As we await Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK, it is worth revisiting the powerful and moving speech given by Nishrin Jaffri to a packed meeting at the London School of Economics. Organised by the LSE Gender Institute in collaboration with the Freedom Without Fear Platform and South Asia Solidarity Group on 3rd March 2014, the meeting discussed the rise of Hindu fascism and its impact on gender and called for Narendra Modi to be brought to justice. The context of the meeting, as outlined by Kalpana Wilson of the LSE Gender Institute, was the targeting of minority women for appalling violence: not a side effect but central to the project of the Hindu right and how it operates. Linked to this was the intensification of surveillance and control over women, the rise of ‘moral policing’ targeting students and other young people, and the invocation of the “protection” of Hindu women as a justification for violence against religious minorities and Dalits, including rape of women.
Nishrin Jafri Hussain spoke that day of the unimaginable brutality perpetrated on the bodies of Muslim women in the villages around Ahmedabad. Nishrin, whose father, the MP Ahsan Jafri, was brutally murdered in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat state, and whose family is waging an ongoing legal battle to bring Narendra Modi, who presided over the violence as Chief Minister of Gujarat, to justice, showed a series of photographs of those who had been murdered, with many gaps for those of whom no photos exist. She told the meeting that the numbers of rapes were far more than those reported because these experiences were not only deeply traumatising and humiliating but that it was a taboo speaking about them.
She said that in the Gulbarg society where she grew up and the area around it every Muslim house had been burnt down and every family had lost loved ones – deep scars of these losses remain. She told the meeting that her father had been against the ghettoisation of Muslims and committed to living in a mixed Hindu and Muslim area even after the riots of 1969.
When his house where nearly 200 people were sheltering was attacked, and was surrounded by armed Hindu mobs, he had called for help to the central government to no avail. When he phoned Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister replied ‘ You are on your own Jafri, save yourself’.
Many in the audience had tears in their eyes as Nishrin reaffirmed her family’s commitment to bringing Narendra Modi to justice.