They say the statements, if read between the lines, indicate Britain’s lack of faith in Gujarat’s judiciary.
“This is a matter of great concern, not joy for any Gujarati,” said leading advocate and human rights activist Girish Patel. Modi as also state government’s spokesperson Saurabh Patel had welcomed the British minister’s announcement.
Referring to Hire’s statements that Britain wanted to secure justice for the families of the three British nationals killed in 2002 riots, Patel said it indicated that British government was not optimistic about getting justice for its nationals under the existing political dispensation in Gujarat and hence, it wanted to engage its officials in New Delhi with Modi.
“Even after 10 years, if the British government has to ask its high commissioner to approach Modi to take up the issue of justice for its citizens killed in Gujarat, it spoke volumes about independence of judiciary in the state,” Patel further said.
Jesuit human rights activist Fr Cedric Prakash said, “Only a part of the British minister’s announcements pertaining to strengthening ties with Gujarat had been highlighted, overlooking the other part pertaining to the British support to human rights issues in Gujarat.”
“They have not forgotten violation of human rights in 2002,” said Fr Prakash, adding, “The British minister has also not spoken anything if Modi can visit UK or any other European Union countries.”
He said the statement needed to be looked from the propaganda point of view to help Modi in the upcoming Assembly elections due on December 13 and 17 and non-resident Gujaratis sympathetic to Modi and based in UK played a role in that.
However, human rights activist J S Bandukwala downplayed the British announcements saying that the announcement was blown out of proportion as it was normal activity of any government embassies to promote their economic interests.
“There is nothing in it for Modi to brag about,” said Bandukwala. But he felt that the timing of the announcements a few weeks before the Assembly elections was a very subtle propaganda by some foreign public relations agencies allegedly hired by Modi.
“It is an attempt to show that if a foreign country can warm up to Modi after 10 years, why should the political outfits at home maintain distance from him,” Bandukwala added.