Published on 19 May 2014

Should we trust India's Mr Modi?

House after house, shop after shop; smouldered and steamed in the brittle dawn light of Gujarat. Every one of the burnt out carcases, where once families thrived, belonged to a Muslim. In all, more than 1,000 Muslims died in three days of mayhem in February 2002. I was there reporting for Channel 4 News. The atmosphere was toxic with fear.

A few days earlier, a train had caught fire and incinerated 57 Hindus. There were allegations and rumours that the fire had been deliberately started by Muslims. It was enough to trigger some of the worst inter-communal riots of post-independence India.

The prime minister of Gujarat was one Narendra Modi. Today he is the prime minister of India itself. Gujarat’s population is made up of 9 per cent Muslim, 81 per cent mainly Hindu.

Our investigations on the ground found that the anti-Muslim riots were planned and highly organised. There was also the strong belief that Mr Modi’s hand had, at the very least, made little effort to restrain them. India’s Supreme Court has investigated these allegations and found not enough hard evidence to prosecute him. But the suspicions surrounding Mr Modi and his role were strong enough for the United States to deny him a visa for over a decade.

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What we did find was that some of the Hindu extremists belonging to the notorious Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party (set up in 1925, directly inspired by fascist groups in Europe) had strong links with Mr Modi.

He has himself been a member of the group that has a history of attacks on religious minorities. We don’t know whether he is still a member. But Muslims in India, one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world, are not alone in worrying about where Mr Modi’s views are today.

Narendra Modi has proved himself as an effective and dynamic leader and reformer. The question today is whether this reformist zeal will be matched by a determination to heal, rather than exacerbate division and hatred in India’s vast and diverse population.

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13 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Jon,

    The short answer to your question is No.

    The combination of religion and nationalism has always been an evil one. The former is superstitious nonsense and the latter delusions of exceptionality.

    This can only end badly.

  2. Kabilan says:

    2002 riots are sad part of Indian History. Ofcourse there are huge communal violence after burning the Hindu Pilgrims alive. Nanavati commission constituted by the Government concludes that it was a pre-planned conspiracy of Muslims to burn the Pilgrims. Hence the riots. Just because Mr.Modi was the CM during the riots, he cannot be blamed entirely. No Newspapers has said that the measures taken are insufficient during the period. People has given a clear mandate despite being constantly criticized for 12 years for 2002 riots.

    No doubt ! Mr.Modi is a strong decision maker and administrator. Businesses will flourish and definitely there will be lot of opportunities for international players. At the same time, when it comes to security and terrorism, there will be no compromise and hence it will not be business as usual.

  3. R S says:

    I have the following points to make:

    1. Golwalkar, One of the earlier figureheads of RSS, the right wing Hindu nationalist groups that Mr Modi has been a member of, once wrote:

    “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, … may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens’ rights.” …

    2. Being a follower of such ideology, what reassurance can Mr Modi actually deliver to the minorities. And when it comes to his idea of development, the pitfalls of that has been outlined very well in the following article: http://www.thehinducentre.com/verdict/commentary/article5985379.ece

    3. Graham Staines, a Christian Missionary, working for leprosy sufferers in eastern India, was brunt to death along with his 6 and 10 year sons, by one of the allies of right wing Hindu nationalists, therefore non-muslim minorities are at risk as well. Mr Modi, interestingly, could not remember the incident in a recent interview.

    4. I wonder whether the western leaders, who are embracing him with both arms now, will have to repent their newly found enthusiasm towards him, when and if he shows his true colours again … by inciting not only hindu extrimism, but also extremist Islamic retaliation within India and internationally. (His partymen recently declared that whoever votes against him, could feel free to apply for Pakistani visa)

  4. Bob Patel says:

    What a completely biased and uninformative piece. Modi was cleared by the Supreme Court of any wrong doing. No mention of the mammoth landslide victory. Muslims voted for BJP. They won seats in majority Muslim areas. Why don’t you mention that?

    Western media needs to rethink these anti-Modi pieces, as they falseless: 100% predicated on rumour.

  5. pappu says:

    I will ask a similar question. Can Indians trust the crafty British who pillaged and raped India, caused a violent partition and mass Hindus and Muslims fight. Should we trust them or should we boycott them?

  6. Alan says:

    May be worth noting that mr Modi is backed by the US PR/lobby giant APCO. Wall Streets man can only prolong India’s enslavement to financial/corporate vultures.

  7. Philip says:

    Whether we should trust Mr Modi or not is largely irrelevant. The Indian electorate, who undoubtedly know him better than we do, have voted for him in huge numbers. We also need to stop going back to what someone may have said or who the influences on their lives were at certain stages. Many people did, said or fell under the influence of people who encouraged things of which we would disapprove. Many people learn, mature and move on. We should judge people by their present actions.

  8. Pijush Ray, Coventry says:

    The short answer is yes. US & UK are falling over each other to congratulate him. UK should be proud to do trade with the world’s largest democracy. Like JLR perhaps some other UK industries need a heavy dose of the Indian Takeaway. Narendra Modi will never allow any more riots in India. Enemies of India beware!

  9. pappu says:

    Should Indians trust British?

  10. vamana prabhu says:

    the reporter has used the word notorious to RSS which should not be used let him first understand what is RSS….

  11. Viv says:

    Seems to be poorly researched, ill-informed and biased article. I’m not a fan of any politician or party. However, would have to say following points in Modi’s support (just because this article seems to be one sided). Any article should show both sides of coins without any bias. Here is the other side –

    1 – Riots did happen. That was really bad and should not have happened. It is a crime against humanity. However, he was newly appointed chief minister. Had limited knowledge of administrating a state. That is not an excuse. However, Gujarat was not supported by neighboring States Police, which should have happened after requests were made. Any guess which party was in govt in all the neighboring states?
    2 – After 2002 riots, not a single incident of even a small scale of religious violence happened in Gujarat, till today even after 12 years.
    3 – There are 27 other states where countless number of riots have been repeatedly happening. No body blames anyone. In fact, recently, Modi was blamed for riots in state of Assam where his party did not even had presence, neither in govt nor in opposition.
    4 – Secular word is very popular in India. And is being used by all parties against Modi’s party. However, meaning of “Secular” is not to associate with any religion. It is only Modi’s party which advocates for “Uniform Civil Code” (Same rules for everyone, irrespective of any religion) and all other parties oppose it and they want to retain archaic different rules for people with different religions. Who is secular? Which of the so called “developed” countries have different rules for people from different religions?

    No one is perfect, at least give him a chance. People of India have voted for him. Respect their vote. We have 5 years to judge him.

  12. Tom says:

    Jon Snow,

    Narendra Modi is still an active member of the RSS. During the election campaign, RSS spokesmen confirmed this. Modi even had a long meeting with the RSS leadership a few days before the election results were announced. Modi’s senior BJP colleagues are continuing to have meetings with them. NDTV and other Indian journalists have confirmed all of this.

  13. Imtiaz Hydari says:

    For 10 long years he was denied a visa to America on suspicion of his role active or passive in the Gujrat massacre of Muslims. Now the suspicion has changed to great friendship and affection because he is elected? So if Hafiz Saeed or Lakhvi is elected by the people of Pakistan, America and India will welcome either one as a democratic leader?

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