A large image of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wielding a sword with the words ‘Modi not welcome’ was displayed on the British Parliament on Sunday by Indian activists.
The image which was created by the Awaaz Network also bore the Hindu symbol ‘Om’ which slowly changed into the Nazi Swastika. The image stayed on the Palace of Westminster in London for eight and a half minutes.
The Awaaz Network who aim to monitor and combat religious hatred in South Asia and the UK were protesting against Modi’s visit to the UK this week.
“Pulling off visual protest took weeks of planning. The protest was timed to coincide with the Bihar election results, UK’s Remembrance Day that commemorates the fight against facism and the Second World War, and Modi’s visit,” said Suresh Grover, director of The Monitoring Group that is part of the network.
Further, Grover said that the group had its reasons for choosing the British parliament building to stage their protest. “[Mr Modi] has always tried to get legitimacy on the world stage by speaking at parliament. Although he is not speaking at parliament, he has been invited to be in parliament by the Speaker of the House and Mr Cameron. I think it sends a clear message that a large part of the Indian community here reject the politics of hate and intolerance, wherever it takes place – in India, Pakistan, any country in south Asia or this country.”
The Awaaz Network is also planning a big protest march on November 12, a day before Modi is expected to address a crowd of close to 70,000 people in London’s Wembley stadium.
Grover also criticised the UK government for being blind to the violence against minorities in India. “You cannot deny that there has to be trade between two countries. What we are objecting to is the slavish attitude that the UK government is taking in bolstering Mr Modi’s image, which we think is undeserved and totally blind to the serious issue of violence against minorities, violence and murder of secularists and so on.”
Moreover, the director of the Monitoring Group rejected the suggestion that only Indians Muslims were against Modi. “More and more people were becoming disenchanted with the BJP government especially with the recent rhetoric over cow protection, murders over beef and the protests against intolerance by writers, academics, economists and film stars.”
Modi’s impending visit to the UK would be the first by an Indian Prime Minister in more than a decade and the two countries are hoping to build a strong strategic relationship and are expected to announce deals worth $15 billion, especially in sectors like telecom, oil and gas, and food and beverage.
However, during his visit, the Indian premier would have to contend with protests from activists especially after the unrest in Punjab which resonates with Sikhs in UK and Modi’s disturbing silence over right wing groups resorting to violence across India. Modi’s party also suffered a huge loss in the Bihar elections.
“The Awaaz attitude is that the British government cannot be slavish to an agenda set by Mr Modi’s supporters to cast him as a world leader where he wants to sell Digital India and development in India where the reality is very different,” said Grover.