A meeting organised on Wednesday by the U.K. based groups Awaz and the Monitoring Committee resolved to put pressure on the British government not to engage with Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi until justice is done for victims of human rights violations during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The event was hosted by Labour Party MP for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell and supported by party MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn at the House of Commons.
The meeting resolved that it would seek an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons and take a delegation of MPs to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asking that there should be no official engagement with Mr. Modi until he has been held legally accountable for his responsibility in the 2002 violence. The meeting also heard that action is underway for an international tribunal on genocide in Gujarat.
The speakers at the meeting included Suresh Grover of the Monitoring Group; Pragna Patel from the women’s group Southall Black Sisters; Chetan Bhatt, director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics; and Professor Gautam Appa, professor emeritus from the LSE.
Yusuf Dawood and Imran Dawood, U.K. citizens of Gujarati origin whose close relatives were killed in Gujarat in 2002 were also present.
The sharp polarisation of political opinion within U.K.-based Indian community was on display at the meeting. A group of supporters of Mr. Modi engaged in arguments with the speakers and then staged a noisy walkout towards the end of the meeting, demanding proof of the allegations made against Mr. Modi.
Mr. Modi has considerable cross-party political support in Britain. Even within the Labour Friends of India there have been attempts to get the government to revoke the earlier restrictions that had been placed upon his visiting the U.K.
In fact, this meeting was initially to have been hosted by Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing and Southall. However, he pulled out of his sponsorship a day before the meeting. While Mr. Sharma said it was because he did not want to associate with the “anti-Hindu” agenda of the meeting, the organisers said that it was because of pressure from his pro-Modi constituency.
Messages of support were read out from the artist and sculptor, Sir Anish Kapoor, Baroness Helena Kennedy, a distinguished barrister and human rights campaigner and Mike Wood, MP for Batley and Spen.
Mr. Kapoor said: “I am deeply grateful you are doing this. We are in a moment of great danger and your call to our sense of justice is much needed.”