Protests as Narendra Modi visits London

By staff writers
April 19, 2018

Protestors in central London voiced anger on 18 April 2018  about the role of Indian leaders in religious, gender and caste-based violence. Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister, was attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting but also met the Queen, Prince Charles and UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Hundreds gathered opposite the entrance to Downing Street under a banner urging ‘Justice for Asifa’ and ‘Modi not welcome!’ This referred to the rape of murder of eight-year-old Asifa Bano, a girl from a nomadic Muslim community, in Jammu-Kashmir.

Attacks on Muslims are not uncommon and two politicians from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rallied in support of the alleged perpetrators. Christians and Dalits have also been victimised in today’s India.

South Asia Solidarity Group took a leading role in the protest, alongside Castewatch UK. Other groups taking part included Southall Black Sisters. There were separate demonstrations nearby by those seeking independence for Kashmir and Khalistan.

Messages on banners included "Stop religious persecution in India", "Stop Modi’s upper caste thugs killing Dalits", ‘”Hindu' extremism disgraces India" and "PM Modi your hatred and bigotry is tearing India apart".

Other slogans drew attention to the rape of a 16-year-old, allegedly by a BJP politician, and the  death of her father in suspicious circumstances; and to Gauri Lankesh, a journalist shot dead in 2017, for which a far right activist has been arrested.

There was drumming and chants (in Hindi) of "This time round, a rapist government will not do". This referred to a slogan used in the 2014 election campaign, "This time round, Modi’s government". The chief minister of Gujarat at the time, he had been widely criticised over the mass killings of Muslims in 2002.

Those taking part marched to Parliament Square, where earlier a pro-Modi rally had been held, with men in saffron and dancing women in colourful saris. The widely publicised attacks on girls and disappointment over the economy appear however to have affected some of his previous supporters.

Several Western governments are keen to promote trade and strategic links with India. But critics have pointed to the risks of overlooking violent extremism, especially in a nuclear power. Regional tensions and the rise of ‘Muslim’ fundamentalism in neighbouring Pakistan, also equipped with atomic weapons, add to the danger. It is not only human rights in India at stake.

Ekklesia Associate Savi Hensman, who was present at the protest, said: "Long after the noise of protests in Westminster has faded away, international controversy over Narendra Modi and the BJP will continue."

[Ekk/7]

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