Washington D.C.: The largest Indian Muslims advocacy group in USA has condemned the Saudi government’s decision to confer Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Saudi Arab’s highest civilian award. They also pointed out that the award defies logic given Mr. Modi’s record before and after taking office as Prime Minister.
In a statement, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguard India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, said the conferment of the award to Mr. Modi is a slap on the face the survivors of the Gujarat communal riots of 2002.
“It is expected that the Indian Prime Minister is accorded the respect befitting a head of the state. However, conferring of the highest civilian award on Mr. Modi by those who claim to be the custodians of the two Holy Mosques is a slap on the face of survivors of the Gujarat communal riots. It is also a demonstration of indifference to the increased attacks and threats against the religious Minorities and Dalits in India,” said Mr. Umar Malik, President of IAMC.
He said that Mr. Modi and the Saudi monarchy have much in common. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi presided over one of the worst episodes of sectarian violence in independent India, when over 2,000 Muslims were massacred by the mobs instigated by the Hindu-fundamentalist groups. The horrific killings were accompanied by rape and pillage, resulting in the displacement of over 150,000 Muslims from their homes, many of whom are still struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives. Mr. Modi continues to have a case pending against him in the Gujarat High Court and a tainted Special Investigation Team failed to initiate prosecution of Mr. Modi. The handful of convictions in the cases related to the communal riots in Gujarat has happened as a result of tireless and courageous work by the activists and whistleblowers, whom the Modi government has harassed and intimidated.
Since assuming power, the Modi administration has worked steadily to erode religious freedom and India’s long-cherished traditions of tolerance among its diverse populace. Ranging from attacks on churches and mob violence against Muslims and Dalits, to felicitate the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Modi’s administration and its supporters have relentlessly pursued a divisive agenda, which is antithetical to the country’s Constitution and its egalitarian ideals. The demonization of intellectuals, the vigilantism encouraged by the state, and the weakening of institutions are all indications of a besieged Indian democracy.
Saudi forces are conducting indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen that are widely acknowledged to have caused huge loss of civilian lives, creating an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. Incidentally, the monarchy had conferred the same award given to Mr. Modi, on Mr. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt.
“Coming from the Saudi monarchy, which is known for its repressive domestic policies and human rights violations, the award itself is of dubious value. It diminishes, rather than enhancing the office of the Prime Minister of India,” added Mr. Malik.