After a gunman killed 50 people in New Zealand’s Christchurch on March 15, an array of world leaders tweeted their condolences from their personal handles. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not among them – even though there were five Indians among the victims.
The Indian High Commission in New Zealand identified them as Meheboob Khokhar, Ramiz Vora, Asif Vora, Ansi Alibava and Ozair Kadir.
On the day of the incident, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement on Twitter that said Modi had written to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to express his “deep shock and sadness” at the attacks on “places of worship”.
But more than 48 hours after the attacks, Modi was yet to condemn the attacks from his personal Twitter account. In this period, several world leaders such as US President Donald Trump, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had expressed their solidarity with the victims of the attack.
Modi’s silence on the New Zealand attacks is unusual because he has tweeted prolifically from his personal Twitter handle since 2014 to condemn a range of terror incidents, as well as express his condolences for deaths caused by natural disasters in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and the US, even when Indians were not harmed.
2014 and 2015
In December 2014, for instance, Modi tweeted his condolences for the attack on a school in Peshawar, in which 156 people were killed.
In January 2015, Modi condemned as “despicable” the attacks on the offices of a French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, in which 17 people were killed.
In May that year, he condemned a bus shooting in Karachi, Pakistan, in which 46 people were killed.
In January 2016, Modi condemned an attack on Bacha Khan University in Pakistan, in which four gunmen opened fire, killing at least 20 people. In August, he tweeted his condolences for the families of those killed in the attacks on Kabul’s American University. In September, he condemned the attacks in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, in which 19 Indian Army soldiers were killed. He deplored the attack on a Shia shrine in Kabul in November. The following month, he condemned a terrorist attack in Istanbul, in which 39 people were killed.
In January 2017, he condemned a terror attack in Kabul, and the following month
also expressed his sorrow at the loss of lives in avalanches in Afghanistan. In March, Modi said on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened” by the terrorist attack near Parliament in London in which six people were killed.
In June that year, he said the terrorist attack in London Bridge – in which terrorists rammed a vehicle into pedestrians and then went on a stabbing spree, killing eight people – was “shocking and anguishing”. That month, after wildfires broke out in Portugal killing 66 people, Modi offered his “deepest condolences” on Twitter.
He also condemned an October 2017 terror attack in New York City in which eight people were killed after a man drove a pickup truck into cyclists and runners. In November 2017, after around 40 gunmen attacked a mosque in Sinai, Egypt, killing at least 305 people, Modi said it was a “barbaric terrorist attack on a place of worship”.
In March 2018, Modi tweeted his condolences to the families of 11 trekkers who were killed in a forest fire in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district. In May, he said he was saddened by the collapse of a flyover in Varanasi, in which 18 people were killed.
In July, after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, killing 19 people including members of the Sikh and Hindu community, Modi said it was an attack on that country’s “multicultural fabric”.
In September, he condemned a road accident in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir, in which 11 people were killed. In October, after two trains mowed down at least 59 people celebrating Dusshera in Amritsar, Punjab, Modi described the incident as “heart-wrenching” on Twitter. In December, Modi offered his condolences to those who lost loved ones in a tsunami that killed hundreds of people in Indonesia.
On February 14, Modi condemned the Pulwama attack in which at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed. The attack was “despicable”, he said on Twitter.
A month later, on March 14, Modi said he was “deeply anguished” after a section of the pedestrian bridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai collapsed, killing six people. “My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he wrote.