Let us introduce just one of the more than 1000 victims of the anti-Muslim pogrom that Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, presided over in 2002. Ehsan Jafri was a 73-year-old member of Parliament who lived in a prosperous Muslim neighborhood in Ahmedabad, the capital of the state of Gujarat. On February 28, an angry Hindu mob started to gather. Jafri desperately called the police commissioner and the office of Modi, the state’s chief minister. No one answered.
Here’s what happened next: “Five or six people held [Jafri], then someone struck him with a sword. . .chopped off his hand, then his legs. . .then everything else. . . after cutting him to pieces, they put him on the wood they’d piled up and set it on fire. . . burnt him alive.”
Let us translate this event into American. Let us say a governor of Texas allowed the state and local police to stand by in 2002 as angry mobs tortured and murdered 1000 Mexican-Americans, including a member of the House of Representatives from San Antonio. Would such a governor be excused just a decade later because he was now regarded as a “pragmatic, pro-business leader?”
Narendra Modi has never shown any remorse for his actions in 2002. As the Economic and Political Weekly, the distinguished Mumbai publication, noted, “not once in his campaign did Modi reach out to the minorities to assuage any misgivings they may have had about him as prime minister.”
The Obama administration policy toward Modi continues to be a combination of immoral and stupid. The votes were hardly counted before Obama invited Modi to the White House. Diplomacy may require perfunctory congratulations, but certainly Washington should have waited to see what Modi says and does before rewarding him with a state visit.
The New York Times editorial page also whitewashed the new leader. The paper did note that “many Indian Muslims blame him for failing to stop bloody riots in his home state in 2002. . .” This statement is both foolish and wrong. Of course not only “Muslims” are critical; India’s leading intellectual, the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, is among many who said Modi should not be prime minister. Nor were the killings aimless “riots,” but instead an organized campaign of slaughter, with police connivance.
The business community, in both India and internationally, is ecstatic at Modi and his BJP party’s big win; after all, it contributed as much as $1 billion to his campaign. (No one knows for sure, because despite promising open government Modi is keeping the huge donations a secret.) India’s 138 million Muslims, some 13 percent of the population, are certainly living with a sense of foreboding. Not a single Muslim is part of the BJP’s 272-member parliamentary delegation.