Some human rights activists and voluntary organisations in Gujarat have taken strong exception to the British government’s decision to improve ties with Gujarat and encourage industrial investments in the State.

In a memorandum submitted to James Bevan, British High Commissioner in Delhi, who paid a courtesy call on Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday at the instance of the British Foreign Office, Fr. Cedric Prakash, convener of Prashant — a voluntary organisation working for human rights, particularly those of victims of the 2002 communal riots — said the British gesture was “untimely” and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fondly cherished by the British government.

Pointing out that the gesture had “hurt the sentiments of many,” the memorandum said there was no improvement in the situation since 2002 and there was no need for the British government to change its policy towards Gujarat. It would mean “small business gains,” but “morally flawed.”

The memorandum said the judicial process to provide justice to the victims of the 2002 riots had started “slowly but surely.” The Chief Minister could not yet claim to be out of trouble. despite reports of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team having given him a “clean chit.” Instead, there had been “deterioration” in almost every social indicator in the State in the last 10 years, while corruption had become rampant.

“Think differently”

Fr. Prakash said he and his colleagues understood how business literally pressured political establishments in various ways to serve its own interests, but “morality can never be compromised by any other considerations.” The memorandum said that if the British government was serious about human rights violations, which were “still taking place in Gujarat in very subtle and insidious ways,” it must “think differently and act differently.”

Meanwhile, after Mr. Modi’s visit to Nagpur to woo the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to come out in his favour in the December Assembly elections, his bete noire and former Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, on Tuesday visited the RSS State headquarters here and also met activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

While RSS spokesman Pradip Jain claimed that Mr. Patel’s visit to Hegdewar Bhavan was merely to enquire about the health of the ailing senior “Pracharak,” Bhaskar Rao Damle, VHP State secretary Ranchhodbhai Bharvad denied that the former Chief Minister was seeking VHP support for his Gujarat Parivartan Party. Refusing to give any public commitment during the coming elections, Mr. Bharvad said the VHP would support the party which was “wedded to the cause of the Hindus.”

Mr. Patel’s visits to the RSS and VHP headquarters are viewed as significant developments, considering that both Mr. Damle and VHP international president Pravin Togadia, who hails from Gujarat, are known to be strong critics of Mr. Modi.

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