Kounteya Sinha


London: After artists like sculptor Anish Kapoor, film director Deepa Mehta and novelist Salman Rushdie, it is now the turn of some of the best Indian academics teaching in Britain’s top universities like the London School of Economics, Cambridge, Oxford, SOAS and King’s College to issue a letter opposing Narendra Modi as the next Indian Prime Minister.


In an open letter issued on Tuesday, 75-strong intelligentsia led by Prof Chetan Bhatt and Gautam Appa of LSE sharply attacked the BJP leader saying “The idea of Modi in power fills us with dread”.


They warned that a Modi victory would “likely mean greater moral policing, especially of women, increased censorship and vigilantism, and more tensions with India’s neighbours”.


Calling Modi a leader embedded in the Hindu nationalist movement, namely the RSS and other Sangh Parivar groups, with their history of inciting violence against minorities, they highlighted how groups that support Modi stand accused in recent terrorist attacks against civilians.


The letter has been signed by professors of international renown like Dr Leena Kumarappan from London Metropolitan University, Dr Subir Sinha from School of Oriental and African Studies, professor Phiroze Vasunia from University College London, Dr. Bishnupriya Gupta from the University of Warwick, Dr Amit S Rai from Queen Mary, University of London, Dr Hugo Gorringe from the University of Edinburgh, prof Barbara Harriss-White from University of Oxford, Dr Shamira A Meghani from the University of Leeds, prof Amrita Dhillon from King’s College London, Prof Joya Chatterji from Cambridge University and Dr Dibyesh Anand from the University of Westminster.


They said “As the people of India vote to elect their next government, we are deeply concerned at the implications of a Narendra Modi-led BJP government for democracy, pluralism and human rights in India. 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. This violence occurred under Modi’s rule, and senior government and police officials have provided testimony of his alleged role in encouraging or permitting it to occur”.


They added “Some of his close aides have been convicted for their involvement, and legal proceedings are ongoing in the Gujarat high court which may result in Modi being indicted for his role. He has never apologised for hate speech or contemptuous comments about various groups – including Muslims, Christians, women and Dalits. His closest aide has been censured recently by India’s Election Commission for hate speech used in this election campaign”.


According to the group, there is widespread agreement about the authoritarian nature of Modi’s rule in Gujarat, further evidenced by the recent sidelining of other senior figures within the BJP. This style of governance can only weaken Indian democracy. “Additionally, 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,” they added.


The latest letter comes just a few weeks after more than a dozen of India’s most revered artists and academics expressed “acute worry” at the prospect of Modi becoming the country’s Prime Minister.


The group that included British lawyers, activists, academics and three members of the British parliament said “Modi refuses to accept any responsibility or to apologise for the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002. Without questioning the validity of India’s democratic election process, it is crucial to remember the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002. The Muslim minority were overwhelmingly the victims of pillage, murder and terror, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,000 men, women and children. Women, in particular, were subjected to brutal acts of violence and were left largely unprotected by the security forces”.


(Times of India, Apr 23, 2014; Supplied by Liberation News  service)

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