Hurt National Pride?
By Harsh Mander
28 March, 2005
denial of a diplomatic visa to Narendra Modi, and subsequent protest
by the Indian government, has resulted in a deep divide in Indian middleclass
opinion. It is not a simple fissure between those who believe in secular
democracy and those who oppose it.
There are many who
are stoutly secular, who still oppose what they see as an affront to
national pride and a democratically-elected office.
However, Modi is
no ordinary elected leader. He has become infamous for his role in the
most brutal massacre since India became free, including the mass slaughter
and rape of hundreds of women and children. In the past three years,
he has remained completely unrepentant, and has deliberately subverted
the process of justice, attracting unprecedented strictures from the
of hatred should not be legitimised even by association, by the international
community. I welcome the US government's decision, even as I harbour
grave disquiet about the militaristic and chauvinistic policies and
human rights abuses of the current US government itself, most notably
in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nehru once refused
a request by Mussolini to meet him, because he was a fascist.
This was widely
admired as a principled stand based on democratic and humanist traditions,
and never an affront to the people of Italy. Similarly, most nations
refused diplomatic relations with the apartheid regime of South Africa,
which was an act not of insult but of solidarity of the international
community with large sections of the South African people. Because of
his record, Modi qualifies for the same isolation and its victimised
minorities for the same solidarity of the national and international
community. This is no affront to the people of Gujarat and India.
The alacrity with
which the UPA government sprang to Modi's defence contrasts painfully
with its prevarication to secure justice for those who not only survived
the massacre, but continue to live with fear and grapple with economic
boycott, and are threatened or bribed if they pursue legal justice.
The PM's statement in the Rajya Sabha that the charges against Modi
are based on unproved allegations is appalling because Modi stands repeatedly
indicted not just by more than 50 independent citizens' reports by organisations
and people of the highest credibility, but also by the Supreme Court
and the NHRC.
In the recent elections
in Jharkhand, Modi, fielded as a star campaigner by the BJP, thundered,
"To accomplish what I did in Gujarat requires a broad chest of
46 inches." His words struck terror anew in the hearts of minorities
in remote villages. Is he the pride, or the shame, of India?
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