London: A series of demonstrations, including a silent protest to condemn the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, have been planned by various groups at Parliament Square here during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK this week.
The silent protest tomorrow, being promoted jointly by some Indian women’s groups in Britain, is calling on members of the Indian diaspora in the country to join in by wearing some symbolic white clothing to register their condemnation of “atrocities that are taking place in India”.
“Following the horrific rape and murder of eight-year-old in the Kathua region of Kashmir, there will be a congregation meeting to silently protest and publicly express pain, sorrow and shock,” the protest statement reads. The silent demonstration will coincide with an anti-India protest, being spearheaded by Pakistani-origin peer Lord Ahmed, at Parliament Square tomorrow afternoon.
Alongside Sikh Federation UK and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir supporters, the so-called “Minorities Against Modi” group has been circulating some buses on the streets of London with banners such as “Free Kashmir” and “Punjab Referendum 2020 Khalistan”.
“The primary focus of Sikhs protesting will be the Indian PM, Narendra Modi, but they will also be there to show support for the Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, for standing up for the rights of Sikh nationalists when he recently visited India,” a statement from Sikh Federation UK said.
A counter pro-India demonstration, titled “British Indians Welcome PM Modi” is also planned at the same time at Parliament Square, ahead of Modi’s ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath’ in-conversation event at nearby Central Hall Westminster tomorrow evening.
The group has been running their own vans on the streets of London welcoming Modi to the UK with the message of “Two Great Nations; One Glorious Future”.
Earlier tomorrow, a “Modi Not Welcome” protest by Caste Watch UK and South Asia Solidarity Group is planned outside 10, Downing Street. “On the one hand, Modi talks about bringing people together and of ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath’, but on the other hand his cohorts RSS storm troopers continue to brazenly defy the law unleashing violence on Dalits and religious minorities,” a Caste Watch UK spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, there have been allegations and counter-allegations doing the rounds among India-related societies of some UK universities, which had issued a letter addressed to the Indian PM earlier this week calling for “extraordinary measures” for justice in recent rape cases reported from different states in India.
“We deplore all acts against humanity. However, we were not formally consulted via official correspondence about certain contents of NISAU’s letter to PM Modi,” a statement from Queen Mary Indian Society said. The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, which had claimed that 19 Indian societies were among the signatories of the letter, condemned “fake allegations” being circulated on social media.
Indian officials involved in organising the four-day prime ministerial visit to the UK have said that protests and demonstrations are “part and parcel of any democratic society” and there are no plans to curtail them in any way. “The main thing is they should be peaceful and not prove disruptive to any of the official engagements,” an official said.
Modi is arriving late this evening in the UK and will embark upon a packed day of bilateral engagements with British Prime Minister Theresa May and the royal family tomorrow before going into formal multilateral discussions as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later in the week.