LONDON: Hundreds of noisy protesters greeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he arrived in London on Wednesday.
Holding placards reading “Modi go home” and “we stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed”, they gathered outside Downing Street and parliament as Modi arrived for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.
The demonstrators included Muslims and Sikhs, who called for end to religious persecution, and human rights activists, who called for end to violence against women.
Kashmiris held aloft flags, while others displayed posters depicting an eight-year-old Muslim girl, who was raped and murdered earlier this year in a brutal attack blamed on Hindu men.
“Lots of different groups are here,” said Dupinder Jit, a Sikh businessman. “What is happening in Modi’s regime is unacceptable, he is killing minorities.”
Sexual violence against women is a highly charged political issue in India, where protests regularly erupt about entrenched violence against women and the failure to protect them.
“The Indian government is 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.”
Protests have erupted across India after the latest rape cases were reported. Police officers and a politician are under investigation in two of the unrelated cases.
In a crime that shocked India, an eight-year-old Muslim girl in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped, drugged and held for several days while she was raped repeatedly and then murdered.
In the other case, a state lawmaker from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party stands accused of raping a teenager. No action was taken against the politician until the girl threatened to set herself on fire earlier this month. Her father died soon afterwards from injuries he sustained while in police custody.
Modi addressed the outrage over the rapes last week by promising justice regardless of whoever the guilty were.
Nearly 40 per cent of India’s rape victims are children and the 40,000 reported rapes in 2016 marked a 60 per cent increase over the level in 2012. But women’s rights groups say the figures are still gross underestimates.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018