Monthly Archives: November 2015

Post PM Modi’s visit to the UK, we evaluate the reception

18th November 2015

Modi Not-WelcomeIndia’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his official visit to the UK last week, was met with an outpouring of support from many in the British Indian community – mostly Hindus. PM Modi received red carpet treatment from the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and an ecstatic greeting from 60,000 of his fans at Wembley Arena on Friday 13 November.

All this mirrored by an increased opposition from many others of that community – including Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus as well as a demand from the Nepalese community to ‘stop the blockade’ and free many of the poorest Nepalese from poverty and starvation. Alongside Human Rights and Dalit organisation these latter groups were at the forefront of a campaign against the UK welcoming the Indian Prime Minister by controversially projecting “Modi Not Welcome” on to the Houses of Parliament. Following that thousands of individuals and organisations’ representatives demonstrated outside No. 10 Downing Street and Parliament Square on Thursday, 12 November, under the slogan #ModiNotWelcome.

One of the major concerns of the Indian prime minister’s critics is his leadership of the state of Gujarat over a decade ago when a pogrom by Hindu nationalists saw as many as 1,000 killed, mostly Indian Muslims. Modi was accused of condoning the violence and as a result was banned from Britain, the European Union and the US for 10 years. Those protesting were also deeply concerned about the escalation of intolerance, intimidation and violence against Dalits, Muslims, Christians and women, as well as erosion of cultural and academic freedoms since Modi came to power in 2014.

A large number of the UK academics researching development in India, UK based human rights NGOs and activists called for the human rights abuses on Modi’s watch to be questioned in the public domain. The Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and 50 British MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion, urging David Cameron to address human rights issues in India during his talks with Modi. Jeremy Corbyn was expected to raise the issue of the human rights situation in India with Mr Modi during their private meeting on Saturday 14 November.

There has also been criticism for academics and intellectuals in India about the authoritarian side of Modi’s rule. In October, 40 prominent Indian writers returned top national awards in protest over a “climate of intolerance” in India.

For many Dalits here in the UK they have called the inauguration of the Ambedkar house in North London as an act of hypocrisy. They are shocked that the hero and father of the Dalits who converted to Buddhism should be appropriated in this way. He spent much of his life condemning Hinduism – its practices and rituals which in India alone treated 160 million people as ‘outcastes’ and ‘untouchables. Read here the response of UK Dalit organisations to Modi’s inaugurating of the Ambedkar house.

Nevertheless, David Cameron and Narendra Modi concentrated on signing trade deals and increasing its collaboration on a range of issues but human rights. The protesters, on the other hand, vowed to continue their campaign and stand in solidarity in their fight for human rights for all.

Prior to the visit to the UK of the Indian PM Modi, Dalit organisations sent him an open letter

18th November 2015

The letter in full is as follows:

bathani-logoTo the Prime Minister of India,

Panchavati, 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi

19 August 2015

Dear Shri Narendra Modi,

We are deeply shocked by the recent horrifying revelations about the massacres of Dalit and other oppressed-caste people in Bihar and are writing to you to express our dismay that  you have so far neither spoken out against  the killers and their accomplices nor taken any action against them.

The revelations caught on camera by the news portal Cobrapost’s are briefly as follows:

  • The Ranveer Sena, the upper caste landlord army in Bihar, perpetrated a number of major massacres of Dalits and oppressed caste people including at Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankarbigha, Miyanpur and Ekwari, between 1994 and 2000, brutally murdering some 144 men, women and children simply for demanding basic rights and dignity and for supporting the Communist Party of India(Marxist- Leninist) .
  • Ranveer Sena commanders (formerly acquitted by the Patna High Court)  boasted in recorded interviews not only that they committed these massacres but that they were backed by top BJP leaders who were their political patrons and funders. They also confessed that  powerful politicians helped them get arms and military training from serving and retired Indian Army men and that they had the support of former Prime Minister (the late Chandrashekhar), and top BJP leaders including former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, former Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi and Vice President of the BJP, CP Thakur.
  • The Ranveer Sena commanders also said on camera that Brahmeshwar Mukhiya masterminded all the massacres of poor Dalit women and children. Yet, as you know, the BJP’s Giriraj Singh has shamelessly described Brahmeshwar as Bihar’s Gandhi.

The Amir Das Commission, which was set up in 1997, after the Laxmanpur Bathe killings,  to investigate these massacres was disbanded in 2005 by Nitish Kumar of the JDU, then in alliance with the BJP, in order to appease and shield his erstwhile BJP allies.

As you may know the Patna High Court acquitted all the perpetrators claiming there was ‘no evidence’, and that eyewitnesses were lying. The statements of the acquitted men to Cobrapost prove that the eyewitnesses told the truth.

Can such horrific violence be tolerated in a democratic country? Unfortunately your lack of action on this issue gives the shocking  message that Dalit and oppressed caste lives do not matter in India. We urge you therefore to act urgently to ensure:

  • that the Ranveer Sena commanders who continue to walk free and boast about the murders they have committed are arrested and charged
  • that all the politicians including senior BJP politicians who are named in the Amir Das Commission report are dismissed from their posts, arrested and charged
  • that the Army and ex-Army personnel who trained and armed the banned Ranveer Sena terrorists are also brought to justice.

yours sincerely,

Meena Varma   (Dalit Solidarity Network)

Arun Kumar (Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisation, UK)

Davinder Prasad   (CasteWatchUK)

Ramesh Klair (Sri Guru Ravidass Global Organisation for Human Rights)

Ravi Kumar (Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance)

Amrit Wilson (South Asia Solidarity Group)