A debate on BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s controversial past sparked a row at a meeting within Britain’s parliament complex.
Human rights groups and organisers of ‘Narendra Modi and the Rise of Hindu Fascism’ at a committee room in Parliament building on Wednesday claimed they had been subjected to intense pressure and death threats from Hindu right-wing groups in the UK to cancel the debate.
“This meeting has been held under extremely difficult conditions, in the face of death threats. It just highlights the inability of Narendra Modi’s supporters to tolerate anything other than their narrative and attempts to suppress free speech,” said Chetan Bhatt, director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics (LSE).
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At the meeting, Bhatt traced Modi’s RSS roots leading up to his role as chief minister of Gujarat during the 2002 riots.
“The human rights issues are very serious and are not going to go away, no matter what happens in elections,” he said.
Members of the Hindu Forum of Britain and other UK-based Hindu groups present at the event expressed discontent with the proceedings and claimed Modi was being unfairly accused and attacked.
The meeting received the backing of a number of British parliamentarians, led by Labour MP John McDonnell, as well as celebrated India-born British artist Anish Kapoor. “We are in a moment of great danger and your call to our sense of justice is much needed,” Kapoor said in a message read out at the event.
The event also marked the launch of ‘Narendra Modi Exposed: Challenging the Myths Surrounding the BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate’, a report published by the Awaaz Network and The Monitoring Group.
The report’s author, LSE Emeritus Professor Gautam Appa noted that the BJP’s claim of the so-called “clean chit” to Modi by the Supreme Court is a misconception as the judicial process is still on in India. Suresh Grover, co-author of the report, told The Indian Express in an email that another Labour MP Virendra Sharma (representing Ealing Southall) who had originally agreed to host the meeting “withdrew after pressure from supporters of Modi”.