Thousands to protest against Modi during Commonwealth summit in London



LONDON: A large-scale protest has been planned by British Sikhs and Kashmiris against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Britain for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOG) in London on April 16-20, to condemn Modi’s affiliation with violent Hindu nationalism and rising attacks on minorities, vulnerable and women in India.

Heads of 53 Commonwealth nations, including Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will attend the Summit in London and Windsor.

Modi’s itinerary includes a day of bilateral meetings with British PM Theresa May and a rare audience with Queen Elizabeth.

In London, thousands of protestors — Kashmiris and Indian origin Sikhs, Christians and Dalits — are expected to reach Parliament Square for a noisy protest against Modi on April 18 when he will hold bilateral meetings and also address a diaspora event at Central Hall Westminster.

Sikh organisations such as Dal Khalsa, Sikhs for Justice and Sikh Federation (UK) have said that it was expecting turnout from across the UK but several other Sikh groups working for Khalistan have also invited their supporters to protest against the Indian premier.

Anti-imperialism South Asia Solidarity Group has also arranged a protest. Supporters of Hindutva BJP and RSS have said that a counter-demonstration in support of Modi will be held at the same venue. South Asia Centre for Peace has called for protest at the Parliament Square to highlight the plight of women in Indian occupied Kashmir.

Turnout of Kashmiris is expected to be huge at the protest. Azad Kashmir PM Raja Farooq Haider, Pakistan Peoples Party leader in AJK Assembly Chaudhary Yaseen, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Rasheed Turabi, several British parliamentarians including Naz Shah MP, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood, Shabna Mahmood, Afzal Khan and others are expected to attend the protest.

Addressing a news conference in London, Farooq Haider said that genocide of Kashmiris under Modi government has increased. The Azad Kashmir prime minister said that he had reached London especially to show solidarity with the people of Indian occupied Kashmir by confronting Modi on atrocities against Kashmiris under his watch.

The issue of illegal Indians in UK — numbered at tens of thousands by Home Office — will dominate the meeting agenda between PM Modi and May as the British government has linked the return of illegal Indians to any improvement in visa conditions for Indians.

The Sikh Federation (UK) claimed Sikhs would “turn out in thousands” to protest outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre against Modi, who it described would be the “primary focus” of the demonstration. The release of British national Jagtar Singh Johal arrested in Punjab for targeted killings would be a major issue in the protest.

The Sikh Federation has written to May urging her to question Modi on issues of “extreme Hindutva agenda”, “growth of Hindu radicalisation across the globe” and “treatment meted out to religious minorities and Dalits in India” during their meeting on April 18.

They have also cited a research at Leeds University to argue that it found no evidence of radicalisation of Sikhs in the UK. The Sikh Federation has urged May to raise concerns of the UK Sikh community with Modi, adding that around 200 Sikh gurdwaras in the UK, the Federation of Sikh Organizations, The Sikh Network and other Sikh groups had also supported the letter.

It said that when Modi first came to the UK as the Indian PM in November 2015, the Sikh community raised a number of serious concerns with the UK government, MPs and media. The letter mentioned that to deflect attention from these concerns and growing ‘Hindu radicalisation’, it was widely reported in the Indian media, following briefings by Indian officials, that a “dossier” on “radicalisation” of British Sikhs was on the agenda when Cameron and Modi met.

The letter has argued: “This so-called dossier inappropriately maligned certain gurdwaras, individuals, Sikh TV channels and Sikh organisations in the UK.”