External Affairs

Modi Takes Question on Intolerance, Ducks 2002 Riots Query, Clarifies Travel Ban Issue

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks as his UK counterpart David Cameron looks on during a joint press conference in London on Thursday. Credit: PTI Photo by Vijay Verma

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks as his UK counterpart David Cameron looks on during a joint press conference in London on Thursday. Credit: PTI Photo by Vijay Verma

London/New Delhi: For the first time in a public setting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced questions Thursday on intolerance in India and the 2002 Gujarat riots, ducking the latter but insisting in clear and forthright terms that incidents of violence would not be tolerated in any part of India and would be met with the full force of the law.

At a joint press conference here with his UK counterpart David Cameron, the British government followed its usual convention of allowing two visiting and two local journalists to ask questions.

A BBC reporter referred to recent incidents of intolerance and asked why India was becoming an increasingly intolerant place.

Modi replied that India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi and its culture does not accept anything that is against basic social values. “India does not accept intolerance even if it is one or two or three incidents. Whether a single incident is significant for a country of 1.25 billion people does not matter. For us every incident is serious. We do not tolerate it. The law acts strongly and will continue to do so.”

There was no trace in Modi’s answer of the equivocation and truculence with which BJP leaders in India, himself included, have responded to similar questions in India. At home, government and ruling party spokespersons have dismissed fears of rising intolerance as a “manufactured revolt” engineered by the BJP’s ideological and political foes.

Modi insisted India is a vibrant democracy which under its Constitution “provides protection to all citizens, their lives and thoughts.” “We are committed to it,” he said.

The next question, posed by an Indian reporter, was about whether Modi and Cameron had discussed the issue of terrorism, but it was the third reporter – from the Guardian – who posed the most pointed questions of the session.

UK travel ban

He asked Cameron, who was standing next t0 the Indian PM, how comfortable he felt receiving Modi to the UK given the fact that during his (Cameron’s) first tenure, Modi was not permitted to visit UK because of his record as Gujarat’s chief minister.

The Guardian reporter said there would later be a referendum in the UK on whether the country should stay in the European Union and asked Modi how India would react if Britain were to leave the EU. He also asked Modi what he would say to protestors on the streets of London who claimed he did not deserve the respect that would normally be accorded to the leader of the world’s largest democracy given his record as chief minister of Gujarat – a reference to allegations that he did not act to prevent the killing of Muslims in riots that shook his state in 2002.

Cameron said, “I’m pleased to welcome Prime Minister Modi here. He comes here with an enormous and historic mandate from the people of India who made him Prime Minister with a record and historic majority. As for what happened in the past, there were legal proceedings. There were also, as my colleague, Priti Patel said earlier today, representations from the British government at the time. But we are now discussing the future partnership between Britain and India, both of us backed by our countries for this parliament to work together to strengthen the partnership that we have.”

 

Modi answered the Guardian’s question on Britain and the EU by noting that the UK was India’s door to Europe and would always be so.

Though he had not been asked about the travel ban, Modi said, “Firstly, let’s keep the record straight. I came in 2003 and had been warmly welcomed at that time as well. The UK has never stopped me from coming here. They have never banned me from coming here. Perhaps I could not come because of my own time constraints, so please do correct this wrong perception you may have.”

Modi chose not to answer the question on the perception of his handling of the 2002 riots.

The US administration canceled Modi’s visa in 2004, after the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the elections, and the British government cooled to him soon after. But before the 2014 elections, with the media in India already projecting Modi as the frontrunner, the British High Commissioner visited Gandhinagar and met Modi in a signal that London was changing its view.

Rare interaction

Thursday’s interaction is only the second time in 18 months that Modi has publicly fielded questions from reporters at a formal press conference, the first time being his joint press briefing with US President Barack Obama in January when one Indian and one American reporter were allowed to ask a question. Though he has given a television interview to CNN and a print interview to Hindustan Times, he has never allowed journalists to put questions to him on the record. The only exception was his recent answer to a question by Ananda Bazar Patrika‘s Delhi bureau chief Jayanta Ghoshal on the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri by a mob agitated by rumours that he had eaten beef. “The Dadri incident … is sad and unwarranted (‘dukhjanak  aur avaanchhniya’),” he told Ghoshal. “But what is the Central government’s relation with these incidents?”

