Guwahati: Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that the British government conducted an investigation into the Gujarat riot of its own because many citizens of Gujarati Muslim origin were worried about their loved ones in India and “were making representations” to that effect to the then Tony Blair government.
In an interview with veteran journalist Karan Thapar of The Wire on BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots, Straw confirmed that the British high commissioner in India sent a report to the Foreign Office in London which said “Narendra Modi is directly responsible” for the killings in 2002 in Gujarat.
“That was the feeling of those on the ground,” the ex-diplomat said.
Regarding the investigation, he said, “The simple fact is that in Britain, including in my constituency, there were hundreds of thousands of people from the Indian State of Gujarat, mainly Muslims. There was a lot of concern and there were also people that I knew whose families were affected by these inter-communal riots directly and they were making representations to us. (This was) one of the reasons why the then High Commissioner ordered this investigation.”
Straw said that he had conversations with Indian officials, including the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, regarding the riots.
The former British Foreign Secretary further said that “the allegation and belief at the time (2002)” was, as the British High Commission report put it, “Narendra Modi met senior police officers on the 27th of February and ordered them not to intervene in the rioting”.
Karan Thapar’s interview with Straw came days after BBC aired a documentary titled India: The Modi Question, which revealed that the British authorities had ordered an inquiry into the riots.
Centre on Saturday asked Twitter and YouTube to take down the BBC documentary critical of PM Narendra Modi.
Opposition parties have slammed the government for blocking the documentary and termed it ‘censorship’.
“I did talk to the Vajpayee government, particularly to my opposite number there, the foreign minister (Jaswant Singh), with whom I had very good relation. I am pretty certain that I did that. I should also say that I had been in very good contact and cooperation with the Vajpayee Government over the whole of 2002 about the attack on the Lok Sabha in mid-December 2001, which led to very great increase of tension across the Line of Control,” the former diplomat told Thapar in the interview.
Responding to comments, made by the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi, Straw said that Bagchi is “well versed in the history of Britain’s role in India”.
He described the colonial administration of India as “racist” and “pretty dreadful” but he also said that Britain’s past involvement with India created a “long-term bond” that changed the “nature of India” and the “nature of Britain”.
“The constituency which I represented, in… textile area of Lancashire — fifty years ago probably about 5% of the population was non-white and today it is 40% and rising. We are forever linked to India,” Straw said.
“It was nothing about post-colonial. It was everything to do with our constituents,” he said.