The UAE is set to honour India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the highest civilian award amid growing concerns over the BJP leader’s record on human rights and support for far-right Hindu nationalism.
Modi will visit the Gulf for three days later this week. In his first stop, Abu Dhabi, he will receive the UAE’s highest civil honour, the “Order of Zayed” during a private ceremony set to take place on Saturday night.
Further, commemorative stamps on Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary are expected to be launched as well as the RuPay Card, a payment system that will allow international purchases and cash access outside the country.
A statement by India’s external affairs ministry released on Sunday announced the UAE’s decision to venerate Modi. “Prime Minister Modi would receive the Order of Zayed, the highest civil decoration of the UAE which was conferred earlier in April 2019 in recognition of the distinguished leadership of Prime Minister Modi for giving a big boost to bilateral relations between the two countries,” read the statement.
“The award in the name of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, acquires special significance as it was awarded to Prime Minister Modi in the year of the birth centenary of Sheikh Zayed.”
Saturday’s ceremony will take place under growing concerns over Modi’s decision to annex the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier this month the leader of the BJP revoked the regions special status in what is widely seen as a move to cement the racist aspirations of Hindu nationalists known as the Hindutva. Modi is a life-long member of the group whose founding ideology draws inspiration from right-wing fascist European groups, including Hitler and Mussolini.
Followers of Hindutva seek to define India in terms of Hindu values alone. This has often led to the targeting of minorities whose place in India under rising Hindu nationalism is gravely threatened, along with India’s much vaunted democracy. As the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi presided over the worst communal bloodletting in India’s recent history in 2002, when 1,000 Muslims are said to have been slaughtered by sword-wielding Hindus. He earned the title of “the butcher of Gujarat” as a result and was accused of abetting the mobs. His alleged involvement in the massacre prompted the US to deny him a visa, and Britain and the European Union to boycott him.
The UAE’s decision to honour Modi has come under sharp criticism from British Member of Parliament Naz Shah. In a letter the Bradford West MP said: “It saddened me greatly, after returning from the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, to see the news that Modi, once recognised as the butcher of Gujarat being offered the UAE’s highest civilian honour.”
Shah called on the UAE to reconsider the decision citing the shared faith between the Kashmiri’s and the people of UAE as well as what she said was their “duty as human beings to stand up against the disregard of human rights and evil”.
Shah raised concerns over Modi’s repressive policies in Kashmir; a region she described as the most militarised in the world that was being subjected to fear and terror by the Indian military. She mentioned that Modi has placed the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir into a complete lockdown for the last 15 days, with the shutdown of telecommunications, internet and other sources of communications. Shah also cited reports of political leaders living under house arrest, political activists injured with pellet guns, curfews and a maze of razor wire locking the capital’s population into an open prison.