“The BJP never supported such kind of incidents. The opposition is raising the bogey of communalism against the BJP, but by doing this, are they themselves not engaging in the politics of polarisation?”, he said, adding: “Such a debate has taken place in the past too. The BJP always opposed pseudo-secularism. Now again this debate is taking place in the face of unfortunate social malaise”.

In contrast, his answer in London to the question of intolerance did not involve any finger-pointing at the opposition or “pseudo-secularists”.

With PTI inputs

  • rohit g chandavarker

    Why has the article ignored the other questions posed & chosen to highlight only the ones that pertained to perceived unease for Modi?? Is it because the media revels in issues which might make our PM uncomfortable & hence bring elation to the Modi-baiters??
    The flavour among many in media is selective news projection wherein any achievement or success is to be ignored while evrey effort has to be made to put the Government on the defensive.

  • Sam K.

    Modi’s answer to intolerance is “we do not tolerate it”. It’s mann ki baat.

  • Iyer Brahman

    It is sad and unfortunate that PM is still in “mute” mode in India allowing all intolerance and atrocities against religious minorities and dalits. PM may not be directly responsible for every issue in the country, however there is a greater responsibility of working from grass root level to provide safety,security and protection to minorities and dalits in India who are majorly affected during this regime to a historic high level. If Manmohan remained a mute robot for Sonia, NM remains a mute toy for RSS to execute its venomous agenda.

  • budhachandra

    Modi is targeted for stopping illegal funding by Britain for so call NGOs in India.Why raising the 2002 riot , better discuss the role of Britain in Iraq war where thousands of innocent were murdered and create ISIS …

  • Babu

    I as an Indian is proud of my PM, never been more proud ever before! Period!

    • Nirmal Jose

      what for. visiting UK?

  • Dr.R.K.D.Goel

    PUCL, Gujarat Press Release
    People’s Union for Civil Liberties
    Press Release Vadodara, May 2 2006
    (PUCL Letter dated May 3, 2006)
    Irrespective of the pressure by the political wings of the ruling party, it was imperative on the part of the bureaucracy to maintain total impartiality in the interests of peace and justice. PUCL severely condemned the way the Mayor, the Police Commissioner and Municipal Commissioner of the city handled the issue of “demolition” of the Fatehpura dargah on Monday May 1, 2006.
    Even the role of the Police in handling a restless public was totally at variance with norms to be followed in such situations; the Police went out of the way to instigate the people by directly aiming to fire upon and hurt sections of the people milling around.
    PUCL condemns unruly and inhuman behavior of the Police, ignoring and bypassing all guidelines and norms for acting in such
    situations.It must be kept in mind that in handling such situations nothing should be done at the expense of peace, harmony and
    justice in society at a time when the people are tense and sensitive about the issue. A meeting of the PUCL held here today severely condemned the way the Mayor, the Police Commissioner and Municipal Commissioner of the city handled the issue of “demolition’ of the Fatehpura dargah on Monday May 1, 2006.
    The meeting was attended by Kirit Bhatt, Dr. J. S. Bandukwala, Jagdish Shah, Trupti Shah, Chinu Srinivasan, Rohit Prajapati, Raj Kumar Hans, Shobha Shah, Maya Valecha, Dipti Bhatt, Rita Choksi, Bina Srinivasan, Shubhra, Sameena, Jaimina
    and Nagin Patel.It was a well known fact that the provocative utterances of the city Mayor, Sunil Solanki, had already vitiated the atmosphere and created apprehensions among the minority community of the city. For instance the Mayor had taken exception
    to the reported stand of the Police Commissioner that if they (the Police) are informed at the last moment, the Police would not cooperate. In response, the Mayor had allegedly threatened to launch the demolition of the dargah (mazhar) with the help of an “army’ of VHP and BJP workers. This had spread a wave of terror among the minority community. Knowing the communally charged atmosphere built up by such immature and unwarranted statements of the Mayor, the Municipal Commissioner
    should have conducted a prolonged dialogue with the concerned community;instead he let the situation get out of hand by sending his demolition squad as well as the machinery for laying a fresh road over the demolished mazhar. This was done even as a dialogue was on between the concerned community leaders and the VMC authorities. Any mature government would have put a restraint on such a loose-talking Mayor. The State Government on the contrary seems to have given a green signal to the Mayor to go ahead. The statements of well-known BJP leaders of the city and the State regarding the demolition and the subsequent police
    firing exposed the Government´s intentions of creating a vertical split among the people. Irrespective of the pressure by the political wings of the ruling party, it was imperative on the part of the bureaucracy to maintain total impartiality in the interests of peace and justice Even the role of the Police in handling a restless public was totally at variance with norms to be followed in such situations; the Police went out of the way to instigate the people by directly aiming to fire upon and hurt sections of the people milling around. The PUCL condemns such unruly and inhuman behavior of the Police, ignoring and bypassing all guidelines and norms
    for acting in such situations. It must be kept in mind that in handling such situations nothing should be done at the expense of peace, harmony and justice in society at a time when the people are tense and sensitive about the issue.Such repeated behavior demands complete reorientation of the methods of the Police We demand the resignation of the Mayor and the Municipal Commissioner who have no vision of maintaining calm in the city even as they are bent upon justifying their actions totally ignoring people´s sentiments in the matter. Action needs to be taken against the Police Commissioner and his officers who failed in their duty to maintain the security and to follow set norms of functioning. We appeal to the people of Vadodara to exercise restraint and note the mischievous strategy of dividing people, especially poor people, on communal lines. This is, among other things, an exercise to gain legitimacy over the recent spate of illegal demolitions of many slums and hutments in the city even as the ruling party
    “prepares’ for the coming Assembly polls. If the Vadodara Municipal Corporation was sincere, it would develop priorities in consultation with all segments of society and lay bare their plans of how they propose to use the Urban Renewal Mission funds in a transparent manner We appeal to concerned people and progressive groups to fax protest letter to the Mayor of Vadodara
    (0265-2433060) the Municipal Commissioner of Vadodara (0265-2433060) the Police Commissioner of Vadodara (0265-2432582)
    the Chief Minister of Gujarat (079-23222101) the Union Home Minister of India (011-23093750) and the National Human Rights Commission (011-23384863).
    Kirit Bhatt
    Rohit Prajapati
    Chinu Srinivasan
    People´s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat
    Even till 2015 no action taken against Mr. Sunil Solanki Mayor of Vadodara. He was given repeated BJP tickets for VMC Councilor and even he was the BJP Candidate for MLA in 2007 / 2012. Now in 2015 again considered for BJP VMC Councilor elections.====Now the Bihar results of 2015 shown that Hard Hindutya of RSS will not work in India.

