Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced huge protests mostly by people of Indian origin in London even as he held an orchestrated interactive session at Westminster Central Hall in the British capital.
Several groups had gathered in London ahead of Modi’s visit with many holding placards that read “Modi go home,” “we stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed,” “Modi Not Welcome” and “Cow=Safe, Bucks= Safe, Daughter= Not Safe” among others,
Hundreds of protesters assembled outside Downing Street, not far from the residence of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who Modi met before embarking on his tour commitments.
The raging anger against the brutal gang-rape and murder of 8-year-old Kashmiri girl dominated the protests in London. Many had travelled from various parts of England, Wales and Scotland. One such group consisted of women, who staged a silent march holding placards that reflected their anger against the rampant abuse of religion in the Indian politics.
One lady, who had travelled from Leicester said, “We are sick of Indian politicians bringing shame to our country. We are no longer interested in listening to hollow speeches of Modi. We want action. It’s a matter of shame that our country is now being deemed as the rape capital of the world.”
“The Indian government are doing nothing, and you feel sorry for the families because of the total injustice of it all,” said Navindra Singh, an Indian-born lawyer who lives in Britain. “He has been in power for four years now and there has been no policy change to help protect women and children,” Singh was quoted by Reuters.
There were also protests by Sikh and Kashmiri groups outside the British Parliament in Westminster. The Kashmiri group in particular has been protesting against Modi on Kathua gang-rape for several days now. On Tuesday, the protesters in London were addressed by the separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq over the phone. Farooq is currently under house arrest.
Two BJP ministers in Jammu and Kashmir had extended support to a group of Hindutva fanatics by attending their protest rally, taken out in favour of the rapists and murderers of the 8-year-old Muslim girl. It was only after the global condemnation for Modi and his party, the BJP, gained momentum that the ministers were forced to resign. Later, the sacked ministers astonishingly revealed that they were directed by their party to attend the pro-rapist rally in Kathua.
Another incident of rape that shamed India globally was in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao, where an 18-year-old sensationally alleged that she was brutalised by a BJP lesgislator, Kuldeep Singh Sengar. The girl in question attempted to end her life with her family members outside the residence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The local police intervened and arrested the girl’s father, who later died in police custody allegedly due to torture.
The two shocking incidents forced Modi to break his silence even though he’s been known for looking the other way on matters, unfavourable to him and his party.
Modi’s second trip to London was remarkably different to the rousing reception, albeit orchestrated, when he first arrived here after becoming the prime minister. Speaking exclusively to Janta Ka Reporter, Labour MP and Shadow Minister Khalid Mahmood had warned that the Indian prime minister will not be treated with respect during his upcoming visit.
Nearly 40 percent of India’s rape victims are children and the 40,000 reported rapes in 2016 marked a 60 percent increase over the level in 2012. But women’s rights groups say the figures are still gross underestimates.
Modi, known to be a divisive figure, was once banned from the UK over his alleged role, as chief minister of Gujarat, in a coordinated genocide that killed over 1200 people, mostly Muslims, in 2002.
Orchestrated interactive session
As planned PM Modi held the much-publicised Bharat Ki Baat Sabke Saath in London with the Censor Board Chief and noted lyricist Prasoon Joshi moderating the event. The event was organised by the Indian High Commission in London, which had carefully selected the members of the audience through an intense vetting process.
Taha Coburn-Kutay, chairman of UK Asian Business Council, told Janta Ka Reporter, “Anybody, who was remotely suspected to cause embarrassment to Modi was not invited. I was there when Modi first arrived here as the prime minister. This time, they suspected that I will be grilling him on Kathua gang-rape and his utter failures in governance in the last four years. So, they decided not to invite me.”
Even during the interaction, several audience members appeared to heckle PM Modi for not being allowed to ask questions. At one point, Joshi had to request one audience member to write his question and send it to him so that he can take a call.
Joshi, as a moderator, was in awe of the prime minister. His ‘questions’ included a poem, recited to pay tribute to Modi, who he claimed works 16 hours every day and announcement that the prime minister was essentially a faqeer. Joshi was appointed as the Censor Board’s chief by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani.
The organisers of Modi’s event in London had first mooted the idea of organising Modi’s diaspora function at Wembley stadium, situated in noerth-west London. The choice for Wembley, a 90,000-capacity venue, was soon shot down by people close to Modi in view of the protests against him.
The organisers were also apprehensive that they may not be able to fill the stadium as Modi’s popularity has rapidly plummeted among the Indian diaspora community. Despite the organisers best attempts, several seats remained empty at the Westminster Hall on Wednesday. People wishing to be part of Modi’s interactive event were promised free conveyance by BJP supporters.
Modi had addressed a 60,000 plus crowd at Wembley during his first trip to London as India’s prime minister. Going by the events on Thursday, it’s clear there aren’t many takers to his claims on providing good governance in India.