Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner has upped his profile in India considerably as can be seen on the many versions of the above interview on the internet and the highly partisan comments it has attracted.
Reaction to the invitation he submitted in his role as Chair of Labour Friends of India to Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP, is also building in the UK. Modi is a controversial figure because of his role in the 2002 communal riots in the Gujerat and he is only just becoming rehabilitated with Barry Gardiner, who counts himself a friend, leading the process. Indeed the India Times called him Modi's 'biggest fan'. LINK
The Conservative Friends of India have joined Gardiner in issuing the invitation for Modi to speak on the 'Future of India' but the Labour Party is divided on the issue.
John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, told The Hindu that he was “deeply shocked that Mr. Modi has been invited to meet British Parliamentarians, given the continuing concerns in India and across the world at his record on human rights and the sectarian politics of his party.”
He said the invitation
....should certainly not be seen as an endorsement of Modi by the British Labour Party or the British Parliament. I do not believe Modi should be associated with by any true friend of democracy or India.He added that he “along with others” would “boycott any meetings or events with Modi present.”
Kamaljeet Jandu of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) Labour has written to Ed Miliband slamming the invitation LINK :
....So, to my dismay I have learnt that Narendra Modi, who is still the Chief Minister of Gujarat, was invited by Barry Gardiner, Chair of Labour Friends of India, to speak at the House of Commons.
Mr Gardiner believes that since Britain does more business with Gujarat than with the rest of India put together, and he could possibly be India’s next Prime Minister, this is enough to whitewash Mr Modi’s pastKalpana Wilson, of the South Asian Solidarity Group, strongly disagrees with the invitation.
[They] have invited somebody to address the House of Commons who has been responsible for what can only be called genocidal attacks in which more than two thousand members of the Muslim minority community in Gujarat were targeted for the most horrendous forms of violence and were murdered,The Islamic Human Rights Commission Bookshop, based in Preston Road Wembley, has tweeted a link to the IHRC Report on the riots in which more than 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, died LINK
Women and children were particularly targeted, and this is something which South Asian communities in Britain simply are not able to forget.
We're not prepared to see Modi being rehabilitated as a respectable leading politician, which is what this invitation seems to suggest.
A Change.Org petition LINK which has only been up for a day or so has already attracted more than 2,000 signatures calling for the invitation to be withdrawn. It reads:
We the undersigned write to express our concern at the invitation to address the House of Commons issued to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by the Labour Friends of India and the Conservative Friends of India. We strongly believe that Narendra Modi, who is responsible for the 2002 genocidal attacks in which over 2,000 men, women and children from Gujarat’s Muslim minority community were systematically killed, must not be allowed to visit the UK. Modi’s past visits to the UK have been used to raise extensive funds and support for communal violence, and a visit at this time when Modi is launching a campaign to become India’s next Prime Minister, and continues to try to gain votes using openly fascistic and anti-minority rhetoric, would be particularly dangerous.
In the wake of the 2002 genocide and the extensive documentation of Modi’s role in co-ordinating and sponsoring it. the UK, other EU, and US governments were compelled to distance themselves from Modi and the Gujarat government. However recently we have seen the British government take steps to rehabilitate Modi, as evidenced by meetings between the British High Commissioner and Modi in Ahmedabad. This puts the interests of British corporates wishing to invest in Gujarat ahead of any concerns for human rights and justice, and makes a mockery of the rights of the three British citizens who were murdered during the genocide and whose families are yet to receive justice. We condemn this collusion in Modi’s attempts to deny his role as a mass murderer. We demand that the invitation to Modi is withdrawn and he is refused a visa to the UK.