The many plots to assassinate Narendra Modi

02 September 2018
The circumstances surrounding all the purported assassination plots against Narendra Modi are intriguing—for the backgrounds of the individuals allegedly plotting the murder, for the political climate in which they were revealed, and for the media organisations that break the news.
Yong Teck Lim/AP Photo
The circumstances surrounding all the purported assassination plots against Narendra Modi are intriguing—for the backgrounds of the individuals allegedly plotting the murder, for the political climate in which they were revealed, and for the media organisations that break the news.
Yong Teck Lim/AP Photo

On 28 August, the Pune Police arrested five activists—the trade-unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the writers Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, the lawyers Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalvez—and conducted search raids at the homes of several others. The police have offered different explanations for the arrests—including a purported connection to the violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon in early January, an “anti-fascist plot” to overthrow the government, and reportedly, yet another plotto assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his reign as chief minister of Gujarat, in his campaign ahead of the 2014 general elections, and while serving as the country’s prime minister, Modi has survived several reported plots and attempts to kill him.

In early June this year, in a similar police operation across multiple states, the Pune Police had arrested five individuals on allegations of being “top urban Maoist operatives” who incited the Bhima Koregaon violence. Two days after the arrests, the police claimed to have seized a letter from the house of Rona Wilson, a prominent activist who was one of the five people arrested, which mentioned a “Rajiv Gandhi style” plot to assassinate Modi. On 31 August, in a press conference about the recent spate of arrests, the additional director general of Maharashtra Police, Param Bir Singh, stated that the police had “conclusive proof” against the activists, while referring to the letter and “thousands” of other documents seized from Wilson’s house.

The police did not, however, clarify what evidence they have to indicate that any of the activists arrested in August were involved in a plot to kill the prime minister. The circumstances surrounding all the purported assassination plots against Narendra Modi are intriguing—for the backgrounds of the individuals allegedly plotting the murder, for the political climate in which they were revealed, and for the media organisations that break the news. Modi’s political opponents have rubbished the news of the assassination plot that reportedly emerged from the Bhima Koregaon crackdown—the Rashtriya Janata Dal claimed that the threat to Modi’s life was “a planted story”; Sharad Pawar, the veteran leader of the National Congress Party, said the purported letter was “being used to garner people’s sympathy” and the Congress dismissed the report as “Modi’s old tactic.” Given the gravity of a threat of assassination, and the nature of responses from opposition political parties, the reported instances of the plots to kill Modi and the circumstances surrounding them are worth revisiting. Below is a list of eight such reported plots to assassinate Narendra Modi.

Ishrat Jahan (2004)

On 15 June 2004, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, officers of the Gujarat Police Crime Branch killed four people—three men and one woman—suspected to be Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives.Top police officialsand the crime branch claimed that Ishrat Jahan, Javed Ghulam Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were on a mission to assassinate Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat, for his perceived inaction during the communal violence in the state in 2002.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Narendra Modi Amit Shah Ishrat Jahan demonetisation 2002 Godhra riots Sohrabuddin Bhima Koregaon DG Vanzara
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