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April 19, 2018

Thousands demonstrate against Modi in London

LONDON: Thousands of Sikhs, Kashmiris, Dalits, women’s groups and human rights activists demonstrated in Parliament Square and outside 10 Downing Street against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is here to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and to sign an estimated £1 billion of investment deals with Britain.

The focus of the demonstrations was Narendra Modi whose extreme Hindu right wing government is accused of trying to turn India into an exclusively Hindu state run by upper caste Hindus at the caste of minorities. The demonstration was organised by prominent Sikh organisations Sikh Federation UK, Del Khalsa and others.

Kashmiris from all political parties attended the protest. Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider, PPP leader Chaudhry Yaseen, PTI leader Barrister Sultan Mahmood, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Rahseed Turabi especially travelled from Pakistan to attend the demonstration.

A small protest was held in support of Modi but the turnout at the pro-Modi event was very low in comparison to thousands who gathered in the square on a sunny day.

The protestors accused Modi government of being involved in persecution and mob lynching of opponents. They said Modi wasn’t welcome in the UK and that he is a terrorist who supports acts of terror against Sikhs, Kashmiris, Dalits, women and children. Protesters chanted "Modi go back", “Khalistan Zindabad”, “Khalistan is our dream and our birth right”, "Modi is a terrorist", “Justice for Asifa”, “Free Jaggi now”, “Kashmiris want justice”, “Modi go home,” “We stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed,” and “Kashmiris want freedom from India”.

Many also held pictures of an eight-year-old Muslim girl who was abducted, drugged and brutally gang-raped and murdered in a temple by a group of Hindu men in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK).

The Sikh Federation said it had lobbied with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to raise the issue of discrimination and violence against religious minorities, including Sikhs, Christians and Muslims as well as Hindu Dalits and the abduction and torture of Jagtar Singh Johal, the 31-year old Scot from Dumbarton who went to India to get married and is being held in an Indian jail without charge.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “Many have had enough of the violence and killings of religious minorities, women and Dalits in India while Narendra Modi turns a blind eye and endorses turning India into a Hindu state through force, discrimination and intimidation. We believe the current Indian government policies will result in the break-up of India and this is why we must emphasise the need for self-determination and push our own campaign for re-establishing a sovereign Sikh homeland, Khalistan.”

Indian civil society members who attended the protest said they were demonstrating over a rising tide of sexual violence at home including two particularly brutal rapes.

A large number of protestors also gathered outside Downing Street as Modi arrived for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Dalit Christian organisations arranged this demonstration.

As India’s rape epidemic gets worse by the year, critics have pointed fingers at Modi’s government for not doing enough to protect the country’s women. During the past week, his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been battered by a nationwide storm over two rapes.

One involved the abduction, gang rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa Banu by Hindus in occupied Kashmir, where two BJP ministers in the provincial government were forced to resign after initially offering support for the accused rapists. Eight men are on trial for the crime, which has led to a wave of revulsion and anger in the country.