  • http://mkmathai.blogspot.in/ lisma52

    modi for once talked in clear terms against the communal humiliation. good . to start with

  • NARENDRA M APTE

    It is welcome
    news that our Prime Minister has said that intolerance is unacceptable. Right
    thing to do for our Prime Minister and BJP president (after PM returns from his
    UK visit) is to call a meeting of all BJP MPS and other senior leaders and tell
    them very clearly that the party would not tolerate intemperate language or
    immature utterances of any one. Of course, it may be too much to expect disciplinary
    action against anyone in BJP. That is because BJP needs such extremist elements
    and uses them whenever it is convenient to do so. Double standards of BJP in this regard have
    been exposed time and again. Hence my guess is that once our Pm returns from
    UK, it will be business as usual for MPs like Yogi Adityanath and others who
    were in the news for intolerant remarks.

  • Sajesh Kumar

    Media is accusing Namo unnecessarily and spreading negativity about India.

  • D chavali

    Why no public name and shame Sonia or Rahul for scams and blatant corruption or for that fact gentleman professor Manmohansingh. He piggyback on Narsimharao’s shoulder to become a popular PM. Modi is self made person. He was into power from a different background when there were forces already within BJP Gujarat and/or elsewhere.

  • Jai R

    BJP is a party built on communal fever pitch generates by Rath Yatras and support for Babri Masjid demolition. It is a party with “blood on its hands”.

    BJP speaks with a forked tongue.

    Why does RSS pretend to be a “social” organisation? Why do the courts accept this absurd claim ?

    Why does Janata Party (formerly Jan Sangh) call itself “Bharatiya” when its deep-seated objective is Hindutva. Why not call itself Hindutva Janata Party? That would be an honest name.

  • Spider Main

    yeah similar to how kashmiri pandits thrown away..except that kashmiri me 10000 times jyada huwa..par woh badi baath nahi..hamaare ek aur member mar gaya.. woh poora desh ki baath..

  • Sam K.

    I meant to say that Modi is indicating intolerance in his speeches.