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

  • Prashant Bhatt

    What is the fault of Narendra Modi? As far as I know the only blame on him is that he failed to control riots in Gujarat more than 10 years back. But so did Rajeev Gandhi in Delhi and Indira Gandhi in Punjab…did you people wrote this type of open letters than?
    Is Modi anti muslim? Not at all!
    Go visit Gujrat and see is there any difference in living conditions of muslims from other sects.
    Half known facts are more dangerous than not knowing.

    • pravin patel

      The fault of Modi is that he gave permission to Bajarangdal like organisations to massacre muslims and asked Police to do nothing for 3 days.

    • SamsGhost

      Modi actually controlled the riots. He brought them under control in 48 hours. That has never happened in the history of India. Riots under Congress rule raged for months at a time. Read about the Ahmedabad riots of 1969 or the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Even today, there is brutal violence and ethnic conflict going on in Assam in which hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Why do we not hear about those from these “activists”?

  • swatnan

    Bearing in mind that the Indian Federal Elections are approaching next year, and that the BJP could well be the next Party in Govt, and that Britain might well be dealing with it. And, that the Gujarati community is pretty large prosperous and vocal in Britain.
    So once again we could unfortunately have Indian politics played out again on the streets of London and other major UK cities, leading to disorder.
    Its a pity that Modi has been invited by Labour Friends of India, but we have the same problem with Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine. We can’t unfortunately be choosey about our friends all that much these days; some we wouldn’t be seen dead with in the past, but now have to put up with ads our ‘friends’. If Modi comes then at least balance him with a Congressman or woman.
    I do wish the politics of foreign countries would stay in their homelands and not intrude here.

  • Pankaj Mohan

    “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.”

    A pack of lies and a complete distortion of the truth pertaining to Gujarat. In fact, this is the language of a typical eNREGA recruit, we often see these days!

    Narendra Modi’s party opposes special treatment and appeasement to religious minorities. In other words, it is expected to be more impartial than any other political organization in the country’s public life. However, those endorsing the ghettoization and segregation of the minorities would obviously be offended at this clipping of their entitlements.

    The whole debate surrounding the alleged low social indices vis-à-vis Gujarat’s economy is equally perverted in nature. Check out the following links for a more informed debate in this regard.

    http://www.niticentral.com/2012/10/25/bibek-debroy-on-the-gujarat-story-full-interview-15051.html
    http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-09-22/news/34022206_1_poverty-ratio-narendra-modi-gujarat
    http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/policypuzzles/entry/gujarat-s-data-on-social-indicators-shows-positive-impact-of-policies
    http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/9Qzg05zypjEUbioqK9N1UM/Why-Amartya-Sen-is-wrong.html

  • 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.

    • SamsGhost

      Don’t spout mindless comments about a country that you know nothing about. A “monster” like Modi eh? A “monster” according to whom? You?? What do you know about India? Or would you like the British to take India back since you deem Indians as incapable of running their own country? And if the British don’t come back, would it better to have the Italian running it as the alternative?

    • Shrey

      “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.”

      Perhaps it is you who needs a re-rook at the BJP and its “loathsome” chief minister. Perhaps it is you who is mis-informed. And lastly, perhaps all of us who so vehemently defend Modi might not be communal and praise him simply because of all the good things that he has been quietly doing for the last 11 years.

      Although I don’t need to, and there is a high chance you would just dismiss this as another rhetoric from a “communalist apologist”, but I would tell you that I was a part of the over whelming majority of Indians who absolutely hated Modi post 2002 for years together. I spoke in the same tone and tenor as you do today against Modi. This because of the vicious lies that the Indian media in collusion with Congress sponsored NGOs has peddled against this man for 11 years now. Only when I saw first hand all the work on the ground and speaking to a number of muslims from Gujarat that I have realized the great unfairness that this leader has been treated for a decade now. And I and so many others like me have decided to make amends.

      I hope you could do the same. Otherwise, I wish you luck with your hate mongering. Reiterating, the UK calling him or not will have no effect here in India.

  • SamsGhost

    Why don’t you ban the Pakistani Prime Minister/President/Generals from entering Britain and buying up property in London? How many crocodile tears have worthless academics like you spared for the brutal treatment of minorities in Pakistan or other Muslim countries? Do you even know how many Hindus have been displaced in Kashmir by Muslim separatists?
    So why the obsession with Modi? And what has he done? No court has found any wrongdoing in his handling of the Godhra riots. You left-wing activists have nothing better to do with your lives than indulge in this destructive activism. Why don’t you ask the Congress about the anti-Sikh riots of 1984? Not a asingle perpetrator of those was ever punished.

  • Aayush

    Seriously ? Is this what you think. because if it is what you think then you seriously need to brush up your knowledge about India. There used to be riots every year in Gujarat but after the 2002 riots, for the past 10 years there has not been a single instance of communal riots while the other states ruled by the so called & self proclaimed ‘secular’ parties have witnessed many riots. Moreover, the amount of development done by him in his home state Gujarat cannot be matched by any other state in India & the development he did was not just for ‘some people’ but for all thats why his party has won the last 3 elections in Gujarat with almost 2/3rd majority every time.
    So if you truly adhere to the principles of the labour party then you should respect the will of people& look into the matter more deeply before expressing your views about it.

  • 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.

