London: Hundreds of demonstrators chanting slogans in favour of India’s development and against “atrocities” taking place in the country have greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he landed in the UK for a four-day visit.
A flash mob of sari-clad women with dhols set the tone for the pro-Modi crowds opposite 10 Downing Street as the Indian Prime Minister arrived for his bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
They were joined by the Friends of India Society International (FISI) group, which spearheaded a crowd of Indian diaspora from across the UK waving banners such as ‘Chak De India’ and ‘Jai Hind’ outside Downing Street and nearby Parliament Square.
“We want to welcome the Indian prime minister to the UK and show him the diaspora support he enjoys,” said one of the members of the gathering.
On the other side, anti-Modi protesters from Caste Watch UK and South Asia Solidarity group waved banners such as “Modi, you have blood on your hands” and “Modi Not Welcome”.
“Hindu nationalism must be curtailed to avert India sliding towards wholesale dictatorship threatening democratic fabric, rule of law and the unity of India,” a Caste Watch UK spokesperson said.
They were joined by other protestors carrying images the eight-year-old rape victim from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, and Gauri Lankesh, the Indian journalist who was shot at her doorstep last year.
The group also included representatives of several Indian women’s groups in the UK, wearing white as part of their silent protest against “atrocities that are taking place in India”.
“I am Hindustan, I am ashamed,” read their placards alongside banners such as “Beti Bachao” and “Politics minus rape”.
Some pro-Khalistani demonstrators from Sikh Federation UK and demonstrators from the so-called “Minorities Against Modi” group, led by Pakistani-origin peer Lord Ahmed, completed the congregation at Parliament Square. At one point, some of the protesters surrounded the Mahatma Gandhi statue at the square with yellow Khalistani flags.
Indian officials involved in organising the prime ministerial visit to the UK had said that protests and demonstrations are “part and parcel of any democratic society”.