Protesters gather across London, as David Cameron rolls out the red carpet for an Indian Prime Minister blood on his hands
On Thursday outside Downing Street, hundreds of people gathered to protest the official visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi, who was at 10 Downing Street at the time, is here in the UK to increase trade relations between India and the UK. However, protesters made a clear statement that Modi should be held accountable for his crimes and is not welcome in the UK.
Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Tamils, Nepalis, Kashmiris and women’s rights campaigners were among the wide range of activists protesting the Indian Prime Minister’s visit. As the leader of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), a Hindu nationalist party, he has been accused of propagating religious intolerance, inciting a massacre in Gujurat in 2002 and supporting the caste system – one of the root causes of social turmoil in India.
As the Chief Minister of Gujurat during the riots in 2002, Modi is seen as having personal responsibility for instigating an anti-Muslim rhetoric that resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people in Gujurat. He is accused of appeasing the caste hierarchy within the country, which has led to the deaths, widespread abuse and discrimination against those of “lower castes” such as Dalits.
In trying to micromanage Nepali politics, India under Modi has engaged in a blockade of Nepal along the Indo-Nepal border, which has caused heavy distress to the most vulnerable and those already facing destitution in Nepal, especially after the recent earthquake. Modi has maintained Indian troops in Kashmir, and just last week his visit to the disputed territory caused protests that resulted in a fatality.
Along with the chants of “Back off Modi” and “Modi is a killer” were also shouts condemning David Cameron. Many see David Cameron’s invitation to Modi as legitimisation of the Indian Prime Minister’s actions and he has come under much criticism from human rights activists for his invites to the rulers of countries who are considered despots and abusers of basic human rights in their respective countries. Between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh el Sisi and now Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, David Cameron has been accused of consistently neglecting human rights when extending invitations and in all the above examples, with the aim of promoting arms sales to rulers who are accused of having blood on their hands.
Prime Minister Modi had a cordoned off route to Parliament after protesters had assembled along Whitehall between Downing Street and Parliament Square. He is due to dine with the Queen and address crowds of up to 60,000 at Wembley Stadium – partly funded by some MPs’ own salaries – during his 3-day state visit. While Jeremy Corbyn is expected to raise human rights concerns with Prime Minister Modi during their meeting, there is no anticipation that David Cameron will do the same – or for that matter, stray very far from the topic of business and trade relations.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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