US panel calls for holding Modi accountable for Gujarat massacre

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Police official told panelists Modi had asked police ‘Do nothing for three days’

Washington, March 13 (KMS): Panelists at the National Press Club (NPC) have urged the US media to hold Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accountable for the 2002 Muslim massacre in Gujarat.

The panel included people who have first-hand connections to the events and they “called for news media in the US to expose the key role of Mr Modi, Gujarat state government leader at the time, in making it happen,” an NPC statement said.

The demand was made after a BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, was screened at the National Press Club (NPC), Washington this week and the audience included representatives of various US media outlets.

The documentary covers the 2002 riots and mass killings of Muslims in India’s Gujarat state and their aftermath.

The panel also included an eyewitness to the massacre and family member, as well as the daughter of a police whistleblower and was moderated by the NPC’s Press Freedom Team Chair Rachel Oswald.

According to the NPC, the film shows BBC reports on the scene and interviews with the British foreign secretary at the time, Jack Straw, describing an internal Foreign Office report telling of at least 2,000 murders of Muslims that Mr Straw called “hallmarks of ethnic cleansing”.

Sanjiv Bhatt, a senior Gujarat police official, who took part in meetings after the riots broke out tells interviewers that police were ordered by Mr Modi to do nothing for three days until the violence subsided, in testimony to an Indian Supreme Court investigation in 2011. The NPC report pointed out that Mr Bhatt was later prosecuted in 2018 for an old accusation and was serving a life sentence.

Imran Dawood, an eye witness to the riots was one of the panel members discussing the documentary. He said the rioters carried out “targeted attacks on Muslims,” using “the same tactics as in Nazi Germany.”

Aakashi Bhatt, daughter of jailed whistleblower Bhatt, told the participants that many of India’s institutions, including the media and judiciary, “are subverted from top to bottom” and “used by the regime to do its dirty work.”

When asked of actions that the US news media should take, Ms Bhatt said, “You have the power to hold this regime accountable,” and “Silence is a form of condoning what Modi did.” KMS-4K

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