LONDON — Hundreds of people protested outside Downing Street in London on Thursday against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of talks with David Cameron.
Modi’s visit comes at a time when a debate is raging in India over accusations that Modi is failing to rein in Hindu zealots trying to impose their values on all Indians.
Many of the protestors were Sikhs and some carried banners during the peaceful demonstration.
As Modi and British Prime Minister David Cameron shook hands for the cameras outside Number 10 Downing Street, a crowd of hundreds of protesters could be heard shouting anti-Modi slogans nearby.
The demonstrators held up banners with messages such as “Modi you are killing Indian democracy” and “Stop religious persecution in India”.
Ahead of his arrival, more than 200 writers including Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan signed an open letter to Prime Minister Cameron, urging him to raise concerns about freedom of expression in India during his talks with Modi.
About 45 British members of parliament, including opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, signed a motion to debate India’s human rights record.
Nirmala Rajasingam, one of the protest organisers, said: “We have been protesting against the Modi government for a very long time because the matters of the Gujarat atrocities have not been settled yet.”
“Signs of religious antipathy have been there for a long time but since the BJP took power, it’s gone to a new high. There is a very specific project that they are pursuing to make India a country for Hindus only.“
Another protestor, Thaman Singh Sidhu, added that the Sikh community, the Muslim community, all minorities feel threatened, and Modi has never condemned anything.
Modi was elected by a landslide in 2014 but he and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have faced accusations from opponents that they are failing to protect minorities.
He is on a three-day visit to Britain which will include talks with Cameron, lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and a rally with supporters at Wembley Stadium.
Modi was effectively banned from Britain until three years ago over anti-Muslim riots which killed more than 1,000 people in 2002, when he was chief minister of Gujarat state. He has always denied any responsibility.