogerMcC

        The only person talking about kangaroo courts or conjuring up images of Hindu Nazi judges persecuting Muslims is you – so desperate are you to construct an imaginary racist strawman hankering after the days of the Raj to argue against.

        Which when the alternative is addressing the question of how it is that Chief Ministers of Indian states whose supporters horribly massacre hundreds of their fellow citizens while the police they control stand idly by can remain not just at liberty but in power is really the only debating strategy you have.

        But trading insults like this is a bore and actually deeply tasteless when we are talking about real people perpetrating and having perpetrated upon them almost unimaginable atrocities.

        So I’m done.

  • SamsGhost

    Thanks for posting those links. They are terrific.

  • RogerMcC

    I do at least partly stand corrected as much of my background knowledge of the Indian constitution comes from a university course (taught by the late Bruce Graham who was a noted expert on Indian politics) taken some years ago – but I see that since the 1990s SC appointments are now no longer directly political but emerge from within a sort of closed judicial oligarchy.

    Which does not alter the fact that judges are pretty much by definition amongst the most conservative people in any society and at this level are appointed specifically to defend the state and the social and political order of which they are themselves so close to the apex – and not infallible and incorruptible dispensers of perfect and abstract justice.

    So it has transpired that after a decade of court cases that although at least a thousand people died and many thousands more suffered terribly at the hands of Mr Modi’s supporters he remains not just at liberty but seemingly perpetual Chief Minister of his state.

    (And not being a soulless partisan fanatic I am more than happy to add all those multiple other massacres and crimes perpetrated under Congress and governing parties other than the BJP which have also never been properly punished by the courts).

  • RogerMcC

    I have no love for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty or the party that it has turned into its personal fiefdom at all but of all the many things one can dislike Sonia Gandhi for the accident of her birth is not one of them.

    And in any other country 45 years residence and choosing to stay even after fanatics have murdered your mother-in-law and your husband (and who are all too likely to end up killing you and your children as well) would generally get you at least some measure of acceptance.

    You must also know far better than I do that the Hindu ultra-nationalism for whom ‘the Italian’ is a such hate-figure has a quite literally mystical racist component.

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