PROTESTERS have called for a boycott of a pro-Modi rally in London as anger grows over the Indian prime minister’s response to the rise of sectarian violence in his country.

The call has highlighted the controversy over Narendra Modi and his right-wing government which critics claim have exploited sectarianism to rise to power.

While many British Indians have greeted Modi’s three-day visit with one of the most spectacular welcomes ever given to a foreign leader, others, including award-winning author Arundhati Roy, have condemned Modi’s “inadequate” response to recent murders.

The SNP’s Alex Salmond and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are among 40 MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion calling on UK Prime Minister David Cameron to make sure the issue of human rights is raised with Modi.

Campaigning group Awaaz has called for today’s boycott of the rally at Wembley Stadium, claiming there has been a 25 per cent rise in violence against religious minorities since Modi was elected last year.

“There’s no doubt that Modi represents a political current that’s very right-wing, but this protest is really about an attack on the constitutional values of secular and religious freedom in India,” said Suresh Grover of Awaaz.

“His fanatical followers treat him like a god rather than what he is – an authoritarian politician, deeply fond of expensive designer clothing, unable to answer unscripted questions, who remains silent about the grotesque fundamentalist violence that brought him to power and made him who he is.”


THE son of a tea-seller, Modi’s rise to power has been remarkable not least because he was implicated in the 2002 Gujarat massacre in which an estimated 1,000 Muslims were murdered by rioting Hindu gangs.

Modi, who was state governor at the time, has been heavily criticised for failing to prevent the riots although he denies any direct involvement.

Banned for a decade from visiting Britain, since winning power he has been feted by world leaders keen to foster relations with the leader of one of the globe’s fastest growing economies.

While this is not a formal state visit, Modi has been invited to lunch with the Queen and will be hosted at Chequers by Cameron who will also introduce him on stage for the huge event at Wembley which will end with one of the UK’s biggest ever firework displays.

Cameron has said he wants the UK to be India’s “partner of choice” and employment minister Priti Patel said the visit was an opportunity for both countries to take the “special relationship into the modern context”.

Senior lecturer in Asian security at the University of St Andrews, Chris Ogden, said: “The big difference between then and now is that Modi is prime minister, so when he meets leaders from other countries, they are less inclined to criticise him, particularly given the clout of India’s economic growth. India is rising, and a state such as Britain needs higher trade with India, so they are willing to downplay elements from his past.”


THE adulation of Modi is not shared by Roy, one of several prominent figures to return an award to show her distress at the rise in religious violence since the takeover of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Returning her National Award for Best Screenplay, she said: “Whole populations – millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians – are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.”

Recent atrocities have included the lynching of a Muslim man for allegedly eating beef. The cow has always been sacred to Hindus and eating beef is taboo but there has been a rise in intolerance of those who do eat beef.

Writer Shekhar Gupta condemned the murder as “a chilling turning point in our politics” and said it showed a rise in “Hindu supremacist mob mentality” that the government “won’t unequivocally condemn or disown.”

Before the murder, the sale of beef was banned by the BJP government in the state of Maharashtra and there have since been demands for a national ban.

“This is a political decision,” said Mohammed Aqil Qureshi, of New Delhi’s Buffalo Traders’ Welfare Association. “They want to gratify the Hindus and harass the Muslims.”

BJP politicians have also been accused of making inflammatory statements in recent months.

The BJP’s Sakshi Maharaj caused a storm when he said Hindu women must produce at least four children each to prevent being outnumbered by Muslims, currently around 14 per cent of the 1.2bn population.

Meanwhile members of the World Hindu Council have urged Hindu families to watch out for “love jihad” claiming that Muslim men were wooing Hindu women so they could convert them to Islam.


WHILE there have not been riots on the scale of the violence that flared up in Muzzafarnagar killing 60 people before the elections last year there has been a series of smaller incidents.

“Just like those riots, now Hindus in the villages are trying to drive Muslims out of the villages – repeated attacks have created an atmosphere of fear,” said Mohammad Jamshed, whose brother-in-law, Deen Mohammad, was left paralysed after being hit by a police bullet in a town near Muzzafarnagar, in May.

It is not just Muslims who have been under attack – five churches in New Delhi have been hit in the last year but no-one has been arrested for the crimes.

Modi’s critics believe the government is trying to silence them.

“There seems to be no attempt to unravel the larger picture and bring to book extremist groups that believe in ruthless violence to eliminate those who hold a counter view from theirs,” said a group of prominent film-makers who, in protest, have returned their medals from India’s National Film Awards. “People are being murdered for their beliefs and opinions.”

Amnesty International is one of 13,000 non-government organisations whose activities have been curbed by the BJP. A recent report by Amnesty condemned a rise in sectarian violence, human rights violations and the continuing arrests of journalists and activists.

However rather than sectarianism it could be the economy that defeats Modi in the end. The boom he promised has not yet happened and his appeal has waned in Bihar at least where the BJP were beaten in a provisional election on Sunday.