By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
NEW YORK, USA -- The anti-Muslim posturing of India’s prime ministerial candidate, Narindra Modi, who according to poll forecasters will win the ongoing general election, and who is again making headlines in India for inciting the killing of 30 Muslims last week, could have repercussions in the Caribbean, where large segments of the Hindu and Muslim populations are of Indian decent.
Modi’s nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is tightly aligned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a radical anti-Muslim/anti-Christian group that human rights groups allege supervised the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 in Gujarat, when about 2,000 Muslims were massacred.
Modi was banned from the United Stated for his alleged involvement in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat when he was governor of that state.
Just last week, Modi was accused of inciting community violence that took the lives of nearly 30 Muslims, who were killed and their houses burned in the worst outbreak of ethnic violence in the remote northeastern region of Assam. Among the 30 Muslims killed were women and children.
Minister for minority affairs K Rahman Khan said on Sunday that statements made by Modi against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants led to the "massacre” of 30 Muslims and urged the central government to take action. On Sunday, India deployed the army in the region to protect Muslims.
Modi last week told Bangladeshi refugees to have their “bags packed" in the event he came to power.
"Modi should have been more responsible in his utterances," said Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chowdhury, a political science professor at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
Indian and international human rights such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in 2002 also accused Modi of hate speeches that incited the mayhem and his inaction in stopping the Gujarat massacre by turning a blind eye.
Modi denied the accusations and a Supreme Court inquiry did not find evidence to prosecute him. Human Rights Watch International has further accused Gujarat state of “subverting justice, protecting perpetrators, and intimidating those promoting accountability ten years after the anti-Muslim riots”
Muslims, who make up 15% of India’s 1.2 billion people, are wary of Modi who has promised to build the Ram Temple on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid and abrogate the autonomous status of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Modi also promised his supporters a uniform Indian civil code. As it is now, India's communities have their own set of laws governing family issues. These are some of the reason why Muslims are expected to vote solidly for the Congress Party of India.
Amrit Dillion, an Indian journalist, who writes for many global dailies, does not see Muslim Indians voting for Modi. While they want education and a job, they haven’t forgotten the past.
Dillion said, “But times are changing. Young Muslims today are just like other Indian youths: they want education, jobs, nice homes and a peaceful life in their country. They have largely left behind their parents’ obsession with religious identity. But when it comes to Mr Modi, they are unwilling to forgive.”
Ahsan Khan, president of the Indian Muslim American Council said, “The judgment by the lower court is not surprising given the fact that getting justice from any court in Gujarat is difficult under an administration that is itself the prime accused.”
Caribbean leaders, and especially those from countries with large Hindu and Muslim populations such as Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, have traditionally never make statements about India’s communal violence, nor have they publicly expressed their feelings about Narindra Modi.
Recently, the Guyana Times, a daily newspaper close to the ruling government, sees Modi as a positive change for India and a benefit to Guyana and other small states.
Guyana Times wrote, “Smaller countries such as Guyana can expect, there would be greater support in multilateral global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank, for a more equitable sharing of globalisation. The US can expect a more independent Indian position in the affairs of new Asia, especially as it relates to China.”
For Guyana, the paper wrote, “It means, therefore, that India will be competing much more forcefully for the raw materials such as metal ores and petroleum in the third world. This can only redound to our benefit since this means higher prices for our products such as bauxite.”
But if India returns to a cycle of Hindu/Muslim violence, Caribbean leaders will find it hard to deal with Modi because civil society will raise the issue at national level and will not sit still. Modi could also be shunned by the international community if he continues his anti-Muslim agenda.
One Muslim group in Guyana said, “We need to condemn all acts of extremism and violence against innocent people; Muslims or non Muslims.”
On Wednesday, the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG) condemned last week's killings in Assam.
“The well being of India and its people is close to the heart of Guyana, especially that about 50% of our people are of Indian descent and they include Muslims and Hindus. Hence, communal violence in India and those behind it should be condemned since it has ramifications for the well being and stability of our multi-cultural, multi-religious democracy here in Guyana,” the CIOG said in a statement.