        • SamsGhost

          RSS/VHP/BJP does not equate to Modi. The quesion is whether his actions amounted to deliberate negligence or worse under Indian law (you may think India is populated by barbarians but we do have laws and we have courts). The courts have spent a decade investigating these events and have not found him guilty of any wrongdoing. Were people murdered? Yes. Absolutely. Were Hindus and Muslims both butchered in large numbers? Yes. Absolutely. The only question is whether Modi was personally responsible for these events and the courts have not ruled that he was.
          Your comments are typical of an arrogant white foreigner who knows nothing of India but believes that he has a superior claim to morality than any brown skinned Indians. What if I said that Tony Blair deserves to be in prison every time a person of colour was attacked by racist thugs or yobs on British soil? Clearly that makes no sense.

    • Shrey

      Could you please explain how referring to someone’s country of origin be “racist”? It could have been racist if she was called European, African, Black, White, Asian etc.

      It is a fact that the leader of the ruling party mentioned is of Italian descent. It is also a fact that she has overseen the most corrupt regime that has derailed the Indian economy in the last nine years. She has made the office of the Prime Minister of India redundant, all major policy decisions are taken by her with the help of an extra constitutional advisory council. She is responsible for the worst kind of populist and appeasement politics that this country has ever seen, she has fared worse than her husband who was the PM in this regard. We Indians chose her to rule the country, she is hell bent on ruining it.

      You have read books and watched documentaries on India, which forms the basis of your biased opinion which borders on bigotry.

      But I live here in India. I have studied and worked in 5 different states of India, Gujarat being one of them. And I can assure you, that if there was or is a leader who has strived to implement the Gandhi-an Economic model which our constitution enshrines in the directive principles, a leader who has never invoked the most partisan of all issues which is the caste for electoral purposes to which the centre left in India has resorted to ever since Independence to divide and fracture the Indian society, has rooted out corruption to a large extent, it is Narendra Modi.

      You can call him a Fascist, a bigot, a mass murderer, rapist etc. all you want. We, the middle class in India don’t really care. Enough of sycophancy. Enough of the Gandhi family.

  • 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.

    • SamsGhost

      I guess the Supreme Court of India is also filled with Hindu Nationalist Nazis. I have a basic rule in my life. And it is that time is too valuable to be wasted on certain types of people. You are welcome to go back in your ideological ghetto which is completely insulated from the real world and lecture the world on morality – although your silence on the murders and killings of vast numbers of Hindus in kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh on various occasions is truly telling. So we know your morality is very selective. Whether this slectiveness is based on a prejudice or hatred of Hindus I do not know or even care to know.
      Good bye.

    • SamsGhost

      Oh and one other thing: there were 45 Congress leaders also arrested in the rioting in Gujarat. The fact that you do not know this shows your ignorance. You may think that members of political parties in India are all a bunch of different segregated species but they are not. In past riots, Congress party members have been as active in killing people as BJP members (including Gujarat in 2002).
      I now ask you to demand that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi be banned from visiting the UK.

    • SamsGhost

      If you are genuinely interested in these issues (rather than in just spouting slogans and posturing) I suggest you read “Modinama” by Madhu Kishwar – who is a well respect left-wing/feminist/Gandhian activist. She has spent years in Gujarat and explored the issues connected with the riots, the treatment of minorities by Modi’s government during and after the riots and the lies spread about Modi in the media. If you are willing to be open minded and willing to listen to opposing arguments (and your mind is not blinded by hatred) then I highly recommend spending some time reading it: http://www.manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1685

  • 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.

    • SamsGhost

      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)
      That little comment sums up your knowledge of India, its laws, the Indian legal system and more specifically, how judges of the High Court and the Suprme Court of India are appointed in practice. I won’t comment on the rest as it is obvious that you have little or no understanding of how the Indian legal system actually works.

  • 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).

    • SamsGhost

      Actually, the Supreme Court of India comes closer to representing the religious, class, caste and ethnic make-up of India a lot more than the courts in England (where the legal profession is dominated by the Middle and Upper Classes) or the United States do. If one looks at the make-up of the Supreme Court of India, virtually all the major religious groups are represented – including, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. Among Hindus, all the major caste configurations have been represented, including Dalits (formerly “untouchables”). One of India’s recent Chief Justices was a Dalit. The last Chief Justice of India was actually Muslim. He retired very recently. Many Muslims have served as Chief Justices of India including famously, Justice Hidayatullah who later served as Vice President of India.
      In Modi’s case, the investigations were ordered by a Muslim judge of the Supreme Court of India. I suppose they are “conservative” in the sense thay they will not hang someone without evidence. That is a concept that may be lost on “activists” like you but it is a concept based on the rule of law, which happens to form the bedrock of a civilized society.

  • Shrey

    This makes me laugh. How long will you be able to spew this hatred? How long will you be able to lie to the world so blatantly?

    The writing is on the wall. Indians have already decided who their next prime minister is going to be. Your bigotry will have no impact. Call him to UK or don’t. India does not care.

  • 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.

  • Gogo

    Narendra Modi is pro development,non corrupt and a very decisive leader . He is the leader which can give India a rightful place in world. He is the most knowledgeable and modern politician which India has got in recent history. All other stories are full of bias just to stop him. Britishers should listen to him. Even UK was not engaging with him, he allowed Britsh companies to flourish is Gujarat. He is going to be best for UK India relationship and world in large.

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