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Mainstream Weekly, VOL LVI No 18 New Delhi April 21, 2018

Narendra Modi in London

Sunday 22 April 2018, by SC


PM Narendra Modi is now in London to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). At a public function there yesterday—an event of the Indian diaspora in the UK called Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Saath—he did unequivocally condemn the Kathua rape case wherein an eight-year-old girl was kidnapped by several culprits, taken to a secluded place, repeatedly raped for days and then brutally murdered. Incidentally, Modi was among the first BJP functionaries to do so, most of the others, including his Cabinet colleagues, having adopted shameful silence over the heart-rending incident that has rocked the whole country and even stirred the conscience of international public opinion. Though Modi qualified his condemnation by criticising the Opposition—“A rape is a rape. How can we tolerate this exploitation of our daughters? But can we compare the number of rapes under different governments? We can’t say there were this many rapes in our government and that many in yours. There cannot be a worse way to deal with this issue”—the very fact that he belatedly denounced this incident was in itself noteworthy. However, given the growing international opinion against the deafening silence of the ruling dispensation, he had no option but to condemn the gruesome happening in London.

Modi attended several functions in the British capital. Besides calling on Queen Elizabeth at the Royal Palace, he held detailed talks with British PM Theresa May and then in a joint statement slammed Russia without mentioning it by name for the “appalling nerve agent attack in Salisbury” on a former Russian spy, Sergei Skirpal, an his daughter Yulia. And during the talks he brought up the issue of extradition of fugitive Vijay Mallya. The two leaders also agreed to strengthen cooperation to take concrete action against globally-proscribed terrorists and terror entities including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc.

However, one subject that assumes significance in the context of Indo-UK relations this year is that of Britain unambiguously seeking forgiveness from India for the ghastly tragedy engineered by it at Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh. This took place on April 13, 1919. This year happens to be its 99th anniversary (next year being its centenary). British Brigadier General E.H. Dyer ordered his troops to fire 1600 rounds on countless innocent people who had gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to observe the Baisakhi festival, and this killed, according to British estimates, 379 people (although unofficially the number would be around a thousand). Rabindranath Tagore returned his Knighthood (given to him by the British authorities) as a token of his protest against that incident. So it would have been most appropriate for Modi as the PM to raise the matter with the British Government and ask them to seek pardon for such a ruthless act that was a slur on humanity as a whole.

However, very few people have faith in a PM who belongs to an organisation (RSS) which had during the British rule supported the alien govern-ment at every crucial juncture—whether it was the execution of Bhagat Singh in March 1931 or Gandhiji’s “Do or Die” call during the August 1942 ‘Quit India’ movement. So it would have been too much to expect Modi to raise such a demand regardless of his current emphasis on ‘nationalism’ to hoodwink the public.

April 19 S.C.

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