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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#INTOLERANCE: "Modi will hijack India's pluralism" - Sir Anish Kapoor

Sir Anish Kapoor has revealed that he received hate mail and abusive Twitter messages after the publication of an open letter against Narendra Modi signed by the award-winning sculptor and a slew of other public figures.

Sir Anish said he had received a "barrage" of "intimidating correspondence" since the letter - also signed by author Salman Rushdie, filmmaker Deepa Mehta and actor MK Raina among other figures - was published in the Guardian last month.

"I felt this issue to be so urgent that we wrote the letter to the press.  I’m glad to say it continues to be taken up and discuss.  But since its publication we’ve been subject to a barrage of intimidating correspondence", Kapoor said.

"This goes on in much more frightening ways to anyone who dares to oppose Modi.  All we can say is that the Modi camp fears criticism.  It needs to fear criticism because there is much to hide.

"For us Indians there is a kind of permeability between the human and the divine, that’s the mythological truth that we somehow carry, but let me assure you that Modi is no incarnation of Vishnu and I think it’s important to remember that because the political campaign in this election has been conducted in a way that would present him as a God or better still."

The Guardian letter had referred to Mr Modi's role in sparking communal unrest in Gujarat in 2002 which left thousands dead and the BJP leader's refusal to accept responsibility for the atrocities.

"Were he to be elected prime minister, it would bode ill for India's future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion and protection for all its peoples and communities", the letter warned.

Addressing a Commons debate organized by the advocacy group the Awaaz Network, Mumbai-born Sir Anish said he "felt like weeping" the first time he heard Mr Modi defend himself against allegations that he was a divisive figure and called for a re-examination of the message of unity promoted by Mahatma Gandhi.

"Modi once gave an interview in which he said 'I’m a nationalist, I am patriotic.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I am born a Hindu so yes I can say I am a Hindu nationalist'.

"Makes me weep.  Contrast that with Mahatma Gandhi who said 'I am Muslim and a Buddhist and a Christian and a Jew and a Hindu.  That’s the India I was brought up in, that’s the India I think we care about, that’s the India we want."

The Mumbai-born artist said that whilst the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India was virtually assured it was vital for the public to continue voicing their concerns.

"Our voices need to be heard in this quest for a new politics because it cannot be Hindu nationalism.

"I recently discovered that I have a voice and it matters.  We all have a voice.  We have to stand up and somehow find a way to talk about secular values and respect for all.  We cannot accept that India’s pluralism and openness can be hijacked by a narrow brand of Hindu nationalism."

Other speakers at the debate included barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy; acclaimed Indian rights campaigner Vrinda Grover, who is currently representing the families of victims of extra-judicial killings in Mr Modi's home state of Gujarat; Professor Gautam Appa of the London School of Economics and Amila Behen, a young woman who witnessed first hand the horrors of the 2002 killings massacres in Gujarat.

Mr Modi, the then-Chief Minister of the state, was cleared by a government inquiry of any involvement in one of India's worst outbreaks of communal blood-letting. 

He is widely expected to be named leader of the world's largest democracy on 16 May.

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