Protests against Narendra Modi in Britain : Exploding the Myth of NRI Adulation

The #ModiNotWelcome campaign organized by the Awaaz Network, of which South Asia Solidarity Group is a constituent organisation, got going some weeks before Narendra Modi was due to arrive in the UK, with the setting up among other things of a dedicated website https://modinotwelcome.wordpress.com/ . Its first public event was South Asia Solidarity Group's 'Reclaim Diwali', an exuberant cultural evening on Friday 6th November. This was followed at 9.00pm, 8 November by the Awaaz Network's projection on the UK Parliament building of an enormous image of Narendra Modi brandishing a sword and holding an Aum sign which continually morphed into a swastika, with the words ‘Modi Not Welcome’ emblazoned above it. The projection lasted for some seven and a half minutes and gave the campaign an enormous boost. It was followed in the next two days by two other events, a student-led meeting 'We need to talk about Modi', held in a packed hall at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and organised by students from South Asia Solidarity Group and the South Asian Diaspora Society, as well as a surprise theatrical sketch about Hindutva, violence against women and Modi at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, part of an evening on women’s and children’s rights organised by the Newham Asian Women's Project (NAWP).

The stage had been set for the massive protests at Downing Street and Parliament Square on 12 November. They were attended by thousands of people, left South Asian groups, members of women's organisations like NAWP and Southall Black Sisters, Dalit organisations like Caste WatchUK which has thousands of members, Sikh and Kashmiri groups and as well as a Nepali contingent. Slogans such as 'Modi, Modi you can't hide- you committed genocide' and 'Modi, Modi, RSS, Nazi Fascism No Less' and 'David Cameron - Shame, Shame - inviting Modi - Not in Our Name' pursued Modi as he moved from Downing Street to Parliament Square. As he hypocritically laid flowers at the Gandhi statue, even as his party prepared to celebrate the death anniversary of Gandhi’s killer, Nathuram Godse, the crowd which lined the square roared 'shame on you' !

Speakers at a rally facing the square vowed to continue to stand in solidarity with those opposing Modi and the Sangh Parivar in India. Among others, Amrit Wilson of South Asia Solidarity Group spoke about the horrific escalation of violence against minorities, Dalits and women which has been orchestrated by the Hindu Right and supported by the Modi government – people were being lynched with impunity just for what they eat or whom they love. She said ‘We stand in solidarity with those fighting Hindutva fascism in India, with the workers facing the sweeping away of labour laws, and we stand with the people of Bihar who have decisively rejected Modi’s hate politics. Modi’s visit to Britain is about selling off India to the new versions of the colonial East India Company’. Mentioning the fact that India is the biggest client of Israel’s arms industry, she said that the arms India buys will be used against Indian citizens. Sat Pal Muman of Castewatch UK spoke of the horrific tally of killings of Dalits since the new government had come to power and highlighted the way Hindutva organizations in the UK have systematically tried to block the implementation of the anti-caste discrimination legislation in the UK. Rahila Gupta of Southall Black Sisters spoke about how gender violence and attempts to control women had intensified under Modi. Sangeeta, a student active in the ‪#‎ModiNotWelcome‬ campaign, highlighted the way in which Hindu Right groups in the UK were dividing the South Asian diaspora, including the younger generation, and were feeding into Islamophobia, and how these groups had imported the myth of ‘love jihad’ into Britain. Banners reminded people of Modi’s culpability for the Gujarat genocide 2002 and placards remembered individual victims of Modi in Gujarat, including Ishrat Jehan, Ehsan Jafri and Kauser Bi. Nepali protesters demanded that Modi ‘back off!’ and lift the devastating blockade of Nepal.

The night before the #ModiNotWelcome protest at Downing Street and Parliament Square, we had received threatening phone calls warning us that ‘15,000’ Modi supporters would converge there and there would be disturbances. But in fact only a small group of 50 showed up and briefly stood opposite the tail end of the demonstration from where they hurled invective -demonstrating their much touted ‘tolerance’.

Protests followed Modi wherever he went - even outside the obscenely extravagant cultural show at Wembley to which some 60,000 people had been invited. The Wembley protests however were not reported in the media.

On 14th November Modi inaugurated Ambedkar House, a building which Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar had lived in when he was a student in Britain. UK's major Dalit and Ambedkarite organisations responded with anger and contempt. CasteWatchUK noted for example that it was nothing but 'cheap political posturing' and the Ambedkar Memorial Committee sent out a press release declaring that it viewed the inauguration 'with utter abhorrence'. The press release continued, 'It is the height of hypocrisy that Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi is inaugurating Ambedkar House. Modi is a long-term organiser of the Hindu Supremacist paramilitary organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which models itself on the Nazi party, stands for upper caste Hindu power, and is a by-word for attacks on Dalits and other oppressed castes. Dr Ambedkar stood for democracy, secularism, equality and justice and gave Indians a powerful constitution enshrining fundamental rights for its citizens. Narendra Modi's party the BJP, and its sister organisations like the RSS are constantly infringing this constitution with their attacks on Dalit and minority rights... The Dalits and oppressed castes in Bihar have seen through his cynical attempts to divide and rule and have decisively rejected him. This is why he is now attempting to save face and salvage his image with Dalits. This is not likely to happen since all we have seen from his party is anti-Dalit violence and certainly no Dalit-friendly development policies'.

The protesters have vowed to continue and extend their campaign against the Hindutva forces in the UK, as well as continuing to organise in solidarity with those who are confronting and resisting Hindutva’s corporate fascism in India.

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