By Gurpreet Singh
The hawkish Prime Minister of India, who is generally prompt in denouncing terrorism anywhere in the world, remains quiet over the recent killings of four members of a Muslim family in Ontario.
On Sunday, 74-year-old Talat Afzaal, her 46-year-old son Salman Afzaal, 44-year-old daughter-in-law Madiha Salman and 15-year-old granddaughter Yumma Afzaal, were struck by a vehicle in a pre-planned manner in London, while the family was out on a walk. A nine-year-old boy is still recovering from his injuries in the hospital.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already described this as a terrorist incident, and the police believe it is a hate crime.
However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is fond of making statements on terror-related incidents on twitter, did not react.
This is in sharp contrast to his tweets condemning a similar terror attack in London, UK, in June 2017. Eight people died in that incident, which was blamed on Islamic extremists. The attackers had mowed down pedestrians.
The only explanation could be Modi’s own prejudice against Muslims.
After all, attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have grown under his right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government since 2014.
The BJP aspires to turn India into a Hindu theocracy. Modi himself faced a travel ban by the US and other western countries for his complicity in the 2002 massacre of Muslims. This was when Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, where thousands of Muslims were targeted by the mobs under his watch after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, leaving more than 50 people dead. Modi had blamed it on Muslims. Though he was never charged, the survivors and human rights activists continue to allege his involvement. Modi was able to visit the US after becoming Prime Minister in 2014.
It is interesting that Modi took quick notice of the 2017 terror attack in London, UK, but conveniently overlooked what happened in London, Canada. This may be because the perpetrators in the UK attack were alleged to be Muslims, whereas in Canada the suspect is a non-Muslim.
This is highly problematic, but not surprising, considering Modi’s track record on terrorism. He had introduced a highly controversial female ascetic, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, into politics during the 2019 election as a BJP candidate. Thakur now sits in the Indian Parliament. She was an accused in the 2008 bombings in a Muslim community that claimed 10 lives. The incident was planned and executed by Hindu extremists to terrorise Muslims. The trial isn’t over yet, but Thakur got a bail on medical grounds and fought the election.
Modi justified her candidacy by saying that Hindus can never be involved in terrorism. In other words, terrorism can only be attributed to Muslims or any other faith group, as far as his brand of politics is concerned. It is refreshing to see Trudeau acknowledging majoritarian terrorism in Canada, but that is unlikely to happen in Modi’s India. His indifference to the London, Ontario attack only proves that.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist
10 June 2021