The Parliamentary Labour Party is full of unscrupulous and unprincipled politicians willing to exploit communal divisions and promote reactionary “community leaders” for electoral gain. However, the efforts of shadow trade minister Barry Gardiner go well beyond a few public appearances with the local vicar or imam.
On 23 May, Gardiner tweeted to give a lavish welcome to right-winger Narendra Modi’s victory in India’s election. In 2001, in the wake of the Gujarat earthquake, Gardiner visited India and handed a £1 million cheque to Modi, who was then Gujarat’s Chief Minister. The money was raised by the Sewa International (SIUK) Earthquake Relief Fund. SIUK was a fundraising front for the Hindu fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS – National Volunteers Corps) and its affiliates.
Gardiner has been an active supporter of the RSS and its affiliates at least since that time. The RSS is a paramilitary, all-male political organisation founded in the 1920s and dedicated to turning India into an exclusive “Hindu nation” based on “Hindu strength” and “Hindu unity”. RSS founders were inspired by Nazism, and the RSS was modelled on fascist youth organizations.
During the 2002 Gujarat massacre over 2,000 men, women and children, mostly Muslim, were killed and over 200,000 displaced. Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time. He made no effort to stop the massacre, has never expressed any regret over it, and did nothing to aid the bereaved, traumatised and displaced. Many of the individuals believed to have organised the violence have been now been promoted to high office within the Indian state. For ten years the UK and US governments imposed a travel ban on Modi for the part he played in the massacre.
According to the truthaboutgujarat.com website, the relationship between Gardiner and the Hindutva movement was fostered by two Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) activists, Manoj Ladwa and Vikas Pota. HSS UK is the British wing of the RSS. It has parallel structures, organising its cadre in cells that promote RSS ideology.
In 2009, Gardiner went to a “Vibrant Gujarat summit” and declared Modi the “lion of Gujarat”. In 2010, Modi returned the favour endorsing Gardiner in the General Election. A picture of Modi and the caption “Gujarat has no greater friend in the UK than Barry Gardiner” was prominent on Gardiner’s campaign literature. In 2013, in the run up to the Indian general election, Gardiner appeared on Indian television and berated journalist Nidhi Razdan who raised the issue of the Gujarat massacre.
Left-wing and secular democratic activists from the south Asian community have long been asking questions about Barry Gardiner and his involvement with the Sangh Parivar. It’s time Labour Party members did the same.